While we pour in a lot of time and energy into Pepper.ph, we don’t do it full-time because you’ll soon see us begging in the streets if it is. For a living, we do food photography and styling over at PhotoKitchen and we teach a few classes over at 50 Feasts. In the last few months, we’ve been given an opportunity to help build a restaurant.
The place is a Japanese burger steak joint called Umami Hambaagu House. (No, not Umami Burger in the US) In contrast to American burgers, Japanese burgers are made with both pork and beef, served with rice and seasoned with soy sauce instead of salt.
We entered the scene to help piece together a concept for Umami. And with a challenge like that, our minds went nuts with all the possible ideas we could pull off. To narrow down our thoughts, we asked ourselves the question, “What is a Japanese burger steak all about?”
In almost all parts of the world, we eat burgers to pig out and get filled because it’s comfort food—it’s intentionally not light, sophisticated or overly complex. Japanese burger steaks are consumed similarly so the concept had to work around comfort. But comfort comes in many forms and what kind were we looking for? Calming like Starbucks? Festive like Chili’s? Dressed-down like Charlie’s? There were so many routes and it was difficult to pin it down.
If Japan had anything that they could be the best at, it’s trolling people using the most advanced technology in the world.
After days of searching for inspiration and going through all the possible Japanese cliches including anime, zen gardens and kimonos, we finally had a light bulb moment: Japanese game shows. If Japan had anything that they could be the best at, it’s trolling people using the most advanced technology in the world. Take a look at their human tetris machines, fake brain scanners and rocket-powered toilets. What’s different about the kind of humor they have in Japan is that it’s absolutely random that it will make you wonder if they were born with alien brains. And while some may think, “What the fuck?” to all these senseless activities, we think that this kind of humor is comfort at its best form. After all, how much more comfortable can you get when you’re splitting your guts with people you care about?
At first, we wanted to go full retard but images of bare butts of Japanese men aren’t exactly appetizing. So to balance things out, we also took inspiration from Muji’s simplicity and tried to find a way to marry that with Japan’s crazy game show culture. While we worked on the brand, photography, styling, and a little recipe development, we got the help of our interior designer friends, Kaye Llanto and Maybelle Uy of KM Interior Design to develop the interior and furniture. And after two months of work, here’s what we finally came up with:
This may sound strange, but we won’t be revealing the location online because the owner wants to keep the community close-knit and personal. Luckily, it doesn’t end there. Umami will first open its doors to the public, still with a secret location, on Monday, November 19, 2012. And from today until Sunday, the place will be privately open for invitation and everyone who gets invited can eat for free.
If you want to receive an invitation, here’s what you need to do:
Edit: We couldn’t pick the best answers because they all didn’t make sense so we randomly picked our winners. Congratulations to George Pastor, Ping Roquillo, Leica Mont, Ejay Paz, Jake Lim, Ramon Rocha, May Pamintuan, Joey and Ryan. We sent you guys an email and DM if you’re following us on Twitter.