Last week I went to the much anticipated opening of Jeffrey Morgenthaler and Benjamin Amberg’s new bar, Pacific Standard. (If you read this site regularly, you may be familiar with a few of Jeff’s hacks and recipes.) The space was beautiful, the drinks good, and the food menu packed with Jeff-isms: American cheese on the burger, chips and dip (with an optional caviar upgrade), chocolate chip cookies, and an artichoke that came with “umami mayo.” Umami mayo?
I got a martini, the deviled eggs, and the artichoke. I dipped a leaf in the umami mayo. Just as I suspected: It was made so with the help of my good friend MSG. “Does this mayo have MSG in it?” I asked Jeff. He winked.
It wasn’t a lot of MSG; on a scale of one-to-Dorito, this was a 3.75. People with less attuned glutamate palates might not even clock it. But it made the dipping mayo so irresistible, I completely forgot about the drawn garlic butter snuggled up beside it. It had a noticeably rich, slightly savory flavor reminiscent of Kewpie, which makes sense because Kewpie mayo has MSG in it. (Though you will see it listed as “yeast extract,” a natural source of monosodium glutamate.)
You don’t have to own a fancy bar or even eat fancy artichokes to acquire your own umami mayo. You could buy Kewpie, though there seems to be something of a shortage right now (I blame TikTok). Luckily, making your own is easy: Scoop some of your favorite mayonnaise into a bowl and add a pinch of monosodium glutamate. Stir and taste. Once you hit that lightly savory spot, you’re ready to start dipping. A steamed and chilled (or fried) artichoke is a good dipper option, but fries are more accessible, and I wouldn’t overlook the humble potato chip. Much like it does on Doritos, MSG will keep you coming back for more (mayo).
Update Jun. 23, 2022 3:07 p.m. ET: Twenty-two minutes after this article went up, Morgenthaler reached out to alert me to an additional ingredient in his umami mayo. “Just for your own edification there is also a splash of soy sauce in that mayo, he wrote. “Highly recommend trying it at home.”