By Jill Weinlein, 3/29/2012
There’s a new deli, groovy bar, gourmet coffee bar, donut shop and Umami burger restaurant located next to the historic Orpheum Theatre. It’s another creation by the innovative Adam Fleischman, Los Angeles based restaurateur and Chief Executive of Umami Restaurant Group. With his mega successful Umami Burger, Fleischman has branched out to pizza with his thriving 800 Degrees in Westwood Village. Now he has brought a brand new dining concept to downtown L.A., UMAMIcatessen. It’s a food festival-dining venue where servers bring you dishes from the five different kitchens.
Fleishman has an outstanding knack of attracting extremely talented people to work with him. Celebrated San Francisco Chef Chris Cosentino is the mastermind behind the first of five kitchens, PIGG. Cosentino has a flair for tuning offal (internal organs of a butchered animal) into gourmet fare. We tried his Cone O’ Cracklins made from thinly sliced pig ears fried crispy and served with a sprinkling of sherry vinegar and flash fried sage. They are crunchy and airy, a variation of a salt and vinegar pork rind and an ideal snack with one of handsome Adrian Biggs’ handcrafted cocktails. Originally, from one of Australia’s favorite vacation islands, Tasmania, Biggs’ beverage menu includes twists on classic libations to complement the savory UMAMIcatessen menu.
We tried the tropical Urban Trader with Bacardi rum, apricot liqueur, St. Vincent orgeat (made with almond milk, pure sugar cane, rose water and orange blossom), fresh pineapple and lime juice with a sprinkle of nutmeg. Another favorite was the Citrus Tree with rum, lychee liqueur, red and green grapes muddled with fresh lime and sugar.
Cosentino’s PIGG style fries arrived with pickled red peppers and topped with ham puree and brainaise. At first, I thought our server, Brian, said béarnaise. I love béarnaise sauce. I found out that Cosentino uses every part of the pig, including the brain. His brainaise is made from, yes, pig brain.
Since Cosentino was in the open kitchen of PIGG, I sat down at the food bar and chatted with him as he was slicing the hind leg of a hog. “This is from a woolly pig,” Cosentino said. “It’s a German breed that is a cross between a pig and a sheep.” It’s also called a Mangalista, and known for its high-quality fat and flavorful meat.
Cosentino makes a Hoof and Mouth sandwich that is served with pickled carrots and onions. Yes, part of the hoof and snout of a pig are the meat inside a French baguette. There is also a pigs ears salad with watercress and mint. His raw lardo with pears looks like strips of bacon fat (lard) accompanied with hazelnuts and thinly sliced fresh pear.
Walking over to the Spring for Coffee bar, I met the designers of the space, Derrick Flynn and Juliana So of SO/DA Inc. Both met at USC’s School of Architecture and specialize in hospitality and interior design. “This was three different spaces when we first started,” Flynn said. Now it’s 6,650 sq. ft of raw open space filled with interesting historical materials and objects. Custom light fixtures are made from antique milk crates and bottles. Old stage lights from the Orpheum Theatre hang above the Spring for Coffee bar. “The wood paneling is from a 1930s distillery in Alabama,” So said. “We like to reuse rusted metal and reclaimed lumber to bring back the beauty of life over time,” Flynn added.
The two pointed out their aluminum honeycomb panel sculpture above where we were standing. It softens the sounds in the cavernous space and is visually striking. The dynamic duo also created the custom-made saddle leather stools that are lined up at each open kitchen bar.
The next dish we tried was made in the third kitchen/deli, The Cure. It was a pastrami sandwich on rye with housemade mustard. Thick hunks of ruby-red pastrami are as good or better than any other kosher style deli in Los Angeles. I had to ask Chef Adam Bussell at The Cure kitchen how he makes such a tender and flavorful pastrami. “It’s cooked for half a day at the ideal temperature,” was all that Bussell would disclose.
Adam Fleischman worked with Mezze’s Executive Chef, Micah Wexler, to create flavorful bowls of matzo ball soup, smoked salmon, sturgeon while snacking on mini potato knishes served with whole-grain mustard. The Cure also serves a turkey sandwich on challah bread, corned beef on rye and a chicken salad sandwich with roasted fennel, red and green grapes, toasted walnuts, tarragon and a yogurt dressing. All the sandwiches are under $13.
Before leaving, we met Jason Berkowitz, the VP of Hospitality for the UMAMI Group. “Our loyalty is to the customer experience. Every server here has extensive product knowledge, enthusiasm and a smile to keep customers coming back,” Berkowitz said. He gives his servers a pep talk before the doors open to the public. “Nice is the new nice,” Berkowitz added.
One of the Spring for Coffee baristas, Robert Siron handed us freshly made cappuccino with heart shaped white foam, to accompany piping hot beignets with a caramel and coffee flavored dipping curd. We leaned back in the leather high stools and enjoyed the sweetness and savoriness of the evening. Next, he said we must try one of Fleishman’s Tres de Leche donuts. It goes great with any of the hot beverages at Spring for Coffee.
The glory of Broadway with its art-deco buildings, magnificent theatres, contemporary galleries and hip residences, welcomes UMAMIcatessen with open arms. The restaurant is attracting a new breed of foodie urbanites that are willing to come downtown, stand in line, and experience one of LA’s new dining adventures. Hours are 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. $-$$. 825 S. Broadway, (213)413-UMAMI (8626).