My friend Anna (hair stylist/salon owner extraordinaire) started posting on Facebook about a new restaurant in Elk Grove months ago. She also mentioned that her sister and husband were partners in the restaurant. Like, like, like – I followed their page and updates from Anna for months and I knew it was going to be awesome.
Anna shared that friends and family were invited to a soft opening before the grand opening on May 31, so they could work out the kinks. There were no kinks to be worked out – the food, service and decor was on point. Kristen was already planning on going to the grand opening, so convincing her to try it out early was easy. We jumped in the car and headed out for lunch.
Foo dogs (guardian lions) flank the entrance. Foo dogs placed inside or outside a building are meant to protect your home or workplace from negative energy. It is said these guardian lions will stop anyone with malicious intensions from entering.
The metal logo behind the hostess station was a really cool feature. They had already received lots of beautiful floral arrangements from well wishers.
The graphic designer in me really liked the logo and structure of the menu. Leather cover, thick pages… it’s the little details that make a big difference.
Andy (Anna’s brother-in-law and one of the restaurant founders) came over to the table to say, “hi”. Kristen knows him from his other restaurants in Elk Grove. I would say – small world, but not really… Kristen knows everyone in Elk Grove, ha-ha – it’s true. I later looked on the Umai website to read the “About Us” page to see how the restaurant came about.
“Feng, Andy, and Shan came together and decided to make something bigger than themselves. They wanted to make Elk Grove a better community by becoming a part of Elk Grove history. By that, they established a place where the people can come together to enjoy each others company along with great food, drinks and entertainment. They present to you Umai Bar and Grill, a little fancy place for family and friends in this growing city called Elk Grove.”
Elk Grove is growing and it’s nice to be able to support local independent restaurants. The city is full of chain restaurant options, but there are some true local gems and I have no doubt this will become one of those.
The raw edged table in front of the temperature controlled wine wall was my favorite part of the decor. I also had my eye on the light fixture hanging above. I’m still on the search for a new dining room fixture and I’m drawn to metal, wood and Edison bulbs.
We were seated on the backside of the booths, so natural light for iPhone food photos was at a minimum… the below shots do not do the food justice, you will have to trust me that each dish was more vibrant/beautiful in person.
We ordered the Ika-Geso as a starter. Crispy squid tentacles served with a kimchee ponzu sauce. Putting seasoning on the lemon was genius… stealing that idea for sure. I can’t wait to try the Crispy Calamari next time. Calamari is a favorite of Dan’s and something we often share while dining out.
The Poke Salad came in a bowl, but my photo was too dark, so I opted to share the portion I plated. I would like this salad to appear on my doorstop every day from here on out. We’ve been experiencing some warmer weather and this would be perfect for those days. The Poke Salad ingredients consist of tuna, wakame (edible seaweed), onions, cucumbers, avocados and cilantro marinated in a spicy ponzu sauce.
I was tasked with picking a roll. I went with the Albacore Galore – avocado, crab mix and tempura shrimp topped w/grilled albacore, arare (rice cracker), spicy cream and teriyaki. We pretty much stared at each other after our first bite and kept saying OMG, OMG, OMG… Yes, the grilled tuna was that good.
Umai has an extensive drink menu and I’m sure the bar area will be packed post grand opening. Our server mentioned that they are still working on their website and social media presence on Instagram. I’m looking forward to future posts that share their creations.
We did not want to go back to the office after our overindulgent lunch. Naps sounded much better. I did bring home two to-go containers and have already made my way into those for dinner. I see many more visits to Umai in my future. Who wants to check it out?
Umai Bar and Grill
8973 Grant Line Rd. 100
Elk Grove, CA 95624