Since 2003, chef King Phojanakong has maintained a cult following for his Thai-Filipino restaurant, Kuma Inn, a casual, cozy eatery on the Lower East Side. His vivid, gratifying dishes stood out amid the city’s less inspired Pan-Asian options, and helped kick off a small-plates trend that won’t go away. In August, Phojanakong debuted his second project, the narrow, brick-walled Umi Nom, located in a former Laundromat in Bedford-Stuyvesant—a neighborhood wanting more for a decent grocery than a buzzy eatery. Nonetheless, the restaurant (run with chef-partner Soulayphet Schwader) is as much an achievement as its Manhattan predecessor. The enticing Southeast Asian menu is full of beer-friendly foods (it’s BYO for now) that are unique to Umi Nom—only Kuma’s glazed Chinese sausage made the cross-river trek. The deep-fried chicken drumettes justify a visit on their own, with their crisp skin and bracing condiments of fish sauce, lime juice and vibrant Anaheim peppers. Those same scorchers graced the best dish we tried: wok-roasted Manila clams submerged in a funky, fermented black-bean sauce enriched with butter. Phojanakong’s deft hand with seafood was also evident in his succulent head-on prawns in an excellent broth of Thai chilies, garlic, onion and fish sauce. (It tasted just as good poured over a side of fluffy garlic rice.) The few dishes that pander to duller palates were also the weakest. Asian fish-and-chips presented bland tilapia in a dry panko crust with a clumpy tobiko-wasabi aioli. Desserts were also dull, including a moist enough (if uninspired) chili-spiked molten chocolate cake. But these are quibbles; in a city chockablock with forgettable Asian restaurants, Umi Nom’s memorable food makes it a gem in an unlikely ’hood.
|Venue name:||Umi Nom||Contact:|
433 DeKalb Ave
|Cross street:||between Classon Ave and Taaffe Pl|
|Opening hours:||Mon–Sat 11:30am–3:30pm, 6–11pm|
|Transport:||Subway: G to Classon Ave|
|Price:||Average small plate: $11. MC, V|
|Do you own this business?|