Umami Burger:
Inside the Exploding Burger Empire

Umami Burger has taken the burger world by storm, and has become a household name in major cities across the country. This full-service chain has built its reputation on not just creating fun, intricate burgers, but engineering them to showcase umami to its fullest extent. Umami, by the way, is a Japanese term that describes the savory ‘fifth taste’ on top of the traditional sweet, salty, sour and bitter flavor spectrum. So the real question remains: has Umami Burger produced true umami?

Rich patties and decadent sauces make for some darn good burgers. The manly, for instance, unleashes tremendously hearty flavor with house-made beer cheddar sauce, bacon lardons and smoked salt onion strings. The sunny side takes a less rich, but equally hearty approach with perfectly-cooked fried egg, arugula, truffle aioli and Parmesan frico [a crunchy disc of baked grated parmesan] that adds excellent texture.

Additionally, Umami Burger is part of a growing trend where each location has its own signature burger. Those venturing to Hollywood must try the Blue Lucy, which literally bursts with cheesy goodness.

Fries are a must, of course, and take their own approach to umami. The manly fries are every bit as potent as the burger, and make you yearn for even more bacon. Maple bacon sweet potato fries and truffle cheese fries each boast their own excellent qualities as well.

If you insist on steering away from the core menu, Umami’s ‘don’t have a cow’ menu features some excellent nontraditional non-burgers from the crispy [and very hot!] diablo chicken sandwich to seared ahi tuna and falafel ‘burgers.’

Planned Parenthood LA Food Fare Announces 2017 Chef of the Year

The PPLA Food Fare, taking place March 2, 2017, has presented its Chef of the Year Award to Annie Miler, Chef and Owner of Clementine in Los Angeles. Clementine, a bakery-café in Century City and Beverly Hills, has a locally-sourced, seasonally rotating menu born from a marriage of Miler’s culinary family background and her travels as a chef. Miler received the award for her outstanding contributions to Los Angeles’ culinary culture as well as her dedication to PPLA’s mission to support community health, education and wellness.

The PPLA Food Fare will be held in Santa Monica’s Barkar Hangar. Daytime session 11 a.m. - 2 p.m., evening session 6:30 - 9:30 p.m. [5:30 entrance for VIP]. Tickets can be purchased at pplafoodfare.com.

Ayara Thai closes for remodel, opens pop-up concept, Ayara Luk

Ayara Thai in Westchester has opened Ayara Luk, which will effectively serve as a stand-in for Ayara Thai during an expected four-month closure for renovation and expansion, anticipated to start in February 2017. Ayara Luk [‘luk’ means child in Thai] is a tribute that Owner Vanda Asapahu and siblings Peter and Cathy are paying to their parents’ recipes, with dishes inspired by their experiences as first generation Thai-Americans.

Ayara Luk’s changing menu is small and curated to feature favorites from Ayara Thai, their take on classic Thai dishes, and environmentally-conscious ingredients. To the Asapahu siblings, these changes mean infusing their contemporary values with the Thai culinary heritage that they have inherited from their parents.

Ayara Luk pop-up Thai eatery is located at 8740 South Sepulveda Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90045. Hours of operations for February are Monday-Saturday from 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Closed Sunday.

The Halal Guys announces fifth Southern California location

The fast-casual Middle Eastern concept has exploded in Southern California, and The Halal Guys will be opening a new location in West Hollywood [8919 Santa Monica Blvd. West Hollywood, CA 90069], anticipated this spring.

Even more locations in the LA metro area are set to open in 2017. Be on the lookout for The Halal Guys coming to Glendale, Cerritos and Downtown Los Angeles.

The Halal Guys is part of a booming food trend in Middle Eastern cuisine. Numerous stories by Bloomberg News, Wall Street Journal and CCTV have cited how Halal food is projected to become a 20 billion dollar a year market. The Halal Guys have also been awarded the 2014 Multicultural Award at The 5th American Muslim Consumer Conference and recognized by TIME Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine and The New York Times.