Umami 101: Bevy of Burgers Gets an Easy A

Even the tasting-menu averse will give this amped-up burger survey high marks

The topic of tasting menus is fraught and deeply divisive. Some people love the parade of plates showing off what a chef and a kitchen can do, others are so over it by the second dish. But recently, I was invited to the Packard Building in Anaheim to try a tasting menu that I think everyone can get behind: Nine courses of Umami Burger.

Called Umami 101, it’s an excellent survey of the high concept around which the company was formed: exploiting glutamate-induced umami, the so-called “fifth taste,” through natural means, resulting in flavors so amped up they practically buzz. The bevy of burgers ranges from the proprietary, house-ground beef blend to fish and fowl, all with individual (and house-made) seasonings and toppings—the Truffle, bestselling Manly, seared ahi, Hatch chile, turkey Greenbird, Cali, two-thinner-patties Throwback, plus the started-it-all Umami. Excellent cheesy tots, onion rings, and sweet potato fries and sauces—also house-made—are included, making it a spread that will stuff four people silly for $95 ($175 with beverage pairings), managing to be both a stone bargain and a delightfully decadent indulgence.

Did you know Umami caters? I just found out, when my sister mentioned she’d tried her first Umami at a party she attended at Cook’s Chapel in the neighboring Packing House that featured food from several restaurant tenants. And if you’re not quite ravenous enough for the tasting menu, there’s a seasonal burger through winter, the Holiday Bird ($14), encompassing all the flavors of a traditional turkey dinner, with a turkey patty, disc of (very good) cornbread stuffing, spiced Japanese yams, house-made gravy and ginger-cranberry chutney, and umami-boosted fried sage—and for each sold, $1 will be donated to Meals on Wheels America. In addition to Anaheim, there are O.C Umamis in Costa Mesa and at the Irvine Spectrum.

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