As I was driving home from work one day recently, I saw a tiny sign on an empty storefront next to the 7-Eleven at Garden Grove and Lewis St., near the tri-city border of Orange, Garden Grove and Santa Ana. “Umami,” it said, which piqued my interest due to the burger chain of the same name in L.A.
When I finally stopped in, I discovered that it isn't related to that Umami, and isn't a burger chain at all, but a surprisingly good teriyaki restaurant.
I haven't eaten at Teriyami, though Gustavo hit the nail on the head
when he said teriyaki was now more a Mexican or Korean food than a
Japanese one, but Umami measures up very, very high against my internal
yardstick for teriyaki.
The first thing you'll notice is that the meat is practically unsauced.
This is a good thing, because the meat by itself has good flavor, with a
decent hit of “grill hei“. The meat is also moist, which most
teriyaki joints have long since trying to accomplish (in favor of
cooking everything to slow, jerky-like death), so it isn't necessary to
drown it in sauce (available in bottles).
Speaking of the sauce, there are two: standard teriyaki sauce, which is
thinner than most places and less cloyingly sweet, and a doctored
rooster-sauce type hot sauce that is surprisingly good dosed onto the
chicken in particular.
Bento boxes come with rice (natch), sliced oranges and salad; the salad
is a distinct upgrade, with fresh mesclun in place of tired iceberg, and
a good sesame dressing that's closer to a vinaigrette than the goopy,
slightly gritty, sweet substance that gets slopped onto most low-rent
Doing the research for this restaurant, I discovered that it had absolutely zero web presence. Googling its name
resulted in one Google Maps link with no information whatsoever. It had
no website, it didn't exist on Yelp, it didn't exist on Citysearch and
it had no links on Chowhound.
This is a place that deserves to be discovered; it's a nice take on many people's comfort food, with ingredients and cooking skill improved to make
a really satisfying cheap-ish ($7) lunch.
Umami Teriyaki, 4045 W. Garden Grove Blvd., Orange; (714) 740-0842.
Open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day.