Umami – Restaurant Review

By Ephratha Kibru, July 01, 2019

The word ‘Umami’ carries with it a heavy load. A term of Japanese origin, it is used to describe savory tastes emanating from different types of food. If you name your restaurant Umami then it should, by principle, be able to capture the complexity capsulated in the palate. In order to do this, diversity is necessary, and attention is also a must. Ibrahim Hassen understood all this and managed to create a place quite unlike most in Addis.

Despite it being tucked out of the way on the old Japan road, Umami hosts a large compound with beautiful greenery that greatly umped up the place’s visual appearance. It’s interior could be described as retro, mostly due to its diner-esque design. The comfy-looking booths were the pinnacle of this construct.

We took a seat and I scoured the menu. Brunch was serving all day, every day- and I happily went along with it. Of the four meals I had, three of them were breakfast dishes.

I started off with the Southwestern Omelet, a fluffy omelet with fresh avocados and strawberries lining the top while bright red tomatoes decorate the side. I was more than happy to find out it tasted as good as it looked. Everything was as soft and savory as I imagined it to be. The side dish that came with it, Umami’s potato croquettes, was spectacular. Made from mashed potatoes that were covered with bread crumbs, washed with eggs, and fried, it was one of my favorite aspects of the entire meal. It is a must-try.

I followed up the Omelet with the all-American Chicken and Waffles. It was a big meal, with fat waffles stacked beneath small, crunchy, fried chicken. The papaya, watermelon, and bananas amassed on the side gave the dish a boost in sweetness while the potato croquettes continued on as the perfect addition to each meal. As this was a different take on a similar dish I had at Delmelá, it was up to individual taste to decide which was better. The portions were bigger and the flavor was more complementary at Umami, but the chicken was definitely more delicate and the overall taste was richer (yet more polarizing) at Delmelá. It was hard to say who had the edge.

Next, I tried the Shakshuka, a Northern African delicacy consisting of poached eggs cooked on top of spicy tomato sauce and garlic, seasoned with parsley. It was, quite simply, amazing- I considered it the height of umami and a prime example of a savory taste.

Lastly, I tried the Moussaka. This Mediterranean dish knows different variants but at Umami, it is made and served the Greek way. Consisting of a thick cheesy top, a tenderly cooked eggplant based center, and a delicate beef base, this dish was one of my all-time favorites and Umami did it justice. It was one of the best moussakas I had ever had. Whether you are a fan of Greek cuisine or not, I guarantee you could never go wrong with Umami’s Moussaka.

Once I found myself more than satisfied, Ibrahim Hassen, the owner and manager of Umami set to familiarize me with the background of this wonderful place and its visionary owner.

“It’s always been a dream of mine and with the help of my family, it’s finally being realized. Umami is a family business and I’m the manager.” He says.

Here in Addis, there is a huge gap in the brunch sector with a lot of restaurants time-limiting their breakfast menu. Ibrahim noticed this and set out to bridge it. Brunch is constantly on the menu- and Ibrahim set out to serve food he would love to eat. “I used to eat out from a very young age- it definitely widened my palate and cultivated my taste.” He continues, “So even though I don’t normally cook, I know what I want.”

Umami had been open for exactly two weeks when writing this review yet the feedback was overwhelmingly positive- in person and on social media. “Customer satisfaction is extremely important to me, so much so that the smallest discontent expressed affects my mood for the whole day. With that in mind, having returning customers so early on has to be the greatest complement,” says Ibrahim. “I couldn’t be more grateful.”

And I couldn’t be less surprised. Umami’s food, albeit expensive, was a must try. Its huge portions added to the fantastic dining experience and though the fact that there is something for everyone gives comfort, it also allows adventure.

Photos By: Anteneh Girma , Abyissinia Photographers Hub