Each week we venture to a new restaurant to check out what the spot has to offer during our favorite time of day — happy hour. Whether it's affordable appetizers, delicious drinks, jaw-dropping deals, or none of the above, we'll check out the situation and report back.
The Spot: Umami
21 E. 6th St., Tempe
The Hours: Happy hour is 3 to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Perfect for: A ridiculous deal on a bowl of ramen and a sake bomb
Inside: With its brightly painted walls, abundance of natural light, and friendly waitstaff, it'd be hard not to walk inside of Umami in Tempe and not feel a little bit happier. Just steps from Mill Avenue and Arizona State University's main campus, Umami doesn't feel like a college spot. Sure, it's hip and most of the staff are probably still in their 20s, but there's a certain sophistication about Umami. Unfortunately, while our waiter was funny and friendly, he was less attentive as time went on, and we ended up receiving our drinks after all our food arrived at the table.
The Food: During happy hour Umami has several package deals, usually with a drink included. We went with the four-item bento box ($6) and the spicy shoyu ramen with our Mr. Robato combo for $10.
We first tried the Japanese snack mix in the bento box. This was a combination of dry, spiced rice crackers — some smoky, others tasting like wasabi. We also tried the squid salad, the chef's choice item (an Asian slaw, on that day), and edamame. The squid salad stood out because of its addicting teriyaki flavor and tender but chewy texture. The slaw definitely had a kick but was a bit forgettable next to the squid salad.
The ramen was so inexpensive we decided to add corn to our bowl for a small charge. The broth was spicy with a deep, meaty flavor and the pork on top was juicy and tender. The noodles were cooked to perfection and held up to the flavorful broth. We were happy to see the ratio of broth to noodles was about 50/50 so we weren't left with a full bowl of broth at the end.
The Drinks: The rest of our Mr. Robato combo was a Lucky Buddha beer and a shot of house sake — essentially a sake bomb. You could also choose Nigori instead of the house sake, but we enjoyed sipping on the house sake with its clean flavor with just a bit of alcoholic bite near the end.
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During happy hour, you can also order a $6 Torpedo (a large beer) or $5 house cocktail, which are mostly sake-based or twists on classic drinks.
Conclusion: With the price of those happy hour combos, we're tempted to go to Umami every day. While the ramen wasn't the best we've had in town, it certainly was well-made, delicious, and worth the price. The four-item bento box was a great appetizer of sorts to share, and we'd return to Umami just for more of that squid salad.
Don't Miss: The squid salad
Skip This: The slaw