A few posts back I mentioned the meat-centeredness-trend in LA cuisine.  This means not only serving a lot of meat, but fetishizing meat and its consumption (pigs seem to be particularly in vogue).  Comfort with a meat centered meal is pretty much a  requirement if you wish to eat and enjoy Umamicatessen, Adam Fleischman’s latest addition to the Umami chain.  The idea seems to be that it is a kind of kitsch cafeteria, with several different ‘counters’ each serving different menus.  In addition to the standard Umami Burger, there is “the Cure” which is a take on a jewish deli; “Pigg,” put together by Chris Cosentino, which is devoted to pork and serves in part a variety of cured means (somewhat confusing, given the name of the previous counter); “back bar” for drinks; Spring for Coffee providing coffee; and “& a doughnut” for sweet things.  While these counters do have separate physical spaces within the restaurant, you do simply order of a single menu, so it’s a bit of a conceit.

There are maybe too many such conceits at this place (such as the “hoof and mouth” sandwich; har har).  My friend A and I started with crispy pig ears with something called “brainnaise”.  Having had and enjoyed, somewhat to my surprise, both pig ears (at Ink) and brain (at Baco Mercat), I was sort of looking forward to this dish.  The pig ears were great, very salty and quite meaty, a bacon-light effect that I didn’t mind that much for whatever reason.  The brainnaise sort of tasted like nothing.  I have a feeling that they started out with the name and worked backward to create the actual condiment, which is not necessarily bad unless said condiment ends up tasting like nothing.  Still, not a bad start.

I also had a sweet whisky cocktail called “9th and Bread” consisting of Woodford Bourbon, carpano antica formula (seemingly a cousin of vermouth and fernet), Apricot Liqeur and bitters.  This sort of whiskey drink went well with the super salty, dense food.

Anyway, next we had the potato knishes, which were extremely fluffy and soft and filled with cheese.  What stole the show, however was the freshly made mustard with still-whole mustard seeds.  And I don’t even like mustard that much.

Next came the part of the meal that I was most anticipating, which was cured meat from “pigg”.  It didn’t disappoint.  They have about fifteen different types; we went with the Surryano ham.  The slices were soft and quite smoky but not overpowering, at least for me.  I really loved the texture and immediate flavor.  Also by the time we finished with this I think I had met my recommended salt intake for the entire week.

The menu has a section entitled “around the world in 8 hams” which is presumably a selection of several of their hams.  Eight, for example.  I definitely plan to get four or five people together to split this sometime in the near future.

A and I opted not to get an umami burger, because why, and instead got the pork liver pate sandwich which included the rare green vegetable sighting (arugula), along with the liver, caramelized onions and a very delicious, salty, bouncy bread.  The arugula and sweet onions were actually key in making the sandwich a success, as liver can be, you know, quite liver-y, with a somewhat heavy, almost chalky texture.  Is that just me?  Anyway, I still liked it.

Last but certainly not least, were the doughnuts.  I’m definitely a day late on this fried dough trend.  Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to hope that cookies come around once again.  Anyway, we had the tres leches and german chocolate doughnuts.  If one reason to return to umamicatessen is to have a meal centered around the cured hams, another would be to come back just for doughnuts and coffee.  The tres leches was just a smashing success.  The german chocolate was a bit dense, but still good.  I mean, I know it’s pretty hard to fuck up fried dough but still.

All in all umamicatessen was actually quite a bit better than I had expected.  I mean, I like umami burger, but I’m not a devotee like some.  But this place has many other things to offer that are unique and interesting.  It’s a bit smirky but not overbearingly so, and anyway the food is really good and not too too expensive.  Just eat lots of vegetables the next day.

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