I almost hesitate to put up this restaurant review after the discussion about the validity of food bloggers today in the Chronicle, but I feel I'm pretty careful with my reviews and don't just slam a restaurant to make my readers laugh. You should know that I always allow a restaurant to be open at least a month (Weird Fish being the one exception) before I visit and post my thoughts for all to see. Like most food bloggers, I love restaurants and respect the people who work in them- I really want them to succeed and be able to write about what I love rather than what I loathe. This article also mentioned that a new restaurant has reviews on-line within 15 minutes of its opening! I would say that if someone is so concerned with getting their review in first from their blackberry hidden under a tablecloth, they really aren't giving a restaurant a fair chance.
Um... Kristen, don't get too high and mighty, you know you use and love Yelp.
Ok, so yes, I use and love Yelp. I think the best way to use Yelp is to look up a few restaurants you have already been to and find the people who have written a review that reflects your thoughts. Then look up their other reviews.
And now back to our regularly scheduled program...
Umami is among the new batch of restaurants that claims to do all things Asian. A little sushi, a little Vietnamese, a few Chinese dumplings, maybe some curry and you have the continent of Asia sitting on your menu. Sutra in South Beach falls into this category too. And in both of these places, the restaurants have wised up to the fact that they need a big bar/lounge to keep us all for getting thirsty. And we San Franciscans have been known to get thirsty. This downstairs bar/lounge in Umami made the establishment much more of a scene than a restaurant for me. Eating was almost an inconvenience as you have to trot up a very steep staircase to arrive at your table. On the other side of this, I like that the restaurant is removed from the bar scene- there is nothing more irritating than trying to enjoy a dinner while your main view is watching some sketchy guy getting rejected from multiple women at the bar.
So once you go upstairs there are a ring of tables and booths surrounding the
trendy center communal table:
Our server was one of the nicest I've met. In fact, she was so personable and sweet and genuine that I thought I must have known her from somewhere else. I kept trying to place her and then realized she was just doing her job very well.
Unfortunately, the food was very disappointing for the price. I thought overall it was way too salty and spiced. I wanted to taste some of the flavors of the main ingredients, not just the sauce. Though, there was a highlight:
That is the Shaking Beef over onions, a peppery salad and dried noodles. I thought the beef was of high quality and the salad underneath really eased the strong flavors of the onions and meat.
I think Umami is going to have a difficult time with its other dishes because they are trying to do so many things well. A dish of chicken pot stickers-
- wasn't simple enough for me. There were too many flavors fighting each other. We also had an order of pork and shrimp dumplings that felt the same way. It's hard when you live in a town with so many authentic Asian restaurants to do something new. Places like Shanghai Dumpling King dedicate their business to a few good dishes, maybe Umami is dedicating themselves to too many?
So the scene and the service worked well for me. It may be the next place to go and pick up some sashimi and a date in Cow Hollow- but I wouldn't place it high on my list for a meal.
2909 Webster (at Union)
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