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Los Angeles List (cont…): Umami Burger, Philippe French Dip

February 6, 2012

Los Angeles is a great food town, with plenty of both  homegrown cultural fare and more ridiculous haute cuisine. As someone interested in these things, I had to make a list of “to-dos” before my time in LA is up. Beverly Soon Tofu, Animal, Pizzeria Mozza, Soban, and some good Ramen were a part of that list, and so are the following two beef sandwiches, together comprising the most red meat I’ve eaten since I can’t remember when.

Umami Burger is constantly mentioned wherever there is a discussion about LA’s best burgers. While the Father’s Office is by all accounts incredible, I made up my mind to try the Umami Burger long ago. For one thing, the six-ounce patty is my ideal burger size. It is too easy for the larger burger to rely on its heft, its greasy and visceral appeal. It’s almost not fair; you can’t really help but love a burger like that. A six ounce on the other hand, resits that kind of cheap appeal to your senses. A smaller burger increases the necessity of care in each component, the importance of each aspect magnified on a smaller stage.

The Umami burger delivers on composition, balance, and punch in the flavor department. The meat is funky and dripping, the bun is a perfect and capable vessel. The toppings–caramelized onions, housemade ketchup, shiitake mushrooms, roasted tomato–enhance the umami essence of the beef and balance each other with acidity. The Parmesan crisp contributes a subtle salty component to tie it together.

Philippe’s French Dip is a simpler take on beef and bun, with only the addition of a quick dip in beef juice as a condiment. The sandwich is obviously a winning recipe, achieving a legendary status as the “original” and the cause of half hour lines on the weeknight that I visited. It’s a straightforward thing, and rightly so. My favorite parts were the crusty, malty roll and the ultra-spicy mustard on every table.

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