Welcome to Washington Square, Umami Steak and Sushi Bar

Sushi at Umami, Photos by Keri White

I adore sushi. Sushi is, however, one of those foods that people tend to love or avoid at all costs.

The owners of Umami restaurant seem to realize that and have created a Japanese menu that accommodates a wide array of palates, offering an impressive selection of sushi, maki and sashimi, omakase, cooked izakaya (bar-style appetizers), sandwiches, noodles and Koji steaks.

And the chef manages all of the different dishes will skill and deftness; there is no sense of a diffuse or overly ambitious kitchen; the food, from grilled vegetables to chicken buns to sushi, and other raw fish dishes, was excellent.

“Umami” refers to a flavor category analogous to sweet, sour, bitter or salty that is described as savory, meaty, complex and delicious. Familiar foods rich in umami include Parmesan cheese, sundried tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, seaweed and soy sauce.

Located in a lower-level space a half-block off of Washington Square, Umami’s vibe is both trendy and classic. The décor is largely brick with a lively bar, a spacious dining room filled with booths and banquette tables, and a sushi bar in the rear.

The drinks menu offers a selection of fresh and innovative cocktails, beers, wines and an impressive sake list. Lunch specials are a particularly good value—the multidish meals range from $14 for the roasted chicken thigh or yaki tofu to $30 chirashi, a selection of sashimi served on a bed of rice. For timid diners, the $16 chicken katsu sando offers a breaded chicken cutlet on housemade milk bread served with salad, pickles and mayo.

Yellowtail at Umami

As a sushi fan, I tend toward that side of the menu — the 9-piece chef’s sushi platter ($30) or the chef’s premium platter ($55) offered spectacular selections of sushi without any decision for me to make! Rolls and pieces range from $6-35, and the special rolls, creative combos that blend textures, flavors and different types of fish, range from $14-18.

We also sampled some of the cooked “izakaya” style appetizers — the chicken buns, enveloped in fluffy white buns, seasoned with spicy aioli and topped with crunch cucumber and daikon, were a symphony of flavors and textures. The grilled eggplant with caramelized miso, togarashi and crispy rice petals made good on the restaurant’s name: umami!

The koji steaks are named for the spore used to produce many Japanese ingredients like miso, mirin, sake and soy. The koji is used in the preparation of the steak; the process tenderizes and flavors the meat, which is grilled and then carved tableside. Umami offers kalbi short ribs, Angus prime New York strip, porterhouse and wagyu beef; prices range from $42-65 and are served with a selection of sides.

Tuna at Umami

If you go:

Umami Steak and Sushi
727 Walnut St.
Philadelphia, 19106


Monday-Thursday: Lunch 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m.; Dinner 4:30-10 p.m.
Friday: Lunch 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m.; Dinner 4:30-11 p.m.
Saturday: Dinner 4:30-11 p.m.
Sunday: Dinner 4:30-10 p.m.


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