Restaurants & Bars

Manhattan Filipino Thai

Kuma Inn, Filipino/Thai on the LES

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Kuma Inn, Filipino/Thai on the LES

flipperati | Jul 21, 2003 04:54 PM

After my third visit to the tiny Lower East Side eatery Kuma Inn, I felt I just HAD to post about this little gem. Mind you, I was torn between wanting to keep it a secret and wanting the chowhound world to know about the deliciousness of Chef King’s food…but my ethics won out. That, and Chef King must be encouraged to stay and keep creating.

Kuma Inn has a tiny menu of Filipino and Thai-influenced tapas, but that does not mean it’s a scene-y place. Located on a block of Ludlow St. (#113, corner of Delancey) that’s still semi-under the hipness radar, diners must navigate a steep flight of stairs before they reach the second floor restaurant. Then you're presented with the short menu and sake list, and the fun begins:

Marinated london broil: done Filipino “bisteck” style, the beef so very, very tender in its slightly vinegary sauce. Nice bit of refreshing cucumber salad on the side.

BBQ Skewers of chicken, pork and beef: the chicken tends to be a bit dry, but the pork is properly spicy/smokey/sweet (just like the kind from the street fair vendors!) and the beef is meltingly tender—same treatment as the london broil, above. $1.50 each.

Chicken wing adobo: vinegary, peppery sharp sauce had us all sucking chicken bones and gesturing desparately to the waitress for more, more, more.

Pork tonkatsu: neither Thai nor Filipino, these crunchy panko-coated strips will be gone in a flash. Simultaneously crunchy and rich, but absolutely non-greasy. Served with salty sautéed greens.

Chinese sausage with Thai Chili sauce: this one provoked table-wide groans of pleasure, and then silence as the plate was polished off in under a minute. A pile of sweet/spicy Chinese sausage, quickly sautéed…then dipped in a fresh, fresh Thai green chili sauce. I know it sounds utterly pedestrian, but trust me, the deliciousness was off the scale. Sweet, spicy, reverberates in the mouth.

Filipino garlic fried rice: YUM! Just like my mom used to make. One big bowl will not be enough. Simple sautéed preparation with sautéed garlic and scallion, touch of soy. Crucial as a foil to all those meat dishes.

I can’t tell you how happy this place makes me. I have dined with two other people there, and then, on the last occasion, with 16 revelers who were celebrating my engagement. Chef King was so accommodating about the big crowd, even though his tiny restaurant sits maybe 25 people, tops. Plus, on each occasion I ate there, he came out to greet my table and see how we were doing. Once, he sent out a free bottle of tasty Australian Riesling, and the last time, he sent us a pitcher of truly fabulous sangria (lychee fruit, yellow watermelon, mandarin oranges). What a guy!

Kuma Inn, which is a pun on “kumain,” (Tagalog for “to eat”), is a good, funky first date place, but it’s also a fun place for groups if you call ahead. Like other Filipino places, it’s not so good for vegetarians. Tapas runs $6-$10. Like many tapas places, you will worry at first that you don't have enough food...then, several courses later and after several San Miguel beers, you realize you are stuffed beyond all reason.

Now march on over there and have a pitcher of sangria and all the pork you can eat!

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