Dining Review: So-so hot dogs at Umami Burger, wonderful ice cream at Quenelle

Hot dogs and ice cream: They’re not just for backyard barbecues anymore. Two new Burbank eateries have elevated the simple summertime treats to new heights.

The Umami Burger chain of restaurants has certainly been written about before. But what you may not know is that the newest location in Toluca Lake is trying something new. They’ve quirkily updated the bygone Papoo’s Hot Dog Show, adding chandeliers to the old Western theme and paying homage to the shop’s predecessor by offering a line of umami hot dogs. These creations are multiple layers of umami taste.

Umami is purported to be the fifth taste, engaging a mouth receptor that distinguishes meaty, earthy flavors. Think of sauteed wild mushrooms on grilled steak. Texture and a feeling of mouth fullness may play a role, but umami is strictly a neuronal appreciation of glutamates.

I think I’m missing the umami receptor or maybe I’m an umami super-taster, because I found these hot dogs unpleasant. The mouth feel was very fatty to me. I like crunchy raw onions or cold Thai slaw on my frankfurters. My male dining companions loved the hot dogs. I mean, really loved them.

They loved the hatch dog, with its roasted green chilies and housemade American cheese. They loved the original dog, with Parmesan crisps, caramelized onions and roasted tomato. They loved the truffle dog, with garlic aioli, gooey truffle cheese and truffle-infused onions (all dogs are $5.50). I loved the iced tea.

It’s an unusual day when dessert is less rich than lunch. Zipping a couple miles down Buena Vista Street, we reached the brand-spanking-new ice cream spot, Quenelle, its chic storefront beckoning us from a less-than-chic strip of stores on Magnolia.

Quenelle is owned and operated by John Park, lately of the westside’s Lukshon and Father’s Office restaurants. As pastry chef there, he undoubtedly placed quenelles (small, football-shaped scoops) of homemade ice cream beside expensive desserts. Here in Burbank, you can get the same delicious ice cream in a dozen flavors with your choice of unique toppings for $4.50 and up.

Vietnamese coffee, blueberry pie, oolong tea and strawberry shortcake are just a few of the flavors offered, some of which may not be there tomorrow. Hopefully, the bourbon chocolate malt will, because it’s everything you’d hope it would be. After Park explained that soursop is a tart Central American fruit, I got a combo of vanilla soursop and passionfruit kaffir lime ($3.50 small, $5.50 large).

Here’s the fun part: They have all kinds of homemade toppings for $1 each. These aren’t your standard fro-yo toppings — which I love, don’t get me wrong. Park has jars of coconut or chocolate feuilletine (crumbles of crisp-cooked crepes), streusel made of graham crackers or chocolate, candied pecans, caramelized rice, mochi, fudge and Kahlua caramel. Someday I’m going to get every one.

The ice cream delivers that perfect balance of creamy and icy with no residual throat coat. The fruit flavors are distinctive. The toppings add welcome texture to the smooth frozen treat. I must admit that some 4-year-olds nearby were not so taken with the ice cream. “I don’t like it,” she said. “I don’t want it,” he said. But numerous teenagers standing around this tiny, chairless shop were thrilled. This may be a middle-school-and-above thing.

Summer’s almost over. If you’re into umami and feuilletine, finish off the season with some updated summertime classics.

What: Umami Burger

Where: 4300 W. Riverside Drive, Burbank

When: Monday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to midnight.

More info: (818) 433-3680, umami.com


Where: 2214 W. Magnolia Blvd, Burbank

When: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; closed Sunday.

More info: (818) 843-1035, facebook.com/quenellespoon

LISA DUPUY welcomes comments at ldupuy@aol.com.

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