I’m not the kind of gal that usually frequents a restaurant during its soft opening, but when I heard that there’d be fried-to-order doughnuts at UMAMIcatessen, I had to make an exception. Doughnuts are my rapture.
UMAMIcatessen is located on a stretch of Broadway that’s lined with fluorescent-lit stores selling jewelry and poofy quinceanera dresses. Some might find this part of town a bit iffy, but I’ve been stuck in the suburbs for so long that I couldn’t get enough of its grit.
I came in for an early dinner last Thursday night along with my friends Nastassia and Darin. The space was humming but not busy, so we were seated promptly at a table fit for four. By the time we left a few hours later, the entire room was packed with a line outside the door. News of fried-to-order doughnuts spreads quickly, I guess.
UMAMIcatessen, a genius creation of restauranteur Adam Fleischman (Umami Burger, Red Medicine, 800 Degrees), is widely referred to as a “food emporium.” Really though, its just a regular restaurant with a more-varied-than-most menu.
The soul of UMAMIcatessen is Umami Burger, a winning burger concept with six (and counting) locations in Los Angeles and one in San Francisco.
San Francisco-based chef Chris Cosentino is the chief curator of the charcuterie and offal offerings under the P!GG portion of the menu.
And finally and most alluringly is & a Doughnut. The pastry chef behind these deep-fried desserts is unknown.
While Nastassia would’ve been perfectly content jumping right into doughnuts, I insisted that we have a proper dinner first. From the Umami Burger section of the menu, Nastassia selected the Smushed Potatoes ($4.50) to start. These double-fried Dutch Yellow Creamers served with a chive-flecked garlic aioli were totally adorable and so very delicious.
From the P!GG portion of the menu, I chose the Crispy Pig Ears ($7), which were thinly sliced, battered, fried, and seasoned with chili flakes and salt. They arrived in a tangled heap of crunch and spice. On the side was a novel yet familiar tasting sauce made of parsley, lemon, and pig’s brain called “brainaise.”
For our mains, all three of us opted for burgers. Nastassia’s Manly Burger ($11) lived up to its name with beer-cheddar cheese, smoked-salt onion strings, and bacon lardons. She shared a generous hunk with me and I was really impressed. The combination of flavors was plain addictive, and the execution was spot on.
Darin and I split the Shrimp Burger with Yuzu Kosho ($13), which is only available at UMAMIcatessen. The combination of wild shrimp with tingly Japanese spices was not only unique, but damn tasty too.
To supplement our shrimp burger, Darin and I also shared a Truffle Burger ($10). From the raring rare beef to the house-made truffle cheese to the ever-so-soft bun, I loved everything about this darling burger. After tasting three of Umami’s creations, I am totally smitten with the brand. What took me so long to eat here, again?
For dessert, we shared four sweet thangs from & a Doughnut. The first one we dug into was the German chocolate, which was topped with shredded coconut and crushed pecans and glazed in condensed milk ($3).
Nastassia thought the cake doughnut tasted more oily than chocolaty, while I found it good but not particularly special. Needless to say, our minds were not blown. Shucks.
The next doughnut up to bat was filled with a runny Meyer lemon cream and garnished with freeze-dried blueberries ($3). The entire thing was covered in a yogurt glaze that our Knorks had difficulty surmounting. For a yeast-risen doughnut, this one was disappointingly dense and not the least bit pillowy. Strike two.
Our final two doughnuts were a step above the initial ones. With the help of a caramelized and milky sauce, the tres leches ($4) cake doughnut had a tender and delightful quality to it.
The run-of-the-mill biegnets ($4) were greatly enhanced by the thick, coffee-laced sauce served alongside.
Nastassia and I were hoping to devour the doughnuts of our dreams at UMAMIcatessen, but alas, these doughnuts fell short, failing to deliver the deep-fried high we were after.
Even though & a Doughnut failed to meet my expectations, I still considered my meal at UMAMIcatessen a great success. The pigs ears and spuds were tops, while the burgers converted me into an Umami believer. Plus, we met a “homelees mother fucker” looking to be adopted just outside the restaurant. It was a really good night.
846 South Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90015