My mom makes the greatest hamburger in the world. I don’t know how she does it—it’s not the cut of the meat or the way she marinades it (she doesn’t) or the fact that it’s organic (which it is) or that it has some fancy cheese on it (though it usually does). It’s just the greatest hamburger you’ve ever had. Which is why I’m always hesitant to try the great, new burger stand around the corner—especially, when it’s a gourmet burger stand. Don’t get me wrong. The idea of maple grilled onions and blue cheese and truffle oil on a hamburger is certainly appealing to me, but somehow those gourmet burgers—even the ones from Father’s Office—just never taste as good as my mom’s plain, old patty melts.
But how could I not try Umami burger? Everyone’s been talking about it and even the name is sort of intriguing. Umami: the fifth taste. What the hell is the fifth taste? My friend Ben Chinn and I had to find out.
In order to give them a fair shot, we decided to order three burgers and two side dishes and share them all. We didn’t order dessert, because even though they were homemade in a local bakery, they were pre-wrapped and there’s something about ordering pre-wrapped food in a restaurant that I just can’t do. But we did order: the sweet potato chips, the potato salad, The Triple Pork Burger, the Mideast Burger and the Truffle Burger. They’re all delicious, well, except the potato salad. The potatoes are a little too raw and the sauce is just boring. We didn’t order French fries because we’d heard too many bad things about them and in my world it’s sacrilegious to eat a bad French fry (and they did look unappetizingly thick). The sweet potato chips, on the other hand, taste something like if pancakes and maple syrup and kettle corn and potato chips had a party.
The Triple Pork Burger is so good, but it’s practically not even a hamburger—as Ben aptly noted, it tastes more like fatty sausages without their casings in a sweet hamburger bun. The Mideast Burger has that same sausage quality, but it’s a little sweet for our taste. I like harissa to have that kick to it, and this has none. Aptly, we saved the best for last, and when I bit into it, I’d sort of wished we hadn’t even ordered the other two. The Truffle Burger is PERFECT. You can’t tell where the hamburger ends and the bun and the truffle oil and the truffle cheese begin, and you realize that this might be the greatest hamburger bun you’ve ever had—it’s from a local Portuguese bakery and it’s buttery and light and fluffy. And they use just the right amount of truffle so that you can barely taste it but it lingers long after you’re done, reminding you what a perfect dinner you’ve just eaten.
I’m not ready to write off my mom’s hamburgers as the best (especially because I need my French fries), but I am feeling a little braver about trying that new hamburger stand around the corner.
850 S La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036
Open 11am-10pm Mon-Sat, closed Sun
Maia Harari is a writer and choreographer. Her most recent credits include It's All in Your Head, 2003 and Danse Macabre, 2000, and she is currently working on Confetti, an episodic internet series chronicling the lives of twenty-somethings running wild in LA. She currently lives in Los Angeles.
by Chef Mark Shoup