By Justin Swanson | LB Indy
Inside Umami Burger, a high-end burger restaurant that opened its doors in Laguna Beach a week before the official start of summer, one encounters a pastiche of surf-city-Americana.
Founding owner Adam Fleischman said his goal is to create something “unique in every location” in order to adapt his restaurant chain to its environs. He describes the Laguna store as “cozy” and “intimate,” with a “warm” vibe.
Umami Burger Laguna is the 11th location of the Los Angeles-based venture, the southern-most store of the franchise that set up shop in the digs formerly occupied by Picayo restaurant.
“We wanted to recreate what we remembered as kids,” discloses Shanna Fleischman, who designed the restaurant and is the wife of the owner. Mrs. Fleischman labored to generate an environment of “washed out colors” replete with beach-oriented bric-a-brac that hearkens to the Eastern seaboard. There are even childhood photos of the couple hidden throughout the restaurant.
As for the food itself, there is no mistaking the gourmet quality of the ingredients in appetizers such as truffled beet salad priced and burgers with shitake mushrooms or stilton cheese. The entrée unique to Laguna is the lemon miso crab melt.
Fleischman describes the fusion of flavors as “world-influenced.”
“[The influences] are things I’ve tasted around the world, things that I think taste good or that may be interesting,” Fleischman elaborates.
Every item on the menu is an original creation and might otherwise fall under the category of fusion. The flavors ranging from a coconut infused mojito to an alcoholic cucumber lemonade are especially diverse, exploding in a variety of directions.
Judy Bijlani, president and chief executive of the Laguna Beach Visitors Bureau, attended the opening on Wednesday. “I know they already have a wonderful following – it is becoming a well-known brand – and their depth of restaurant offering is something special,” she said.
When asked about the direction of his business, its growth and identity as a chiefly Southern California entity, Fleischman indicates his ambitions are aimed globally.
Asked how he plans to get there, he replied, “One mouth at a time.”
Sample items include the original Umami burger ($11) and the Laguna-exclusive lemon miso crab melt ($15). All cocktails go for $11 and beers range from $4 – $21. Deals for meals (burger, fries, and an alcoholic beverage) run between $17 – $19.
Laguna resident Justin Swanson is an Indy intern.
Photo by Jody Tiongco
Diverse ingredients are behind the bar as well as in the Umami kitchen, giving cocktail customers an array of selections.