Just Add Cheese has been having quite the whirlwind of a week. Filled with lots of food, friends and fun, I’m actually surprised I’ve managed to survive these past few days after enduring the “hurricane” that is my 10 closest college girlfriends coming together in Boston for one wild weekend. Needless to say, we had an absolute blast and alas they have all since deserted me and I can finally sit down and share with you a post on a place I am extremely excited to be writing about.
Some of you may have heard the term Umami before, which is the Japanese word used to explain the fifth unknown taste that is indescribably delicious and commonly referred to as ”savory” (most of us are familiar with the four basic tastes: sweet, sour, salty and bitter.) Having learned this a while back from my favorite foodie/partner-in-crime Meesh, I was excited to hear that a new restaurant, appropriately named Umami, had opened in Brookline not too long ago. Serving up Asian inspired global cuisine with a creative twist, I started hearing quite a bit of buzz about it. Naturally I added it to my “to eat” list which has been growing faster than a family of sea monkeys.
A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting a particularly nice/exciting/awesome individual by the name of Noon when she came to Cafeteria Boston to consult with us on our cocktail menu. 3 hours, 20+ cocktails, and a heavy buzz later I found out she was the co-owner and master mixologist at Umami. After sampling some of her skills, it was official, I had to go to Umami NOW. And by now I mean last Sunday.
As soon as my friend Sam and I arrived, we dissected the drink list. Within minutes we found ourselves in Heaven. Starting off with the Beaconsfield, a smooth, fresh blend of Absolut Boston, Organic Crop Cucumber, marigold & Boston ‘Bittahs’. It was so light and refreshing, a perfect drink for summer. I can see myself throwing back a lot of these while basking in the sun. And to be quite frank, it was probably the best cocktail I’ve ever had (scratch that, I just remembered the Autumn Breeze, which I’ll get to in a minute.)
We also tried The Angelo, made with Campari, Campano Antica, grapefruit & Prosecco. To be honest, I’m not really a fan of campari, and my friend Sam isn’t crazy about grapefruit so I have no idea what the thought process was when we ordered this, but it didn’t even matter because it was amazing. And shockingly enough, it didn’t taste like either. It was fizzy, tasty and blended perfectly. For whatever reason the combination of liquors did something magical when mixed together. Pure genius.
Now onto the food. Noon is the mastermind behind the bar, but the Chef/owner Yoshi Hakamoto is the one responsible for the crazy flavor combination’s coming from the kitchen. His dishes are often inspired by local farmers and tend to include lots of fresh, unique and exotic ingredients. They’re all about flavorful, well-seasoned, spicy dishes. We decided to try the appetizer special, while we looked over the rest of the menu.
(sorry guy’s, had to use the flash on this one) the appetizer special was a bone in Oxtail chunk confit slow roasted in duck fat. It was seasoned with different types of soy, lemongrass, garlic, pepper, cilantro and a few of the Chef’s secret ingredients. It was topped with a Cremini mushroom sauce made with mushroom demi and a touch of cream. The tender beef fell right off the bone. I’m not even going to tell you how good it was, it’ll just make you upset you’re not eating some right now.
With some help from Noon we decided to split the Steak Au Poivre and the Duck for our entrees.
The Steak au Poivre was coated with an exotic pepper blend, Scechuan peppercorn, and a Pierre Ferrand cognac sauce. The side of sweet butternut squash paired perfectly with the spiciness of the steak. Served medium-rare, it was so juicy and (I have to say it) savory!! SO SAVORY! Just thinking about it is enough to make me start salivating. The Hoison glazed duck was also ridiculously delish! Served with tangy passion fruit, spicy Cape Cod cranberries and a mango chutney the sweetness of this dish was the perfect juxtaposition to the peppery steak. And the duck breast itself laid on top of a bed of diced baby carrots, which were so tender and well-seasoned I was honestly sent into a state of shock. On any other day I do not really like carrots, on this day they were the best thing ever.
After stuffing face, we went on to drink more drinks. I continued to be wildly impressed by how good Noon is when it comes to mixing liquors. Just as Hakamoto has a knack for bringing out the most amazing flavors in his dishes by combining unlikely ingredients, she was able to create some of the best tasting, thirst-quenching libations I have ever had. There are bartenders, and then there are Angels who are so seemingly out of this world at what they do it would be unfair to even use the term “bartender” in their presence. That’s her. Given that she has served as a liquor consultant for quite a few other dining locations, including the new summer drink list at Cafeteria and the cocktail menu at highly anticipated restaurant/night club Bijou, opening up in the theater district in just a few months, apparently her skills are no secret.
All the drinks we tried at Umami that night blew me away, especially the Autumn Breeze which was my favorite. Served chilled and straight up, it was Vodka infused with Acorn and Butternut Squash, Vanilla, cinnamon, anise and orange zest, with just a touch of Chocolate bitters. It tasted like Pumpkin Pie. Like liquid candy. Like home. It made me feel warm and fuzzy all over. And because I could go on and on about how great everything was, from the service, the food, the drinks, the atmosphere and the company, I will stop myself now and leave you with a few more photo’s and some amazing drink recipe’s for you to try next time you feel like your vodka & soda just aint cuttin it.
(JM Rhum Agricole, Grand Marnier, Ume syrup, Lemon and Peychaud’s bitters)
(Rum punch with Mekhong Thai Rum, Ruby port, citus, grapefruit bitters and lychee)
Other favorites included the Argentine Margarita made with Muddled ginger, tequila, Cointreau, Lemon, and Fernet Branca (think of it as Ginger Beer’s and Margarita’s illegitimate child) and The Fifth Column. A drink inspired by the Hemingway daiquiri, made with Muddled Ginger, Plantation Rum from Barbados, Mathilde Poire, Lemon and Bitters.
Happy Prez Day!