Magazine article The New Yorker

Umi Nom

Magazine article The New Yorker

Umi Nom

Article excerpt

To the intrepid eater, there are few prospects more thrilling than venturing to some out-of-the-way place for the sole purpose of trying something exotic. Umi Nom, a new restaurant from the chef King Phojanakong, of the Lower East Side's Kuma Inn, might seem like a worthy such destination. Phojanakong was born and raised in New York, but his interest in cooking grew out of summers spent in his mother's native Philippines: in Tagalog, kumain means "eat"; uminom is "drink." Even in a city as culinarily diverse as New York, Filipino food is scarce, and though Umi Nom is just a stone's throw from Pratt it feels quite isolated, occupying a former "drycleanomat" (the old sign still hangs above the storefront) on an otherwise nondescript block.

Unfortunately, Filipino food is scarce at Umi Nom, too. Phojanakong's father is Thai, and one can hardly fault him for attempting to honor both sides of his heritage. But the result is a menu of mostly hackneyed Asian-fusion "small plates," with a handful of noodle and rice dishes (the tired standbys pad Thai and pad see ew among them) tacked on as if an afterthought. The few traditional Filipino offerings are well executed and addictively comforting: beef tapa, jerky-like strips of sirloin served with a pungent smoked chili paste; pancit canton, slippery egg noodles studded with coins of sweet sausage, chicken, and baby bok choy. A juice made from kalamansi, a citrus fruit that grows in the Philippines, is delightfully tart and refreshing, a sort of clementine lemonade--not to mention the only exciting thing uminom until Umi Nom starts liquor service (its license was recently approved). …

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