I was sitting at my desk one day when I got a hot tip from Mukilteo Police Chief Cheol Kang.
Check out Umami Asian Cuisine, he said.
For a hot lunch, that is.
I knew the joint had to be good if it got the nod from the chief. He’s a fabulous foodie.
“I’ve got a great story to go along with their special Korean menu for lunch,” he said.
Umami is away from the traffic jam of Mukilteo’s main drag. It’s in Village Center Place off Harbour Pointe Boulevard, the back artery to the ’burbs.
If you aren’t a local, or a foodie police official, chances are you wouldn’t know it was there.
Cheol found Umami when the restaurant opened six years ago.
“I tried the Mongolian beef, and it was the closest rendition of that dish that my mom used to make,” Cheol said. “This particular version has copious amounts of green and white onion that is infused with a few spicy red peppers that adds just enough heat to the dish. The meat was soft and tender. Most restaurants overcook the beef, rendering it tough and chewy.”
Cheol’s account was motive enough for me to try the Mongolian beef ($8.95). It was even better than he described it, far better than I can. He should have my job, though there is no way I could do his job.
He chose a dish from the “special” menu called black bean sauce noodles ($7.45), for short.
The official name is jajangmyeon.
“It’s basically the Korean version of spaghetti. ‘Jajang’ refers to the black bean sauce and ‘myeon’ is noodles,” Cheol explained. “Don’t let the thought of bean sauce deter you, as it is mixed in with an assortment of vegetables and diced pork and/or beef. The noodles are normally a thick handmade flour noodle that soaks up the delicious ingredients and serves as a hearty meal.”
“Umami” is the Japanese word for savory. The place exemplifies it.
Umami Asian Cuisine is basically a mom-and-pop restaurant. The mom is the nice woman at the counter who takes orders. Pop does the cooking.
Items are cooked fresh and served hot.
Or cold. Bubble milk tea in taro, mango and assorted flavors is $2.99.
There is a six-door cooler like those at a convenience store that is lined with a large selection of canned and bottled drinks. It has Fanta sodas, teas, coconut waters and bottles of whatever your thirst desires. Even sake.
The extensive menu includes spicy seafood soup, udon, katsu and Mandarin chicken wings, with side orders such as seaweed salad, deep fried tofu and french fries.
Out of the habit of being a habitual offender when it comes to being a good mom, I ordered sweet and sour pork ($11.95) takeout for my son, Ian.
So, what was the great story the chief promised me?
“When I first came to Umami, my youngest son, Carter, was an infant,” Cheol said. “The family decided to get out of the house to eat at a restaurant. We came early before the dinner crowd, so it was just us in the restaurant.
“When our food arrived it was difficult to eat, as Carter was a bit fussy. My wife and I took turns eating and soothing our child. The owner came out from behind the counter and offered to hold Carter so that we could eat. She walked around the restaurant like an experienced mother and calmed down our infant. The five minutes of serenity that she provided our family was priceless. She earned my loyalty with that small, thoughtful gesture.”
When I told my son that story, he laughed.
Ian said Umami was the first place he and his wife, Ayako, had gone outside the house after their daughter Momo was born two years ago.
“We were driving to try to get Momo to go to sleep,” Ian said. “She fell asleep in the car. Ayako went in for katsu curry. It was her first time outside by herself without a baby in her arms.”
Ayako was mesmerized by the cooler. She got Fanta grape and orange drinks with the katsu to go. At home, Momo slept long enough for them to enjoy a meal in peace, their first (and few) as parents.
Had they only known about the free babysitting inside…
Andrea Brown: 425-339-3443; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @reporterbrown.
If you go
Umami Asian Cuisine, 12199 Village Center Place, Mukilteo; 425-789-1190.
Hours are 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; noon to 8:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Closed Monday.