Kuma Inn

KumaWhen we venture into the Lower East Side we always have the same conversation.  "Wow, it is unbelievable what has gone on down here".  It is.  Every year there are more and more stores, apartments, hotels, restaurants, etc.  As everything, there is the upside and there is the downside.  The upside is a neighborhood has been transformed.  More housing, more retail, more restaurants, more revenues for the area and it is good for the city.  The downside is for the people who have lived there for a long time.  Housing prices are going up, the neighborhood isn't what it used to be, people can't afford to live there anymore.  The price of change.

I have found the area to have some gems and some duds.  Demographically, the average patron is 28.  My guess of course from scanning the rooms, the stores etc.  The other night we found a little gem.

Kuma Inn.  Kuma Inn could probably not afford to survive in many other areas of the city.  It is small.  The average price point is $8.  Tapas style food.  Second floor of a building.  Completely reminiscent of the East Village circa mid 80's.  The tapas are asian vs. the norm being spanish. 

My type of place.  Everybody shares.  When we sat down, the couple we went with asked if they would embarrass themselves by ordering everything on the menu.  My kind of people.  I'd love to try everything.  Why not? 

We started off with a bottle of cold sake.  The list is pretty extensive.  You can even order a flight of sake to experience different classes. 

There are different specials every night including the regular menu.  We just started ordering.  Shrimp shumai, steamed edamame with thai-basil oil, grilled baby octopus with pickled bamboo shoots, pan roasted ocean scallops with bacon and sake, bigeye tuna tartare with a rice noodle crisp, sauteed chinese sausages with a thai chili-lime sauce, vegetarian summer rolls with thai basil, daikon, carrots and chayote, fried pork ( the fatty part).  That is at least what I remember.

The vegetarian summer rolls were bland, the octopus was a bit chewy but tasty, the shrimp shumai were tasty, sweet and big, the steamed edamame was nothing special, the tuna tartare was delicious and went well with the noodle crisp which was like a big crunchy potato pancake, the scallops were rich and caramelized, the chinese sausages were unbelievable.  crispy, tasty, and excellent, the pork was also tasty and rich. 

On the way out I noticed the crispy spring rolls and grilled chicken dish and was sorry we didn't order that too.  As a whole, a very mellow fun restaurant with a chef in the making.  He is standing at the door and in the kitchen talking to the guests making sure they return.  Such a pleasure.  I felt like I was at his home.  King Phojanakong, the chef and owner, has taken a variety of new flavors and combined them into tastings to share as a group.  It makes for good conversation and a fun meal. 

Be aware...cash only.

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Joanne Wilson Joanne Wilson loves food, books, and music. She lives in New York City. Her husband Fred and children Jessica, Emily, and Josh are bloggers too. More »

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