In Short : Perfect place for casual eats, or to chill after work. A great destination on weekends to hang out with friends and family with Japanese style fast food and a great drinks menu, at a reasonable price.
If I had to pick a dish that transcends all age groups, religion and even different nationalities, I would have to say that it’s the hamburger. It is said, the name hamburger comes from the traditional meat dish from Germany called Hamburg. Most people would also associate the hamburger with American-style burgers, but in reality, every country has its own version and interpretation of the hamburger.
Some of the best burgers I have eaten have come from Japan. While they are usually smaller and more petite in size as compared to their American burger cousins, what they lack in quantity, they make up for in the flavours from the quality of the ingredients and meticulous attention to detail when it comes to constructing the burger.
It therefore comes as no surprise to me that one of the best burger joints in Sydney is Ume Burger. They started off as a fine-dining restaurant on Bourke Street in Surry Hills. As burger fever well truly took over Sydney, owner Kirby Craig morphed it into a more casual dining affair, focusing on burgers with a Japanese twist. Sydney’s insatiable appetite for burgers ensued and the location was packed to the rafters with a perpetual queue waiting to get their hands on the delicious burgers and sides.
As 2016 wound down, a second Ume burger location spawned in Barangaroo. You might be temporarily distracted by the lovely open concept seating, which allows you to enjoy the harbour view in front of you while waiting for the burger to arrive. But once the food arrives, it would be all eyes onto the food. Featuring the same signature burgers and sides, with some new additions and a vintage Japanese soda machine on site, it is a similar to their flagship store in Bourke Street, yet different. The one thing that hasn’t been compromised is their food philosophy and their endeavour to keep things simple, sustainable, and in-house.
Approaching the counter, the first thing that will get your attention will be the drink shelf next to the counter. Drinks on display include a range of sake, shochu, and even high-end Suntory whisky. From the drinks menu, there is mainstream Japanese beers like Asahi, Kiran and Orion and for the non-alcoholic, it is time to raid the vintage vending machine standing in the corner, stocked with lots of Japanese soft drinks like Calpis.
The food menu is simple and no-fuss. From the burgers menu, there are 2 beef burger options, a fish burger, a pork burger and even a vegetarian burger to ensure that there is a burger in there that would satisfy anyone’s burger craving. The makings of a good burger always starts with the bun. All of the burgers at Ume Burger uses a Hokkaido milk bun that is sourced from a Sydney-based patisserie. The burger is pillowy soft, not too rich, and has a good sprinkle of sesame seeds on top.
When a burger bears the same name as the establishment, you know that it has to be good. The classic Ume burger has a juicy signature wagyu beef patty topped with a secret wagyu mince sauce that is completely addictive. To balance the meaty flavours, they have added huge slices of fresh truss tomatoes that helps to cut through the richness, onions, and a slice of American cheese, all tied together with a mayonnaise sauce.
A good alternative burger to try at Ume Burger is the fish katsu burger. A crispy hand-crumbed fish fillet, topped with Japanese tartare sauce, iceberg lettuce and cheese. The fish is soft on the inside and crispy on the outside while the tartare sauce has a mustard, mayo and green onion for flavour.
For the vegetarians out there, I would like to recommend the kakiage burger. The tempura vegetable fritter is nicely seasoned, crispy and crunchy. Topped with a pile of fresh shredded cabbage, nori mayonnaise sauce with an English mustard flavour as well as sweet tonkatsu sauce work together to make you never miss the meat.
From the sides menu, there is renkon or lotus root chips that are deep fried till crispy. They remind me of a similar treat that my nanny used to make for me during Chinese New Year using the same vegetable, except that the lotus root chips at Ume Burger are a bit thicker and hence moreish. It also has a special dusting of seaweed powder that gives it a salty, briny flavour that reminds you of the sea as you munch.
Another must-try side is the hot chips. The chips are dusted with an umami seasoning that is both salty and sweet with a bit of vinegary tang and a light sugar coating that caused the chip to be super crunchy when deep fried. It is super addictive and the Coco and Vine team could not stop reaching for more.
After all the burgers and sides, if you still have room for dessert, you should definitely try the Hokkaido style soft serve. This is currently the only dessert on offer,but the flavour varies from time to time. We opted for the roasted soybean flour, which may sound a bit strange initially, but ended up tasting deliciously creamy and not too sweet.
Dining at Ume Burger is like dining at a good Japanese Izakaya with great Japanese style food, tons of interesting drinks options, and a casual, fuss-free dining experience that won’t soak up all your pocket money.