photo credit: Um.ma
With a hip-hop and R&B soundtrack blasting and super shareable dishes, Um.ma is one of the most fun places to eat around Ninth Avenue in the Inner Sunset. The sensible move at this contemporary Korean spot is to order the seafood pancake, bulgogi beef, the whole mackerel, and to also try some of Um.ma’s other specialities—like the Rockin’ Roe, a beautiful fish egg and rice dish. Um.ma has parklet seating, as well as backyard patio dining where you can order more elaborate KBBQ meals.
Fried seafood pancakes can sometimes exhaust your appetite right from the start of the meal, but Um.ma’s lightly battered and fried version won’t get in your way later. Yes, the imitation crab will make you wish some local Dungeness was in the mix, but the generous amount of actual shrimp and scallops carry the dish.
A bubbling bowl of petite potatoes are braised in gochujang, loaded with garlic, and served with little soft rounds of mozzarella. You can easily skew meat heavy when ordering at Um.ma, so balance that out with these.
A whole fish is butterflied and served with crispy skin intact. There’s a lemon wedge and seasoned soy sauce for dipping, but you may forget about them because the mesquite smokiness that is infused into the mackerel when grilling is really enough on its own.
This appetizer originated from chef/owner Chris Oh’s now-closed Seoul Sausage restaurant in Los Angeles and is just as photogenic and fun. A bowl of lightly seasoned rice is layered with tiny colorful salmon and flying fish roe, seaweed, and Japanese pickles for pop in every bite.
A plate of fatty and meaty slices of pork belly exemplifies the Korean barbecue experience. Um.ma’s is glazed and topped with citrus and gochujang and starts to melt in your mouth without much prompting and no rubbery chewing.
Prime rib is marinated with sweet soy sauce and garlic before being grilled over mesquite wood. It’s thinly sliced, easy to eat, and will probably disappear pretty quickly. This is the protein that deserves a second order for the table.
Silken tofu and pork belly are the headliners of this stew, which instantly warms you up like you just cranked your electric blanket to full power. But the spicy jalapeño and anchovy broth is what makes this soondubu-jjigae an umami love bomb that should be on the table.
Um.ma cooks black and white rice together to create a beautifully hued purple rice base for a bibimbap that stands out for creativity and freshness. The soft poached egg disappears in a whir over the julienned vegetables that change with the seasons—no chunky vegetables that feel like homework. The best part is, the rice on the bottom will be crispy when you get to it.
Sul Lung Tang
There are only a few components to this soup: thinly sliced brisket, thin somen noodles, and green onions in a milky bone marrow broth. But, oh, that broth. You’ll leave feeling like you fortified your bones after slurping a bowl.