We had one of the best overall meals in recent memory at Umbria, 7131 Germantown Ave. , a cozy BYOB international restaurant tucked away in Mt. Airy. And judging by how fast the place went from empty to pleasantly packed the weeknight we went, word travels fast in the neighborhood.
Umbria caught us off guard with its tasteful yet understated approach to everything. Nothing is over the top or overly fancy, but when the food hits the table, game on.
One of the specials the evening we went was an African-spiced pumpkin soup ($6.50), a hearty and satisfying sea of warmth that we hope will be a frequent addition to the menu as the colder months ensue.
From there, Umbria’s focused and concise menu (only five appetizers and five entrées) seems to cover most of the basic proteins, save for chicken, which wasn’t missed at all. We expected the dishes we tried to be of one culinary tradition, only to be pleasantly surprised when we found they borrowed liberally from another.
For example, we must have been in an Italian mood that night because we made a beeline for the grilled sweet Italian sausage appetizer ($8) in a sweet and spicy fig sauce. The sauce, which we fully expected to be thick and Italian like the sausage, was more of a marinade with a wonderful, almost-Asian flavor that really elevated the dish.
The lamb and goat cheese meatballs ($23) had some serious Middle Eastern flavor working for them. The meatballs were perfectly seasoned and tender. The bed of rice they rested on was flawless and the cucumber and mint salad that accompanied the dish brought a welcomed splash of brightness to the dish’s flavor and aesthetic appeal.
The true knock-out punch came with dessert: We opted for the caramel sundae, which sounded simple but was infinitely greater than the sum of its parts: vanilla ice cream and caramel ($7) topped with salted candied almonds. Thank heavens they had enough restraint to resist putting whipped cream, or anything else for that matter, on top: This was perfection. The generous helping of salted almonds gave the sundae a sweet and salty flavor and cool, crunchy texture reminiscent of the best candy bar you’ve ever had.
If we were on death row and had to choose our last meal, we’d definitely revisit the meal we had at Umbria.