It wasn't long ago that Adam Fleischman's UMAMIcatessen opened in downtown, expanding the popular burger empire into a multi-headed beast of a delicatessen/burger-stand/bar/donut/coffee shop. When the 170-seat, table-service dining hall first opened, we scarfed down delicious shrimp burgers, brainaise-covered fries, donuts stuffed with foie gras (not anymore, thanks foie gras ban!) along with pigs ears and cured Spanish meats thanks to San Francisco Chef Chris Cosentino's involvement.
It's been nearly a year, and UMAMIcatessen continues to evolve. Recently, we were invited in to try a number of new dishes to counter the otherwise rich, meat-heavy menu. The pork, burgers and donuts haven't gone anywhere, but now there seems to be a nice happy balance.
First, it'd be negligent of us not to mention that The Back Bar at UMAMIcatessen is worth checking out in and of itself. The bar boasts a really solid beer list, a fun cocktail list - including the Bourbon Pig with bacon-washed bourbon, sugar, bitters and crispy pig ear (below, center) and the Black Jack with Jack Daniels honey, apricot liqueur, orgeat, lemon and blackberries (below, right) - and a substantial wine list. In other words, they've got your alcohol needs covered.
But the real news is the addition of the newly launched Market Menu, featuring seasonal small plates that provide meat-eaters a little ruffage to go with their protein, and give vegetarians/pescatarians a much wider selection from which to choose.
Smoked sturgeon potato salad with fingerling potatoes, celery, and truffled creme fraiche ($5, below, left) features chunks of fish so smoky and meaty, you could almost believe it was bacon, as well as a luscious dressing. The macaroni salad ($5, below, right) is the lightest version of the dish you could hope for, with carrot, cabbage, and slivers of scallions providing heft and crunch, pickled shiitakes adding a litte tartness, and a creamy but not-at-all heavy Japanese dressing pulling it all together.
Both the colorful salad of black quinoa, chickpeas, bell pepper, tomato, and cucumber with a citrus vinaigrette ($5, below, top left) and the cilantro ginger slaw ($3, below, top right) with green and red cabbage, Asian pear, mint, and pickled chiles tossed in a traditional gingery Japanese dressing, are bright, light and refreshingly crunchy. Most interesting of the new plates is a dish of crispy Brussels sprouts leaves tossed with a generous helping of honey mustard dressing and parmesan ($4, below, bottom center) - basically sprouts with a fast-food style makeover, and I mean that in a good way.
Slightly more basic, but no less tasty are the earthy, sweet multi-colored roasted beets, served with dollops of light-as-air dill creme fraiche ($4, below).
The caramelized squash ($5, below) is also really simple, but truly outstanding: cumin yogurt, lime and smoked paprika work beautifully against the slight sweetness of the squash.
The last of the small plates, the roasted baby carrots ($4, below, top center) get an elegant dressing up with a subtle honey glaze, torn mint leaves and a smear of dark, spicy harissa.
UMAMIcatessen is also keeping its core list of salads, which are pretty straightforward, but well-executed and more substantial than the small plates: the Greek salad ($12, below, bottom left) is a combo of marinated sous vide chicken, pickled peppers, cucumbers, olives, cherry tomatoes and feta vinaigrette; the chopped salad ($12, below, bottom right) is a mélange of albacore, radicchio, endive, butter lettuce, chickpeas, red onions, and gribiche (coarse vinaigrette, with chopped cornichons and capers and hard-boiled eggs) dressing.
You may feel the need to scarf something more indulgent after all those greens, and obviously, UMAMIcatessen has got you covered. A rich clam chowder (not currently on the menu, but likely to make an appearance in the future) with thick, gilstening slices of pork belly wipes out all the good points earned from the salads, but it's delicious enough to be worth it.
Even more intensely meaty is the P!GG Breakfast sandwich ($11, below, left), a housemade English muffin jam-packed with sausage, pig-ear bacon, cheddar cheese, hot sauce, and a maple-poached egg. You can almost feel the heart attack coming over you as the perfectly runny yolk dribbles down your chin, but the sandwich is just too good to stop. And if you want to sate your meat cravings with beef instead, the pastrami from The Cure (below, right) has got you covered.
With all the good stuff going on at Umami Burger, The Cure, P!GG, and the bar, it would be easy to forget to save room for dessert. That would be a mistake, as UMAMIcatessen's very own donut shop in the corner makes a mean whisky bread pudding donut ($5, below) topped withdried fruit and zested orange cream cheese.
So yeah, carnivores and lovers of the decadent, UMAMIcatessen is still your jam. But now you don't have to leave your vegetarian family member/friend/significant other at home when you visit. Bring 'em along - you can all get stuffed at UMAMIcatessen together.
Los Angeles, CA 90014
Hours: Sunday-Thursday,11:30a-11:00p, Friday-Saturday, 11:30a-12:00a