846 S Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90015
Dining date: 3/3/12
UMAMIcatessen is the latest concept from the ever-busy Adam Fleischman (Umami Burger, 800 Degrees Pizza), his interpretation of a deli featuring a number of mini restaurant concepts including Umami Burger. The setup kind of looks like a food court (although it’s currently all full service seating), with the restaurants on the outside and seating in the middle.
The Cure, with consulting chef Micah Wexler (Mezze) is a kosher deli with many of the usual suspects such as pastrami on rye, corned beef, and a matzo ball soup. P!GG, from Incanto and Boccalone’s Chris Cosentino, is a pork-centric concept with a ton of hams available, as well as a few sandwiches and snacks all featuring the pig. Umami Burger brings its notable burgers (and a few sides and salads) to the deli and “& a Donut” rounds out the food options with its fried-to-order menu of donuts. For libations, Spring for Coffee is the second outpost of the Arts District coffee shop and The Back Bar serves a slew of cocktails, wines and beers.
UMAMIcatessen soft opened this past Saturday and, as expected, was pretty busy. Our party of 4 was able to get a table relatively quickly though (~15-20 minutes), and sat down to the menu’s dizzying array of options. The menu is somewhat daunting with its choices; we focused in on Umami Burger and P!GG for the savory items, ordering all of the fried snacks from P!GG (100% lard fried).
First, the drinks. Almost all of the beers (draft and bottle) had run out by the evening, so we went with a few cocktails.
Downtown Rise milagro tequila, orange marmalade, mango puree, fresh lemon juice, agave syrup
Velvet Mule beluga vodka, velvet falernum, fresh lime juice, ginger beer, angostura bitters
Citrus Tree bacardi superior rum, lychee liqueur, red and green grapes, fresh lime juice, sugar
I went with the Downtown Rise – fruity and sweet, a stereotypical girly drink. I liked it though. I didn’t try the others, but did hear the Velvet Mule was on the watery side.
P!GG Style Fries pickled peppers, ham puree, brainaise
I first noticed that the fries alone were quite good – very crispy, well-salted and fluffy on the inside. It was topped with an aioli made with pig brain (“brainaise”), pureed ham and pickled peppers. I liked the porky flavors which added much of the depth of flavor. The perfectly executed fries were what made the dish for me, though.
Crispy Pig Ears parsley, lemon, brainaise
The “brainaise” made another appearance with these delightfully crispy and crunchy pig ears.
Pork Corn popcorn, juniper, rosemary
Of the snacks, this was the least exciting. It was pretty much popcorn with a porky essence, but rather monotone in flavor.
Cone O’ Cracklins sherry vinegar, sage
The fried pig skin was light, airy and crunchy without feeling greasy. I thought this was a good example of cracklings especially with the herb essence and what I think was paprika.
French Fries ham puree
This was a simpler version of the P!GG style fries – here the same french fries were topped with just the ham puree. It still achieved a rich, porky flavor at half the price of the signature dish ($10 vs. $5).
Truffle Beet Salad truffled ricotta, smoked almonds, wild baby arugula, truffle dressing
I opted to pass on the salad as I was stuffing my face with fried goodness. Each of us ordered a sandwich to eat alongside the snacks.
Pork Liver Pate caramelized onions, arugula
The distinct liver flavor came through on the sandwich, complemented by the peppery arugula and sweet caramelized onions. A decent sandwich, just not the most interesting.
Hoof & Mouth pickled carrots, onions
This was a more interesting sounding sandwich with a jaw & hoof terrine sandwiched in between toasted bread with pickled carrots and onions (definitely resembled a banh mi!). Maybe it was just the section I had, but I thought the thin slice of terrine got lost in the other ingredients. The bread was a little bit hard to chew too.
Earth Burger mushroom and edamame patty, white soy aioli, truffled ricotta cheese, cipollini onions, butter lettuce, slow roasted tomato
We didn’t have any vegetarians at the table, but this burger came highly recommended. The vegetarian burger didn’t disappoint and may have been the surprise of the evening. The mushroom and edamame patty had a sort of a meaty texture to it, while full of savory flavor from the mushrooms, truffled cheese, soy aioli, onions and tomato. I wouldn’t say I’d order this instead of say…the truffle burger, but this was probably one of the best vegetarian burgers I’ve had.
Truffle Burger house made truffle cheese, truffle glaze
I’ve had this in a previous visit to Umami Burger and it was a favorite. It was just as good as I remembered it with the soft brioche bun, medium-rare beef and white truffle-scented cheese and glaze. Simple but pretty delish (and a relative bargain at $10)!
For dessert six donuts were available, fried to order. Strauss Dairy soft serve will be a regular accompaniment, but it wasn’t available yet.
carrot cake rum raisin, cream cheese (cake)
The cake was rather dense – not too moist but not dry, with sweet raisins and a cream cheese frosting. The carrot flavor in the donut was definitely evident.
tres leches cajeta, ceylon cinnamon (cake)
This cake was more moist with a bit of a vanilla flavor, though I was expecting it to have been dipped in something (the menu said to allow 5 minutes for soaking). A light whipped cream topped the donut.
FG&J foie gras mousse, forest berry jam, peanut (yeast)
At $8, this was probably the most expensive donut I’ve ever had. It was filled with a foie gras mousse; the flavor was subtle but evident, complemented by a sweet jam and a crunchy peanut topping. Very interesting flavors with the peanut butter & jelly and the foie gras & fruit combinations both working in tandem. Of all three we tried, I think this was the most successful…though I wanted a bit more foie flavor in the mousse.
I found UMAMIcatessen to be an interesting concept (surely a hip interpretation of a deli), though not as eye-opening as 800 Degrees Pizzeria. I think the main draw will be Umami Burger’s burgers since they’re just more interesting than the simpler, more traditional sandwiches from The Cure and P!GG. Still, The Cure and P!GG present much more variety and the ability to mix things up particularly with the sides and snacks. The donuts were a fun way to end the meal, though I didn’t think the execution was quite there yet. Still, with so much to offer and the Umami brand behind it, I can tell this will be a popular place.