3/05/2012 04:25:00 PM

Umamicatessen: Day One

On its first Sunday morning, the doors of Adam Fleischman's long-awaited Umamicatessen opened at 11 AM, and by 1 PM it was packed with folks eager for a taste of various jamons, and for the signature Umami burger and pastrami on rye. Yes, the new-fangled food hall has come to Downtown LA - and Westsiders are going to have to get over their fear of gridlock to get there. Here's what to expect:

The Space: Situated on the ground floor of a well-aged office building, the rowdy room features open food stands and a kitchen in the back. There are 34 pork dishes served at Chris Cosentino's Pigg, along with Jewish soul food at the deli concept called The Cure and barista-made cups of joe cranked out at Spring for Coffee. There's also a long bar that dominates the right side of the space. Everything's ordered off of one menu and brought to your table, which means you can work your way through the whole menu without having to get out of your seat.

The Food: It all begins with Adam Fleischman's iconic Umami burger, a jumbo pile of meat that oozes juices, topped with shiitake mushrooms, caramelized onions, roasted tomato, a Parmesan crisp and housemade ketchup. And that's the simplest of the burgers: the Hatch is topped with four types of green chiles, while another is souped-up with truffle cheese and truffle glace. But from the get-go, a lot of attention has been paid to the Pigg, where the snacks are guaranteed to be fried in 100% lard - think pork corn, cone o' cracklins, crispy pig's ears, french fries with ham purée and "Pigg-style" fries made with "brainaise." Yes, it's the pig-brain condiment you've always dreamed of.

On the other side of the culinary universe, there's the deli dishes served at The Cure (with advice from Zagat 30 Under 30 honoree Micah Wexler of Mezze), which serves one heck of a matzo ball soup, mini potato knishes, turkey on challah, pastrami or corned beef on rye and a house bagel topped with smoked fish. For dessert, there's a house donut that's hard not to inhale.

The Drinks: Who could have imagined that a cocktail made with celery juice could be not just palatable - but exceptional? It's called the Teal Goose, and it combines Grey Goose vodka with celery, kiwi and lime juice and truffle salt. There are also 10 draft beers and a dozen bottled ones. And if you feel in need of a good old-fashioned soda, there's Faygo vanilla creme, Mexican Coke and Bubble Up (who knew it still existed?).

The Crowd: Young, cool, hungry - and thrilled to be in the place of the moment, in increasingly trendy Downtown LA. A tie and jacket would look silly here. Indeed, anything but jeans, or maybe cargo pants, would be out of place. This is a T-shirt crowd, loose and very hip. But of course...

The Vibe: As is true of any of the edgier Downtown LA spots, it's laidback - but with a bit of an edge. This is the sort of restaurant that would fit beautifully in TriBeCa or SoMa. And there's a real sense of pride that it's opened in the Blade Runner heart of LA, with an ethnic stew bubbling all around. Umamicatessen fits right in.


852 S. Broadway; 213-413-8626

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