Addiction-causing L.A. mini-chain Umami Burger is expanding its empire up north, according to the Scoop, moving into the former Noodle Theory spot (3242 Scott Street) in the Marina. Japanophile Adam Fleischman, the empire-building L.A. restaurateur who just opened Red Medicine, started the chain in 2009, and now has four branches in Mid-City, Santa Monica, Los Feliz, and the Valley. He calls it “fine dining fast food,” and GQ just named it Burger of the Year, so that’s saying something. (If you’re still unclear what “umami” refers to, Fleischman would like to refer you here.) But deciphering what exactly is in the delicious signature menu item, the Umami Burger — billed as “umami x6” — is something even critic Jonathan Gold struggles with.
Like the Sunday double acrostic, the Umami Burger is a puzzle demanding to be solved. The grilled mushrooms are easy to find, along with the squishy roast tomato, the melting onions, and the crunchy miniature frico made by griddling grated cheese. It’s then that things get difficult — is there hidden bok choy? Tamari? Yams? Soy beans? Tuna? The toasted Portuguese bun? Pure MSG?
Each L.A. location has its own distinct vibe, design, and slightly different menu, with the Los Feliz branch offering a carnitas burger and the La Brea location doing one with port wine and Stilton. Also of note: the Truffle Burger.
Expect more details on the opening date range next week, but we’re probably looking at spring. And fingers crossed the Marina branch might have a tiny bar in back like the Los Feliz one, modeled after tiny Japanese bars favored by working stiffs, called Salaryman.