A Taste of Upscale Burger Chain Umami Burger in San Francisco’s Cow Hollow

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Umami Burger in the Cow Hollow area of San Francisco is one of several California locations of this upscale burger chain. The space is dark and inviting. We arrived around six on a Thursday evening and to our surprise were ushered right to our butcher block table. We have eaten here several times and it can be very crowded, particularly on a weekend or later in the evening.

Our server appeared immediately to take our order. I ordered the Umami Burger ($11). It is one of several burgers built from the ground up. Umami takes pride in concocting each burger with toppings and custom sauces to make each one a unique experience.

The 1/3-pound burger is house-ground from some “proprietary blend of high end cuts” as our server told us after inquiring with the manager.

It is griddle fried rather than flame broiled, which I always prefer. The Umami Burger itself includes Shiitake mushroom, caramelized onions, slow roasted tomato slice, parmesan crisp and Umami ketchup. (Don’t miss the Umami Ketchup on your thin fries either. The ketchup is more tomatoey and spicier than your normal Heinz 57.)

The burger arrived sitting atop a white bun, perfectly dome-shaped and stamped with a “U”.  The bun is finely toasted to perfection.

The burger itself is a work of art. I have never seen one so finely assembled and presented. Biting into the burger, which is prepared a perfect medium rare, you get each taste hitting your tongue separately and then blending in unison. I noticed the mushroom first, then the beef, cheese and ketchup. It is really a delight.

The Thin Fries ($3.50) are little matchsticks that really live up to their name. Crisp, salty and tasty, you need to eat them fast, because they don’t hold the heat for long.

The Onion rings are surprisingly uniform in appearance. Their light batter covers and somewhat overwhelms the soft onion inside. I dunked them in the jalapeño ranch sauce and they added a nice little kick.

My wife Pat had a burger with only cheddar cheese. Called the kids burger, it is the same size and bun as my burger. It is really the margarita pizza of burgers. In its unadorned state, it achieves a certain burger perfection that only works when the beef is flavorful, sparingly spiced and fresh.

Skip the pecan, bacon pie. Microwaved to a tongue burning temperature, it disappointed after the quality of the rest. Crust should never be subjected to a microwave, so it was hard to tell how good it was. The bacon was more of a gimmick than an addition.  Instead, have another beer or glass of wine from the nice selection.

According to Cookthink, the tastes of sweet, salty, bitter and sour are familiar, but there is a fifth taste we can perceive with our tongue. Called umami, its taste has been described as rounded, rich and savory. I think this aptly describes the Umami Burger.

Burger 5 spatulas out of 5
Fries 4 spatulas
Onion Rings 4 spatulas

Umami Burger
2184 Union Street
San Francisco, CA 94123
415-440-8626

This Samurai Sword sits in the entrance.