Umami

It’s the eternal problem. Where to eat on a night out in the Valley? One friend wants Japanese, another Chinese, another Thai. Jordan Huang’s solution was simple: Umami, a moody neon-lit 75-seat restaurant at the top of Chinatown Mall.

Chef Bernard Kong’s menu ranges far and wide: ponzu-cured salmon tacos, crispy pork bao, and black truffle and prawn dumplings sit comfortably next to grilled eggplant with shiso leaves and manuka honey, and sichuan pepper beef tenderloin. The through-line is, as you might have guessed, is the savoury taste of umami. It’s food that’s approachable and designed to be shared – both around the table and on Instagram.

There’s a long list of cocktails that includes the Smoking Eye of the Dragon (a rum and peach liqueur concoction that comes in a smoking teapot); a gin menu, with the drinks served in large goblets and garnished with various botanicals; and an impressive list of Japanese whiskies. The secret weapon, though, is a 200-bottle wine list that Huang inherited from a former chef. It contains a bunch of curios such as a 2012 Forest Hill Block 8 chardonnay and a 2015 Chaffey Bros Elijah shiraz – both can be ordered by the glass via Coravin (a wine-preserving system that keeps wine after opening).

The venue itself is decked out in dark wood with a liberal dose of playful neon lighting, festooned greenery and a features wall of lucky cats. The space is anchored by a prized pair of corner booths and a long communal table, all perfect for groups to get the gang gung-ho on a Saturday night before taking on the surrounding bars and clubs.

Updated: March 13th, 2020

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