The Japanese word “umami” means “delicious savory taste.” In my imagination, I can see owners Mr. and Mrs. Myung Kim and their daughter, sweetly vivacious manager Cindy Kim, sitting together during the early planning stages of creating their new Japanese restaurant and choosing this most desirable name for it.
By doubling the name, they clearly hoped that it would bring a double measure of good taste and good luck. Umami Umami opened in April in the long-closed Dresher Inn.
And by choosing to make sushi the major focus of the menu, given the public's current resounding love of it, they are already a large step-up in achieving their hoped-for namesake.
Indeed, more than 80 percent of the menu is devoted to the now familiar forms of sushi: sushi appetizers, nigiri sushi, sashimi, traditional maki rolls, and a great variety of “house special” maki rolls, sushi samplers and combinations.
After my recent dinner visit, I would stay with Umami's sushi offerings. I was much more impressed and satisfied with our sushi choices than with the hot entree we had. But having only shared one hot large dinner plate, this judgment may be unfair and unbalanced.
We had ordered a “kitchen hibachi” entree with beef ($21). I anticipated being served a couple of medium-size juicy filet steaks, char-grilled over an open-flame hibachi. (Perhaps I should have questioned our server more carefully before ordering it.) Instead, I was disappointed to receive a pile of bite-size chunks of pan-fried or wok-tossed pieces of undistinguished beef.
My LDC (Lovely Dining Companion) and I both agreed it needed something and added some soy sauce from our sushi dishes. It was served with a very good Japanese fried rice of very small light grains with egg, carrot, green bean, corn and peas, and a tasty side of assorted veggies.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
After being seated in the upstairs main dining room (The sushi bar and a few tables are on the ground level.), and expressing an interest in sake, Japan's fermented rice alcoholic beverage, Cindy suggested we try their sake sampling flight ($11), which included three 3-ounce servings in a beautiful serving tree of tapered cobalt blue glasses.
The three were Momokawa's pearl sake (complex), ruby (light) and raspberry (fruity sweet), which we delightedly sipped throughout our dinner. (Momokawa also makes an Asian pear sake, a little less sweet than the raspberry, which I like very much.)
Having picked a sampler trio of sake, we tried the Umami sushi sampler special of the day ($22). Before long, a large, rectangular, white porcelain plate was placed before us bearing three mouth-watering house special maki rolls.
In the center was the “tower,” a literal tower of spicy salmon and spicy tuna, atop a layer of snow crab meat and a layer of avocado, festooned with "masago" and "tobiko" (red and black fish roe). Alongside the “tower” was a zesty “ninja” roll of spicy tuna, cucumber, "oshinko" (pickle), jalapeno and spicy sauce. Best of all was the “red dragon” roll, with tempura shrimp and avocado inside, and spicy tuna, crab, scallion and bonito flakes outside—a real winner!
If ordered separately, these house special rolls would cost about $17 each.
We also had a seaweed salad ($5), which was bright green, very fresh and refreshing.
For an outstanding Japanese dessert, try the chilled confection known as “moshi.” We had the 3-piece moshi combination of green tea and red bean ice cream, and mango sorbet; each was encased in a soft rice noodle cocoon.
The menu almost entirely comprises Japanese cuisine, but the Kims included two signature standbys of their native Korean cuisine: bimbim bap and bulgogi dishes.
The pricing of the house special rolls, sushi lover's specials, and many of the entrees seemed slightly higher than average, but in general worth the extra $3 or $4.
To contact Mitch Davis, email him at MdavisMainCourse@aol.com.
Overall rating: mmm (out of 5 m’s)
The Main Course at Umami Umami (at the old Dresher Inn)
Location: 1708 Limekiln Pike (Route 152), Dresher
Cuisine: Japanese, and a few Korean favorites
Hours: Lunch, Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; dinner, daily from 4:30 to 10 p.m.
Prices: Appetizers, soups and salads, $5 to $15; sushi rolls, $5 to $18; nigiri sushi, sashimi, $6 to $25; Large plates, $12 to $28.
Ambiance:: Spare of décor, clean, no noise dampening
Reservations: Accepted, but not necessary
Credit cards: Major accepted
Alcoholic beverages: Beer, wine, sake (BYO Mondays)