Chef King Phojanakong, the wizard behind the Filipino tapas joint Kuma Inn in the Lower Eastside, has recently opened a new Pan Asian restaurant in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. Christened "Umi Nom" (Filipino for "to drink"), the new spot is at the corner of Classon and DeKalb Avenues, just a stones throw from Pratt University (Google Map link).
As a longtime fan of Kuma Inn, I've been super excited about Umi Nom ever since they started construction in the Spring. While the culinary offerings in Fort Greene are already excellent, we don't actually have the best Asian spots. (And don't say Rice. It's totally overrated.)
My sister, her friend and I arrived at 7pm at Umi Nom, which is next to a Crown Fried Chicken and a Dominican cafe. It has a very unassuming sign, literally just attached on top of the previous laundromat sign. King told me that the neighbors were wondering why he didn't just replace it with a bigger sign, but he likes the juxtaposition with the older sign. I agree.
The interior of Umi Nom has a cool minimalist feel, combining bamboo artwork, dark wood paneling, and exposed brick — reminiscent of Kuma Inn but with cleaner lines and a brighter atmosphere.
But now onto the really important bit: the food… Oh my, the food…
Before you read further, I have to apologize for my crappy food pictures. I remembered to bring my SLR, but I forgot to pack the compact flash card. So these are from my backup point-and-shoot.
We ordered the soft-shell crab special, the strip steak and the pancit canton noodles, and then told the waiter to ask Chef King to just bring us three other dishes that he recommended. In short order, a large plate of pad thai, fried chicken wings, beef jerky and little mysterious sandwiches arrived. Intrigued, we dug in.
We all really enjoyed the strip steak, which was perfectly prepared, with a sweet chutney on the side. Get it medium rare.
The beef jerky was probably our strangest dish but really tasty, nothing like what you would find at a gas station. It was closer to a cured beef with a nice chewiness and rich flavor that paired perfectly with a delicious smoked chili sauce. I would buy that chili sauce if they sold it by the jar.
The pancit noodles were great, with a slight tanginess from the tamarind, with generous slices of chicken, whole shrimp and tofu thrown in. The pad thai paled somewhat in comparison, but was perfectly fine.
I didn't really know what to make of these three little sandwiches when they appeared. The bread was a doughy bao barely holding the shredded beef, pork, and veggies inside. I have to say I prefer the pork adobo buns at Kuma Inn, but these were totally great. We called them Chef King's version of the slider.
My second favorite dish was the soft-shell crab. Perfectly seasoned and fried, with a sweet aioli dip. What's not to love?
And now to my favorite dish. The "salt and pepper lollipop wings." Oh, momma.
My picture does not come close to describing how awesome these wings are. This might be best fried chicken I've ever had in New York City. Crispy, well-seasoned, super-moist, with just the right amount of hot peppers for an extra kick. This would go perfectly with a beer. Or really, anything.
I'm very sad to say that I had to leave before the dessert course. My sister tells me it was the best part of the meal, curse her. I'm already addicted to the thai chili chocolate gelato that King serves at Kuma Inn. At Umi Nom they have a warm thai chili chocolate cake that apparently equally good, if not better.
We also didn't get to sample any of the other seafood offerings, from pan roasted salmon to Manila clams to grilled orata. I can't wait to go back and try these!
Chef King told us that they are only open in the evenings for now starting at 6pm, but hope to start offering lunch and brunch after Labor Day. They are finalizing their liquor license (the place is called "to drink" after all) but for now you can bring your own wine, which they are happy to chill and serve to you. And hopefully soon they will be adding a back deck for late summer / early fall outdoor dining.
Sounds like the makings of a perfect meal. Highly recommended.