Concealed in a second-floor loft between Ludlow and Delancy on the Lower East Side lays Kuma Inn, a hidden gem of a restaurant that skillfully blends Thai and Filipino flavors with tapas. Simple yet suburb, Kuma's mellow atmosphere and laid back staff makes it easy to enjoy a night with friends or someone special.
The small dining room is quaint and rather romantic with candles lining the wall at every table. We were in heaven when we tried the seared ahi tuna, thai chili with miso vinaigrette, and the drunken spicy shrimp finished with sake. The kalamansi and thai chilies was one of our favorites too but the sticky rice and the daikon summer rolls alone will even have you coming back for more. For those who like to BYOB (bring your own bottle), there's $5 corking charge, however, they do have a nice sake list if you prefer to order. If venturing into the sake list is your prerogative rather than arriving armed with your own alcohol, may we suggest the Kome Dake a light rice wine which pairs perfectly with kuma's pan- asian flavors. With food this good and a BYOB policy, it's no wonder people like to keep this sexy little place a secret.
Kuma brings something different to the tried and true tapas concept which is why we love this romantic little hideaway. Though Kuma Inn is still a relative secret throughout the city, reservations are a must if you don't want to wait an hour to be seated. Once you try it, you'll understand why.
KUMA INN, 113 Ludlow Street, second floor (212-353-8866). Tuesday through Sunday, 6 p.m. to midnight. Small plates, $5 to $10. Cash only.