A long time ago in a state far, far away, I fell in love with a little something called Umami Burger. As “umami” is a Japanese word and not exactly trademark-able, it was inevitable that I would run across a restaurant using the same name at some point, but was still surprised to find a place called Umami in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Why was I in such a place? Oh, to please my wife who likes a little something called Jeni’s Ice Cream. But that is neither here nor there. What really matters is Umami.
Differing in almost every conceivable way from Umami Burger, Umami is a kind of fancy-pants Asian Bistro with food you won’t find on your ordinary Asian menus. We kicked things off with two “Small Plates.” The first was Thai Chicken Wings, which were made with honey, ginger and a peanut glaze. As you would expect from such a combination, they were delicious. And somehow they were cooked in a way that made the meat fall right off the bone. They also had a special for Spicy Pork Meatballs, which were also in a Thai peanut sauce with cabbage slaw. Usually I would have opted out of the slaw, but I was splitting the meatballs and had to deal. These were also a delight, although not very spicy. Somehow the peanut sauce was different, more like a satay, but still delicious. Oh yeah, the meatballs were nice and juicy too.
Finally, because of ice cream, we split our “Large Plate” of Massaman Curry Chicken. The kitchen even did the splitting for us, which was awesome. Yet, had I known I could have at least ordered my half without the tomatoes. It also came with black rice, galangal (a type of ginger), lime and peanuts (clearly kids with peanut allergies should not be allowed in this place). And it was damn good. The curry was packed with flavor and the black rice added a nice texture that couldn’t have been found in a lighter rice.
I can’t really vouch for the authenticity of the Massaman Curry, but if the other food was any indication Umami wasn’t going for authenticity, but unique twists on Asian food. In this they certainly succeeded. Umami used great flavors to make a memorable meal.