My experience with Umami goes a little something like this: I loved Umami. Then I didn’t. And now I’m on the bandwagon once again.
Umami is the ultra tiny restaurant in the heart of Chagrin Falls. I first wrote about them last June when Michael Longo was chef. It’s close to my house and office, so we found ourselves there often. I was impressed – with the food and space. You see, for as much as I like the Falls, food options are ho hum at best.
Then Longo left for whatever reason. I went twice more post his departure and was disappointed (all restaurants have bad days, which is why I went twice – I’ll forgive anyone for a bad day). It’s not that it was a horrible experience by any means, it just wasn’t nearly as good. They were the same dishes, but fell short of when I’d previously tried them. So I stopped going.
About six weeks ago Umami made its way back on the rotation, both for lunch during the week and dinner. It started with Jamie. He went back few times with coworkers and was happy. Then I talked to friends that had a recent positive experience so I figured I’d return and see for myself. The new chef, Matthew Anderson, apparently changed up the menu and instead of cooking what he inherited, created a menu filled with contemporary Asian dishes he wanted to make, dishes that represented his style.
I can’t quite say that I love it, but I think it’s really, really good (highly recommend the udon noodles with spicy beef), and if they continue to improve as they have been, no doubt I’ll be saying the L word soon.
But here is what I do love – the service. Truly, I cannot say enough good things about the staff and even the chef, who I don’t believe reads or is even aware of CF (not that that matters or means anything), but we have been there at least four time in the past month and are really impressed by their passion, friendliness and willingness to go that extra step to make it a positive dining experience.
Case in point – today’s lunch/dinner. I just got back in town from Chicago and we were hungry. We headed to Umami for a quick bite, walked in and were told they don’t open until 5 (it was 3:30). No problem. But the server asked us to hold on, talked to the chef then came back and told us to have a seat. He said as long as we didn’t want sushi, we could stay. We felt bad and said that’s not necessary, but they insisted and said it’s no problem at all. So we hooked up Natalie’s toddler seat and ordered away. On a previous visit, the server asked what he could get my daughter and I said she’ll just eat some of my dish. The server said not to worry, he’ll have the chef make her something special. A few minutes later he came out with a super tasty chicken stir-fry of sorts that she inhaled. These little things go a long way, especially when Natalie is involved. And I swear, Umami has become her favorite as of late – she totally flirts with the server and likes that she has a direct view into the kitchen where she watches the chef (her favorite pastime). The chopsticks are right up her alley, too.