he Umami Information Center, a Japanese non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the flavor, classifies umami as a persistent, “pleasant savory taste” with “a mouthwatering sensation,” but you don’t need scientists to tell you that by looking at Umaami global kitchen’s namesake burger. It towers with two Wagyu beef patties that jostles crispy bacon, and onion balsamic jam plops on top of melty, quivering cheese. You’d need both hands to pick up the burger and have a napkin ready, because each chomp is a meaty, savory, and juicy affair that will run down your chin. If the people at the center ever need a visual descriptor, this dish is it.
Despite the name’s association with a contentious condiment, Umaami doesn’t use any monosodium glutamate or artificial flavoring in their food. Former ad man turned chef owner Joey Cheong also chooses to make almost everything from scratch, from the burger patty to the bacon cured in house. That’s why the homemade pizza dough is light and airy yet firm enough to hoist duck bacon, brie, and oozy eggs, while the Scottish salmon gravlax is fresh and springy.
While the menu leans heavily on Western cuisine, Umaami injects flavors from around the world into some dishes. Southeast Asia is frequently referenced thanks to Cheong’s Singaporean background, and it shows up in the punchy, texturally diverse Singapore chili crab pizza, and fermented prawn paste batter bestows chicken wings with an intense yet refreshing scent of the sea. Other times it’s a mashup of cuisines like the mala beef nachos – crunchy corn tacos individually plated with Sichuan pepper-accented minced meat.
For lunch, Umaami also offers a selection of Singaporean hawker fare such as Hainan chicken rice with either poached or roast chicken, soup kambing, a mutton broth with aromatic spices that originates from the Malay archipelago, and fried seafood Hokkien noodles – a medley of thick egg noodles and thin rice vermicelli, prawns, squid, Chinese sausage, and crunchy cubes of pork lard that’s both fragrant and savory.
It’s a pity those lunch dishes aren’t offered during dinner, because according to my Singaporean dining companion, the taste is one of the most authentic around town. But that disappointment is soon forgotten once you tackle the sharing-style mains, such as a charcoal grilled octopus leg that’s beautifully charred and tender, or the Aussie beef ribs with smoked mashed potatoes. Braised for six hours until succulent, the rich flavor takes over your senses and lingers long both in taste and memory.
UMAAMI global kitchen
Daily, 11am to 11pm
WPP Campus, L105, 379 Hengfeng Road
Nearest metro station: Hanzhong Road