For those anticipating the smaller version of Umami Burger (U-Mini) that recently opened in Westwood, the wait is finally over. Or is it?
The eatery is owned by Umami Restaurant Group, which also owns the neighboring 800 Degrees, but the space is small and the environment definitely has a modern fast food joint feel compared to the cozy feeling of Umami Burger on La Brea Avenue and the brewhouse atmosphere of the UMAMIcatessen in downtown Los Angeles.
The new quick-fix idea at U-Mini definitely caters to college students who are looking for a late-night bite. U-Mini is open Sunday through Wednesday until midnight, and Thursday through Saturday until 2 a.m., with the option of taking food to go or dining in.
A burger at a Umami Burger restaurant can cost up to $15, but goes only up to $6 at U-Mini. However, the reduction in price doesn’t come with a reduction in quality of the food. The meat on the burgers is still as juicy and fresh, and the portions of the burgers and sides are still comparable to Umami-sized ones.
Customers order their meal on one of two iPads placed at different ends of the eatery and pay with a credit card. Unfortunately for those who pay only with cash, U-Mini currently only accepts credit card payment and doesn’t plan on adding a cash register anytime soon.
U-Mini offers four different burgers, two different types of fries ($2.50) and a selection of drinks (soft drinks, iced green tea, a salted caramel shake and a milk chocolate shake).
It was a bit disappointing to find that U-Mini did not have the traditional Umami burger, Truffle burger or sweet potato fries (with a side of garlic aioli sauce) available at this location.
Between the Dads, ALT, Vintage and Mushroom burgers, the worker recommended the Dads burger, which includes onions, bread and butter pickles and house cheddar cheese, for someone looking to get something comparable to the truffle burger.
The meat on the Dads burger was juicy and the onions were appetizing, with a hint of sweetness in every bite. Also, for someone who usually can’t stand pickles, the ones in this burger were actually pretty good. The typical sour taste that comes along with most pickles on burgers wasn’t as strong. Most of the burgers are a combination of onions, bread and butter pickles, house cheddar or house American cheese and butter lettuce, with minor alterations.
Since the sweet potato fries weren’t on the menu, the Umami fries were recommended. Customers can choose between regular fries and Umami fries, which are dusted with tomato, porcini, miso and herbs.
While they sound very appetizing on the menu, they basically taste like typical french fries with a hint of spices that were hard to label upon tasting.
Right away, the idea of a salted caramel shake ($3.50 for a small) was attention grabbing. It was definitely very sweet, rich and creamy, but also somewhat salty. The shake is comparable to blending up a caramel peanut brittle bar with ice cream and drinking it through a straw. It was interesting, but not exactly a typical shake one may be used to.
For a new fast food eatery, the price may be a little high for college students to spend on a burger and fries. Compared to most fast food joints, which have combination options, U-Mini simply charges for each item. A meal including a burger, fries and a small shake cost about $13, which is a bit on the higher end for a fast food place intended for college students, but still cheaper than eating at the regular Umami Burger restaurant.
The idea of U-Mini in Westwood may be a good idea for those who have never tried the selection of food at the restaurant locations. However, it may be a buzzkill for Umami regulars hoping to fulfill their Truffle burger and sweet potato fries fix.
““ Marjorie Yan
Email Yan at [email protected].