So I reviewed this place shortly after opening last year. Let’s just say that I wasn’t impressed. I’ve been in since, but I was bored tonight so I decided to give them the full EMC treatment.
Umami Burger – Thousand Oaks (The Lakes shopping center)
I went into Umami tonight because, honestly, I felt sorry for them. The whole shopping center felt void of human presence. In fact, when I asked the barman (who is also the manager) why it was so empty, he told me that January is the worst month for restaurants. I’m not going to argue with him because it seemed as though myself and the party of six out-of-towners were the only patrons tonight.
Still, I decided to sit at the bar and have dinner. I figured that, at the very least, my food would be up quickly. The first drawback, though, was trying to actually sit down. It seems that the seats at the bar are constructed from re-purposed bug zappers, fashioned into the shape of ass-hammocks. See exhibit A below:
After one or two attempts to sit and shimmy up to the bar, I finally set my chair in just the right spot and then proceeded to mount it from the western slope. Needless to say, a man of my age (and size) should never be forced to do such a thing in public. I sincerely apologize to anyone sitting close enough to witness the attempt. Also needless to say, I was ready for a beer at this point.
The bar at Umami is fairly compact, and the restaurant appears to be able to seat about 80-100 people. I think the designers envisioned people spending 15-20 minutes waiting for tables and drinking, rather than my plan to actually consume a meal there. The drink menu contains most of the usual suspects for beer and wine, and also a few top shelf spirits. By the time I had ascended mount Umami, I chose the Lagunitas IPA from among the 4 offered drafts. (The other’s being Anderson Valley stout, Kona blonde ale and Allagash white)
It was at this time, to my horror, that the urge to pee overtook me. I casually (at least in my own mind) dismounted and shuffled off to the restroom. Inside I discovered a not un-Starbucks-like commode. A note to my readers: Lock The Door. The urinal was right next to the door so that had I not locked it, some poor, unfortunate soul would have received more than an eyeful of my manhood upon entering. I submit to you, exhibit B:
After relieving myself, I made my way back to the bar and (in the deepest voice I could muster) ordered the Manly burger. Having learned from my past experience, instead of ordering it medium rare as suggested, I instead opted for the medium variety. All in all, despite the drafty void of an empty restaurant and the risk of immodesty foisted on me by the restroom situation, I was having a good time.
The beer was going down smooth and my anticipation for my testosterone fueled delight was growing. And then, the burger was upon me. Excuse me if I digress for a picture or two…
Ok, fine. It was three. Sue me.
I was happy to see that my Manly burger, with it’s cheddar cheese, bacon lardons, and crispy fried onions appeared to be everything I’d hoped for. The sauce, which I presumed to be a beer-cheddar cheesy delight, did not disappoint. As opposed to my first review, the beef was succulent and juicy and not cold in the center. The sauce appeared to have no ill effect on the crispy consistency of the fried onions and I found myself grabbing the orphans that happened to fall away from the burger with the same vigor with which I consumed the parents. This, my friends, is what Umami is all about.
As I paid my check and prepared to go, I had a moment of gratitude. In that moment I realized that a good burger can fix anything. Crappy chairs, average beers, a relative lack of human companionship; all of these negative stimuli were transformed in each bite of that tasty burger.
It seems like this location may be destined to fail. It’s probably the fact that nothing ever seems to survive in that location. But I’ll tell you this: This ain’t the same Umami I visited a few months back. If you give it a chance, you will enjoy it. In a city of burger saturation, on this night, it stood above all the others.