Umami Ramen & Dumpling Bar
The specs: #0692
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at Glossing Over It, Isthmus, 77 Square, Yelp, The Mad Samplers, A.V. Club, Eat Drink Madison, The Sacred Tart, Madison Magazine; chatter at TDPF; Blogspot site, official web site (thanks, K!), Facebook, Twitter,
Latest Umami news and reviews
Barbara ate the apple walnut frisee salad and some dumplings with a mango mojito.
Darby ate the pork and chive dumplings.
Dave ate the miso ramen with a mango mojito.
JM ate the tonkotsu [sic] ramen.
Joshua ate the chicken and chive dumplings.
Nichole ate the shoyu ramen with a New Glarus Moon Man.
Robert ate some dumplings with a mango mojito.
We split two orders of pork buns, a tuna poke, and three desserts (the green tea creme brulee, ice cream sandwich, and mango sorbet).
The bill was about $20/person, plus tip (thank you, Robert & Barbara!).
JM and Nichole gave Umami an A- (see our grading rubric).
Umami was a riot. It's very hip inside (the word "fixie" may have been uttered), and the bar is loud, though to be fair we haven't experienced the dining room or the new patio. No room for pensive noodling here, though the specials were written on a chalkboard in haiku.
We were there to help Darby get ready for the Madison Marathon. The seven of us ordered quite a feast - six beverages, five appetizers, four orders of dumplings, three bowls of ramen, and 3 desserts (so far, turtle doves remain off the menu). And then to our surprise and delighted gratitude, our money was no good; our companions treated us.
And hence, this is the most interesting cross-industry sponsored post we've ever done (and probably the only one we will given that we're up to U), because we'd like to momentarily direct your attention to Barbara's expertise in eldercare. Her book Stuck in the Middle (WorldCat, Amazon), cowritten with Darby, has been invaluable to members of our family and we highly recommend her resources to anyone caring for elderly parents, whether in the sandwich generation or not.
Image: Plan Ahead by Shari Elf. Used with permission.
See how we can seamlessly segue back to food? Smoove as a mango mojito.
The mango added depth and a velvety texture to the cocktails, but they were so sweet that if extra sugar had been added, it needn't have been. A little more lime and mint for balance would have been nice.
The pork buns were as delicious as we'd heard. Very fatty pork belly with lightly sweet pickled cucumbers and sticky hoisin in a steamed wrapper hit the spot. As did the tuna poke, comprised of a little pile of diced raw ahi, a slaw of apples and cucumbers, and seaweed salad rising from a sea of sweet soy like Aphrodite on a curvy pork rind. A salad (which would be billed in contemporary R&B-ese as: Apple Walnut featuring Carat Cranberry, Chedda, and Pomegranate Mynt) was a nod to some Wisconsin ingredients and a refreshing break from sesame oil, which was used liberally in most dishes we tried.
The dumplings are worthy of their equal billing in the restaurant's name. These are small, tidily made, and filled with chives and meaty goodness. The chicken were more favored than the pork.
The miso and tonkotsu [sic] ramen are regular dishes, while the more subtle shoyu version was a popular special. All had a rather small quantity (maybe one to two ounces) of thinly sliced meat, thin, long, filling noodles, and bright halved hardboiled New Century eggs. The broth of each varied subtly. Of course the miso ramen had the richest flavor from the miso itself, while the shoyu was actually less salty than the other two. JM even liked the tonkotsu ramen, especially since the kitchen held the nori as he'd requested. Ours was just a small sheet floating, so it wouldn't have been a problem to remove it anyway, but still.
Dessert. The top of the green tea creme brulee was not quite caramelized enough, but underneath it was smooth as could be and garnished with blueberries and mint leaves. Mint also decorated an excellent mango sorbet. Least favored was an ice cream sandwich, where the vanilla ice cream was fine but the chocolate cookies were too hard, and the decorative fudge stripe had an undertone of sesame oil that took some getting used to.
Umami is not exactly a classic ramen bar, but what would that look like in Madison, anyway? It was tasty, at an appropriate price point, and unique, best enjoyed with friends along with an open mind and mouth.