This is the first review I've written so pardon the lack of detail! Kuma is a thai-filipino tapas (small plate) restaurant on the second floor (walk up of course) of a LES apartment building. After making reservations they called back to tell me they were currently reapplying for their liquor license so they were BYOB for the time being. I was actually pretty disappointed since I had read so much about their sake selection and know very little about the drink myself. Anyways, the four of us arrived for an early dinner and were greeted by the chef and three cooks as soon as we entered. For those of you who have never been there, Kuma seems like a converted 1 bedroom apartment; the kitchen (where a small living room would be) is basically open behind a tall bar as you walk past it to the tables (aka the large bedroom).
As for the food: We ordered two specials, one a plate of spicy chicken wings, the other shrimp shumai. Off the menu we got the edamame with thai basil lime oil, drunken spicy shrimp, tamarind glazed atlantic salmon, pan roasted scallops, fried pork belly, chinese sausage, sauteed tofu with thai basil and wood ears, sauteed market greens, coconut rice, thai sticky rice and white rice. I'm listing these off only so you all know that four hungry people were filled to bursting by an order this size (some have said the plates are too small, I thought they were reasonable in size). I'll try to avoid writing too much here! The deep fried pork belly was deliciously crispy and very flavorful. Heart attack, yes, but I'll risk it. The chinese sausage, as most would say, is delicious and worthy of perhaps a double order. All of their seafood was cooked perfectly in my opinion though I would say I thought the scallops were particularly outstanding, perhaps because they were dressed very lightly letting their natural sweetness stand out. The tofu was good, not exceptional. I would highly reccomend the market vegetables (I believe ours was baby bok choy simply prepared). The contrast of so many flavorful dishes with the occasional simple, clean bite of a green vegetable was gratifying (especially after some deep fried pork belly). One note I would make is that they bring out the dishes in no particular order; by the time I got the shumai my tongue was already deadened a bit by spice so I missed some of the finer shrimp flavors. You might want to request some of the lighter flavors first..
We finished off the meal with their panna cotta (incredible) and fried plantains, which were quite good but not as interesting a flavor in my opinion. Instead of sake we had a white sancerre which was tasty but I think I would have liked a pinot grigio better with the dishes. Perhaps someone more knowlegeable than myself would have a better drink selection?
Overall I had a very enjoyable experience. I did not find it too noisy at all despite being crowded when we left and the service was gracious (we had four white wine glasses at our very soon after the bottle appeared out of my bag). Each plate may not knock me off my chair (or bench as the case may be) but it was a wonderful dining experience, and the second floor, tiny location definitely adds to the charm. Finally, the bill was about 35pp including tax, tip, and sticker price of wine (I know, that probably helped). Mom and Dad were duly impressed, I think, and I would definitely go back. Well I hope this is helpful to at least one person, it was certainly fun writing it and remembering all the flavors! thanks!