Restaurant Review: If this fifth taste had a tagline, it would be "I see well-fed people"
What does breast milk, mackerel in tomato and seaweed have in common? They are all rich in the fifth basic taste: umami.
But if you are too old to grab a boob for dinner, and too non-Danish to appreciate rye bread spread with the Danes’ beloved mackerel salad, then you might fancy a trip to Umami, a restaurant specialising in food with an inherent savouriness. The Japanese-French fusion cuisine is a real femme fatale of the restaurant scene with the sole purpose of seducing your senses with lots of great flavour.
Stepping inside Umami, you instantly feel at ease. The accommodating staff are not only there to serve your rumbling stomach, but to answer any question you might have. The bartender didn’t waste time showing a young French boy how to mix a cocktail for his parents, while giving us advice on what was best to drink before dinner. I went for the Moshi Moshi with green tea liqueur and lemon juice, before we were taken through the minimalistically-decorated restaurant to our table upstairs.
In the impressive dining room we were placed in a cosy leather couch with dangling glass-art behind us and long, lean, Japanese lamps above us. We quickly decided to go ‘omakase’ on the menu, meaning we let the chef decide our umami dishes.
The tastes of salty, sweet, sour and bitter are familiar, whereas the fifth taste, umami, has been a mystery for many years. Umami means ‘delicious taste’ and was coined by a Japanese professor at the beginning of the 20th century. However, it wasn’t until the 1980s that it was established as the taste of glutamate and nucleotides. Nutritional science aside, umami is a rounded, rich and savory taste that can be found in both eastern and western cuisines in a variety of food like soy sauce, miso paste, cheese and ketchup.
The first thing on the menu to touch my lips was the tuna sashimi with ginger, garlic and sesame. To be honest, I could have gone home a very happy lady after this very first bite. The tuna was absolutely perfect and one of my favourite things on the menu.
Restaurant manager Lau Christian Thorn said they get the products from all over the world, depending entirely on the best quality. And so we were introduced to Norwegian scallops, Spanish tuna and tiger prawns from Argentina.
The food is based on the Japanese kitchen’s philosophy of natural and seasonal ingredients and the French kitchen’s cooking traditions.
The east meets west part of the cuisine was more apparent in some dishes. The Lobster tempura (battered and deep fried) was for instance served with traditional Japanese tentsuyu and daikon plus a western bonus of chili mayo. Apparently true Japan connoisseurs wouldn’t go for the last bit, but I couldn’t help it. And it was great.
The French touch was particularly visible in dishes like the Veal tenderloin with wasabi-truffle sauce and the Tiger prawns with shiitake mushrooms and a yuzu-soy sauce, which were both amazing. In addition to the French-inspired sauces, we had French white wine with the fish and an Italian Barolo with the meat.
According to Thorn, they serve wine to accommodate the guests’ expectations, but also because it’s not as easy to find a sake to go with each individual dish.
We did, however, get a lovely cold Daiginjo sake with the plate of sushi that arrived at the end of the meal. This type of sake is known as ‘the best of the best’, because the rice grains are polished to 50 percent, thus making it cleaner.
The sushi was amazing as well, served with more fish and less rice compared to what you often get at sushi restaurants in Europe.
Though experts say, and this article started off saying, that some quite simple foods entail umami, I doubt a tired old can of mackerel in tomato sauce will do the trick after this food adventure.
Store Kongensgade 59, Cph K, email@example.com
Open: Mon-Thu 18:00-22:00, Fri-
Sat 18:00-23:00, Closed Dec 22-Jan 2
Cuisine: Japanese-French fusion
Top Dish: Lobster Tempura
Price Range: omakase 650kr, wine menu 550kr