Sunday, September 15, 2013

Umami Chili Dog

Umami Chili Dog, originally uploaded by ~db~.
When choosing my third dog from the new Umami Burger in Toluca Lake, I decided to go with a classic. Their chili dog starts with a mustard sauce smeared inside one of Umami's custom hot dog buns, then beer cheddar, house chili, and minced fresh onions go atop the all-beef hot dog. And it is all about that frank, which is the star of the show. Dense and full of flavor, Umami has these dogs made to spec, and it's probably the best hot dog frank I've tasted. All the rest of the ingredients, in this and all the other Umami hot dogs I've had so far, are in service to that central player, the dog itself.

The chili too is pretty excellent, very meaty and not overpowering with its spices. Yet for a chili dog, this was a little too refined, and if I had a wish it's that there was more of the actual chili. The minced onions provide nice crunch and freshness, with the cheese and mustard sauce rounding things out. My only real complaint is the bun was either stale or, more likely, under-toasted. It was rather dry around the edges, as if it had been sitting on a shelf for a few hours. A fair amount of it was left on the plate.

The sweet potato fries were flavorful, but a little disappointing. I like a fry which is big and firm enough to be eaten one-by-one. These I had to eat by the batch, as they were mainly small pieces and a bit too limp. That said, the house-made ketchup was excellent, as always, and the garlic aioli went well with the fries. All told, a good meal, though next time I'll probably choose a different side dish.

Hot dog and fries, about $10.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Charred Asparagus from Chego!

Charred Asparagus from Chego!, originally uploaded by ~db~.

The grilled asparagus at Chego! has been their veggie of choice, I think, since they opened their new place in Chinatown. That's going to change soon, so I thought it best to get some while I could. The asparagus is topped with Roy Choi's excellent blueberry habanero salsa, lots of garlic, along with chilies, Parmesan, and some lemon.

For me this has unfortunately been the biggest miss so far in my visits to Chego! Mainly because the asparagus was overdone. It was impossible to bite through anything but the tips without having to gnaw through the blackened, stringy spears. The flavors were all there, and the dish itself would be a winner, except for the above-mentioned issue with the asparagus itself. The hot/sweet salsa, the abundance of roasted garlic slices, all the crunchy peppers and fried bits were all good. So, far from a failure, it would have been so much better had the asparagus not been overdone. Charred asparagus, about $6.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Ooey Gooey Fries

Ooey Gooey Fries, originally uploaded by ~db~.

More drunk food from Chego! Yes, these fries are ooey. Indeed, they are gooey. The beer-battered fries are combined with sour cream sambal, monterey jack and cotija and cheddar cheese, chillies, cilantro and pickled garlic. Lots of pickled garlic.

This is not refined food. Like I said, this is drunk food, meant to be eaten late at night with friends, while drunk. And while it's really tasty, I was neither drunk nor with friends, and I was barely able to make my way halfway through this pile of food. Yes, the fries are soggy. Yes, it's a mess. But that's not the point. Because when you're drunk and out late at night, you just want to stuff your face with something tasty and satisfying. And there's a whole lot of that going on right here. Ooey Gooey Fries, about $6.

Monday, September 09, 2013

The Umami Original Dog

The Umami Original Dog, originally uploaded by ~db~.

For my third visit to the new Umami Burger in Toluca Lake, I decided to go with with the Original Dog. It's the same beef dog and bun as their other hot dogs, this time topped with fried (and pungent!) parmesan cheese, caramelized onions, and roasted tomato. A really tasty dog. Very assertive flavors all around, with the cheese nearly bringing tears to my eyes. My only quibble is the tomato kept sliding out and needed be be pushed back down with my fingers. But that messiness was a small price to pay.

The fries are of the thin variety which, as I've previously mentioned, are not my favorite kind. These were not bad, but I do wish they were crisper. Next time I'll ask for them well done. Their homemade ketchup is awesome.

All in all a good meal. Hot dog and fries, about $10.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Umami Burger's Fried Pickle Spears

Umami Burger's Fried Pickle Spears, originally uploaded by ~db~.

Pretty terrific, if you like fried pickle spears. The batter is light, meaning the pickles aren't greasy. And they're fried just enough so that they are cooked through, but not so much that they lose their bite. Served with a jalapeno ranch sauce as a dip, it's a good contrast to Umami's meat-based main dishes.

That said, the full order of four spears was too much to eat by myself and I was barely able to make it through two of these babies. Next time I'll bring a friend. Fried pickle spears, about $4.

The Umami Show Dog

The Umami Show Dog, originally uploaded by ~db~.
On my first return to Umami Burger in Burbank, I decided to do what I didn't do the first time and actually order a hot dog. While Umami didn't reproduce the original Papoo's Hot Dog Show menu, they did choose to create seven special hot dogs exclusive to this new location. I figured I'd go with the compliment to my previous visit's Show Burger and ordered the Show Dog.

The actual franks used by Umami are unlike those I've had elsewhere. I didn't ask, but pretty sure they're custom made for the restaurant. Very dense and meaty, a bit longer and perhaps a little thinner than a regular dog, they fit nicely into the long, thin buns used here. The Show Dog itself has minced bacon, beer cheese, onion strings, and Hak's BBQ sauce. It was a good dog, though a bit salty. I'm not sure mincing the bacon is the best way to go since they end up being chewy little cubes separate from the hot dog itself. I also wouldn't have been opposed to having some fresh vegetable in there to balance against the lipids and give some crunch. Still, it was good and I'd definitely order it again. About $6.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Umami Show Burger

Umami Show Burger, originally uploaded by ~db~.

My history with Papoo's Hot Dog Show goes way back. But by the time it closed down a few years ago, things had gotten pretty bleak. So it was with great excitement I greeted the news that it was going to be bought by Umami Burger, and they were going to keep true to its spirit, including saving the building and serving a number of amped up hot dogs.

And so I waited, and waited, and waited. And then it happened, and it was so crowded I had to wait some more.

Undeterred, I was back a couple days later and ready to eat. But instead of getting a hot dog, as I had planned, the Show Burger, a menu special available only at this location, caught my eye. It's Umami's standard, hand-ground beef burger patty cooked medium rare, as God intended. It's topped with Hak's BBQ sauce, one of their awesome onion rings, bacon lardons, and beer-cheddar cheese. That's right, BEER CHEESE!! All that is put inside the famous Umami-branded soft Portuguese-style bun.

My love of Umami's burgers is no secret, and that love remains strong. And despite the accoutrement (I just pulled out the onion ring and ate it separately after the first bite), this burger is all about the meat, which is cooked perfectly. The BBQ sauce is bold, and the cheese provides more of that nom-nom-nom mouth-feel which gives the restaurant chain its name. But really it's about that meat, of which I ate every last bit. Now where are those hot dogs? Burger, about $11.

Perfect Onion Rings

Perfect Onion Rings, originally uploaded by ~db~.
From Umami Burger at The Hot Dog Show in Burbank. Seriously. Go get some now. We'll wait. About $4.50.