Monday, September 5, 2011

September Sunday Special

To kick-start our new Sunday dinners,
one free Sapporo draft beer or a glass of house sake
with your ramen order every Sunday in September.
We hope you'll join us for Sunday dinner and help us spread the word!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Our New Umami Website!

Please visit us at our new website for the most updated menus, cocktails, announcements and other news.

New Announcement:
Starting 9/5/11, we will be moving to dinner service only 7 days a week.
The last lunch service will be on Sat. 9/3/11.
New hours starting on 9/5:
Mon-Thur: 5:00pm-10:00pm
Fri-Sat: 5:00pm-11:00pm
Sun: 5:00pm-9:00pm

Friday, July 15, 2011

It's a last minute party!

We’d like to thank our customers for all their well-wishes after last week’s kitchen fire. Come in tonight, Friday July 15, for a Post-Fire Thank You Happy Hour and enjoy 2 for 1 rail drinks from 5p – 7p. Hope to see you there!!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Mike & Randy open up about what it's like to almost lose your restaurant...

Friends of Umami,
A lot of folks have been asking us about last week's kitchen fire so we each wrote a blog post about the experience. Figured it was easier to put it in one place than to tell the story a million times! Hope to see you soon.
- Randy and Mike

Mike's Tale
It was about 8:30 during our dinner service on Wednesday July 6th when our chef came out of the kitchen into the dining room to alert me that there was smoke coming from outside the restaurant. We went to check it out and indeed I saw smoke oozing out of the wall. We didn't see flames but there was a ton of smoke. I was immediately on the phone to 911 to get the fire dept to come and instructed our staff to evacuate everyone from the restaurant. In my mind I thought OMG Umami is going up in flames! All our hard work was about to lost. I then called my partner Randy and told him we had a huge problem and that the restaurant was on fire.

Meanwhile our chef rushed inside to get a fire extinguisher and sprayed the exterior wall. Smoke was still coming out so he got two more extinguishers and we went into the kitchen where he emptied them into the the same spot on the interior wall. Then the firemen arrived and we were told to leave the premises . As we stood there on the street while the fireman sprayed and axed open the wall, all I could think about was if we were going to lose the restaurant. When the firemen were finished I went with them to assess the damage. I was really worried when we were going inside to take a look. The damage was contained to that area of the wall but we still had a huge gaping hole. I felt fortunate that we didn't lose the entire restaurant and thankful since it could have been much worse.

We had no idea how long it would take to repair and how much it would cost. The process of rebuilding was daunting but we knew we had to put what happened behind us and quickly mobilize to get the repairs done to reopen. We were worried that a prolonged closure would really hurt us if customers came only to find us closed for business. Luckily with the help of many people who worked quickly and tirelessly to put our kitchen back together we were able to be back in operation in a weeks time. We put so much work in to opening Umami and coming so close to losing it all was a real emotional experience. In the end it just makes me appreciate the place so much more. This is going to motivate us to work even harder to improve our restaurant and make it an even better experience for our customers.

Randy's Tale
I never would have predicted that my first Umami blog post would be about a small kitchen fire that closed us down for 5 days.

I was at home making pizza with my kids when my business partner, Mike, called and said "We a problem, a big problem...the kitchen is on fire!" I said "Mike, are we going to lose the...". And before I could finish the sentence, he rushed off to speak with a fire fighter. Not without irony, the fire alarm in MY house went off, shaking me from the sense of dread that was starting to settle in my body. Turns out that turning on the exhaust fan is a good idea when making pizza in an oven set at 550 degrees. I called Mike a few minutes later and he said, "Randy, I don't know if you have time to come here..." And before he could finish his sentence, the wheels were in motion for me to go to Umami. As I drove over to the restaurant, I conjured up images of our beautiful restaurant burning to the ground. I fully expected to see and smell smoke as I raced down East Johnson toward Patterson, where I would make that right turn to head towards Willy Street, where I would find flames.

Luckily, my catastrophic thinking was just an exaggerated version of reality. I parked my car on Patterson and walked over. There was some smoke, not much but some, a few fire trucks and my staff sitting calmly adjacent to the restaurant. I quickly said hello to my staff and even managed a restrained smile as one of my servers pointed her chin at the firefighter who was stationed in front of Umami. I tried to walk past him but he said I couldn't go in the restaurant. I stood there wondering what the extent of damage would be, how long it would take to reopen and how much it would cost. Finally, I was allowed to go in. I spoke with Mike and the lead firefighter. I was relieved when the lead firefighter said "the goal is to get you to open by tomorrow.", suggesting the damage was relatively minimal. I went to the kitchen to see for myself. I saw a big hole where there was a wall, there was some water on the kitchen floor and the restaurant smelled like someone built a robust campfire on our porch. All in all, not too bad considering how bad it could have been if our chef, Rodey, hadn't been outside when he noticed smoke coming from the exterior wall. Rodey immediately rushed inside and emptied two fire extinguishers into the burning wall as Mike called the fire department.

The next 5-7 hours flew by as we ticked off our list of must do’s: Called a fire and water restoration specialist to evaluate the damage –check ; Spoke with the City’s health inspector-check; Spoke to our insurance provider-check; Left messages for our contractors, architect, and kitchen designer -check. All this while our amazing staff worked tirelessly to prep the restaurant so that the fire and water restoration specialists can do their thing. The day finally ended at 1am, over a well-deserved feasting of tacos, chicken wings, burritos and various desserts from Burrito Drive.

It turned out that opening the next evening was not an option. The architect had to design the reconstruction of the kitchen wall, contractors had to be lined up, the insurance provider had to chime in, the contractors had to do the actual work etc. And even if all this could be accomplished the next day, we still had to prep for the dinner shift. Over the next few days, we worked around the clock in an attempt to re-open as soon as possible. To the credit of all parties involved, the wall was designed and built, the restaurant was completely scoured until it was deemed soot-free , all City of Madison inspectors were satisfied so we were finally able to prep and re-open exactly 1 week later.

So here we are about to re-open Umami , desperate to re-establish a modicum of normalcy. As the old saying goes, “you never realize how much something means until you lose it”, or something along those lines. It’s a bit corny…. but so true. Luckily for us, we didn’t have to lose Umami to learn this lesson. We’re so happy to make ramen, dumplings, pork buns and other umami-rich nosh for our customers again! Oh, and the saketinis…

Friday, July 8, 2011

Umami Closed until Wed 7/13

Due to a small fire on 7/6, we will be closed for kitchen repairs until 7/12 and will likely re-open on Wed. July 13th. We appreciate your understanding as we get through this. Thanks again and we'll keep you updated if anything changes.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Umami Late Night Kick-Off Party – Friday June 24th 9p-2a

On the heels of our fantastic patio party, we’re celebrating another great event at Umami – the introduction of Umami Late Night! Join us this coming Friday, 6/24, from 9p until bar time for drink specials and our new late-night menu. You’ll enjoy $1 off beers, $2 off cocktails and some of our favorite food items served up until closing.

And just in case you weren’t sure that was enough to make it a party, we’ll have legendary Madison DJ, Nick Nice spinning the night away.

Umami’s a great place to stop for a night-cap (or three) and a little something to eat before the night’s over so don’t miss out on this awesome event. See you Friday night!

- Mike & Randy

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Patio Grand Opening Party on Friday, June 17th 5-11pm

We’re so happy to finally have our patio completed! It adds an amazing element to the restaurant, with a westward view for enjoying the sunset. Plus, by the time we’re opened for dinner (5p) the Willy St construction is done for the day and the patio becomes a relaxing place.

To celebrate this milestone, we’re having a Patio Grand Opening party, this coming Friday, June 17th. From 5pm until 11pm, we’ll be offering 1/2 price drinks and dumplings! We’d love to have you join us for some food, some drinks, and a beautiful evening al fresco. The weather promises to be really gorgeous.

Please tell your friends and neighbors and we’ll see you all on Friday!

Umami Ramen & Dumpling Bar
923 Williamson Street
1/2 price drinks and dumplings only on Friday, 6/17 - 5:00pm til 11:00pm

- Mike & Randy

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Madison Magazine - June 2011 Restaurant of the Month

Find Tasty, Cheap Ramen and Dumplings at Umami

The Willy Street ramen and dumpling bar is a hit with discriminating diners
By Dan Curd

The next big thing elsewhere has finally come to town. Umami is our own ramen and dumpling restaurant on Willy Street. Housed in a quaint one-hundred-plus-year-old cottage, inside everything is sleek and bright. Like the décor, the minimalist menu offers a handful each of appetizers, salads, dumplings and ramen. Forget those little cellophane-wrapped packets—the ramen here rocks! Big bowls of noodles in rich broth paired with the likes of roast pork shoulder, marinated chicken and even a flavor-infused egg raise the roof on flavor. An après-slurping order of green tea crème brulée completes a meal that’s as economical as it is satisfying.

PHOTO: Taste one—or all three—of these specialties: veggie dumplings with smoked tofu, bok choy and shiitake mushrooms; pork buns stuffed with pork belly, pickled baby cucumber, scallions and house-blend hoisin sauce; or the Tonkotsu ramen with pork broth and locally produced ramen topped with a flavor-infused egg, roast pork, bamboo shoots, nori and green onions.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

77 Square Review on 4/6/11

Sleek and savory Umami is worth the dry cleaning bill

By Lindsay Christians

A warning to the single crowd: Umami Ramen & Dumpling Bar is not the place to take a first date.
It’s not that Willy Street’s newest restaurant isn’t charming, well-priced and quietly welcoming — it is all of these things. But Umami’s dishes, delicious though they often are, have a disproportionately high chance of splattering a blouse or dripping on a dress shirt. It’s hard to slurp and dunk without getting sloppy.
Umami, a Japanese word that means “savory,” is the joint venture of Michael Ding and Randy Ng. Both are originally from New York but have Madison ties — Ng married a woman from Madison, and Ding went to school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Their noodle house, which had its grand opening in early March, is an attractive addition to the Williamson Street neighborhood. Ng and Ding renovated a 130-year-old home, installing a sleek bar, painting one room bright orange and hanging bamboo from the ceiling. The effect is coolly modern and distinctly urban, a rarity on Madison’s jeans-and-sweatshirts east side.
But if the look leans hipster, the food is all about comfort. Over several visits, beautiful, steaming bowls made across the street at Midwest Clay Project came brimming with broth, tender strips of pork, bamboo shoots, green onions and toothsome noodles (made by RP’s Pasta, a few blocks away).
The tonkotsu ramen ($12) had the most prominent meat flavor, tasting of roasted bones and pork fat. The miso and the earthy, rich veggie ramen (both $10) were quite salty; a flavor “bomb” of smashed garlic ($1) was such a fine addition to the miso, it should become standard.
Beyond ramen, Umami’s menu has plenty to tempt wandering pedestrians off the street. Pork buns ($6 for two) enveloped decadent, fatty pork belly smeared in fruity hoisin, the soft, pillowy bun giving way to a crunch of pickled cucumber beneath. We polished them off and immediately ordered two more.
Dumplings ($6 small, $8 large) came perfectly seared, brown and crunchy on one side and stuffed with crunchy carrots, cabbage and ginger. The chicken and shiitake mushroom dumplings disappeared minutes after they arrived; the “classic” pork and chives were equally good. Dipping sauces, including a sweet soy/scallion and one spiked with warm chili, all had excellent flavor.
Salads, though difficult to eat with chopsticks (forks are available on request) were adequate. Roasted mushrooms and arugula ($5 small, $8 large) were tossed with a light sesame soy dressing. An apple walnut frisee salad ($6/$9) with dried cranberries and aged goat cheese was tasty, but seemed out of place with the rest of the menu.
The summer rolls ($5) seemed a bit odd, too. The vegetables inside were chopped so finely, it was hard to distinguish their different textures. An accompanying spicy peanut sauce came in its component parts — sweet, thin peanut butter and chili paste.
For cocktail hour, Umami has a long list of reasonably priced sake ($4-$13) and an inventive list of “saketinis.” Among the best were the O-cha Mark ($6), a mix of green tea, mint and Maker’s Mark that smoothed out the bourbon, and the Hanami Blossom ($7), a slightly sweet citrus cocktail with sake as the base.
Lunch specials, including $10 for dumplings and ramen, are likely to draw students and downtown office drones alike; Plan B dancers can stop by for a fabulous house-made berry sorbet ($4) or a delightfully messy ice cream sandwich ($4) with chocolate shortbread made by Madison Sourdough.
Despite sourcing locally, Umami feels like a restaurant that could become the cornerstone of a franchise. That’s deliberate.
“You can get this in New York or Japan or anywhere,” Ding said. “We wanted to bring a little bit of a modern contemporary New York Asian flavor here in Madison.”
After the outdoor Dane County Farmers Market opens on April 16, Umami plans to introduce a seasonal ramen. Ding also plans additional seating outside on the home’s extended porch.
Outdoor dining should help with visibility — Umami blends in so well with the neighborhood, the small sign (and parking lot) can be hard to spot. But with its friendly service, casual feel and those addictive pork buns, Umami is already on its way to becoming a savory destination for a deliciously messy third date.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Lunch Fundraiser on 3/28 for Japan

On Monday, 3/28 we will have our last lunch fundraiser in March. We will be donating 25% of our lunch proceeds to the Save the Children - Japan Earthquake Tsunami Relief. We hope you will join us then!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Thanks again for your support!

Thanks to everyone for supporting our fundraising lunch today! We raised $125 from our lunch proceeds. In addition, the Umami staff contributed $75 for a total donation of $200 to the Japan Society's Earthquake Relief Fund. The people of Japan still need our help, so we have decided to hold one more fundraising lunch (donate 25% of all proceeds) next Monday, 3/28. We hope you'll join us!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

2nd Lunch Fundraiser for Japan - 3/21

Due to the great turnout last week, please join us for our 2nd fundraising lunch this Monday, March 21st from 11am-2pm - we will donate 25% of all proceeds to the Japan Society's Japan Earthquake Relief Fund. We hope to see you!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Thank you for your support!

Thanks to everyone for supporting our fundraising lunch today! We raised $170 from our lunch proceeds. In addition, the Umami staff contributed $80 for a total donation of $250 to the American Red Cross Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami Relief Fund. The people of Japan still need our help, so we have decided to continue our fundraising lunches (donate 25% of all proceeds) for the remaining Mondays in March.

Lunch Fundraiser today for Japan

Please join us for a fundraising lunch at Umami Ramen & Dumpling Bar today from 11am-2pm. We will donate 25% of all proceeds to the American Red Cross Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund. We hope to see you!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Lunch Fundraiser on 3/16 for Japan

Please join us for a fundraising lunch at Umami Ramen & Dumpling Bar this Wednesday, March 16th from 11am-2pm. We will donate 25% of all proceeds to the American Red Cross Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lunch Discount for Protesters 3/10-3/12!

We support our fellow protesters! 10% off for protesters & 15% off for protesters with signs for lunch starting today 3/10 thru 3/12. Please mention this offer to your server.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Grand Opening Tonight!

The day is finally here... Umami's grand opening is tonight! We will be open from 5:00pm-12:00am. We welcome reservations for parties of 6 or more by calling us at 608-819-6319.

Looking forward to seeing you!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

More soft opening news...

Thanks to everyone who joined us for this week's soft opening dinners! Tonight is the last soft opening night and we'll be offering our regular dinner menu. No reservations needed today 3/3- walk-ins welcome. Hours: 5:00pm-10:30pm.
Our Grand Opening is tomorrow, Friday 3/4 so please join us from 5:00pm-12:00am. We are accepting reservations for parties of 6 or more via email: Please include your name, date, time, # of guests, phone # in your email.

We hope to see you then!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Soft Opening Dates

We will have 3 Soft Opening nights next week - 2/28 & 3/2 are by reservations only & 3/3 is open for walk-ins.  Please email for more details with your subject as Soft Opening Information.   Thank you!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Grand Opening on Friday, March 4th for Dinner Service!

We want to thank everyone who have patiently waited for the day to come when we're able to announce our Grand Opening day- Friday, March 4th for dinner! We hope you will come check us out!

Our soft opening reservations are filling up quickly so if you are on our email list you should have received an invite to make reservations for next week. Thank you to those who already have made reservations, we are looking forward to serving you and your ramen & dumpling cravings!

As you can imagine, things are moving very quickly these days - renovations are close to completion and it's looking amazing!

Here are a couple of teaser photos of the interior but we hope that you will come experience the Umami transformation, ambiance and food in person.

Pendant Lights from WAC Lighting - Thanks Shelley!



Textured wall next to walkway

Our first ramen meal in the restaurant... Miso Chicken Ramen - Delicious!


Monday, February 7, 2011

Soft Opening News

If you would like to receive information on our soft opening & grand opening dates, please provide us with your name and email address on the right side of this blog under Umami Email List. Or you can email us at We will contact you with details as the date gets closer.

Thank you!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

More Ramen News...

Umami is now hiring!
We are seeking passionate restaurant professionals for all front and back of house positions, including servers, bartenders, bussers, dishwashers, prep cooks and line cooks. Please email your resume to and indicate your desired position in the subject line.  Thank you for your interest!

Have you seen Asia Society's Ramen Fever in NYC video yet?  It was taped last month and it discusses the ramen trend in the US - very informational!  Enjoy!!!  

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Week 17

And a week later, painting is almost done and the kitchen equipment has arrived.




Thursday, January 13, 2011

Ramen News....

We found an interesting article about Ramen on that we think all of you would love!  Check it out...
Ramen's Rising Stock: Leave the Packet Behind

Thanks to a colleague of mine, we found this CBS segment that aired this past Sunday about Ramen as Japan's soul food.  It's a very informative bit in only 3 minutes.
Searching for the Perfect Bowl of Ramen:;lst;1

Enjoy!!  Spread the word and educate everyone about Ramen!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Week 16

Drywalling is now complete and moving on to painting this week.  It's great to see actual walls instead of beams throughout the restaurant.

The exterior of the new addition is complete!
Walkway ramp 

Venting for Dishwasher
Kitchen hood

Painting and installing kitchen equipment in the coming weeks!

Be sure to sign up for our email list on the right if you'd like to receive updates!