To the credit of his imagination, Phojanakong saw the potential in the place, and in 2002, signed the 10-year lease. “I got a great deal and besides [I [comforted myself with the fact] that if the restaurant failed, I was going to make it my apartment.” So, by tapping out his credit cards, Phojanakong set out to transform the former crack house to a Southeast Asia gourmet haven that is now Kuma Inn. Phojanakong was involved in all aspects of his restaurant. With the help of an artist friend, Phojanakong made the bamboo and paper sculptures adorning the walls. The open kitchen, whose bustling greets every customer at the top of the stairs, was designed by Phojanakong himself – after firing his designer whom he felt did not accommodate his vision.
In addition, Phojanakong hires and interviews the wait staff himself, selects the music, types out the menu (which changes every month to reflect what is in season), and shops fresh for all the ingredients himself – a lesson he took to heart from all his celebrity mentors.
And of course, there is the cooking. Every night, behind the kitchen counter, customers can see King Phojanakong in action, producing every few minutes a dish that they can be assured reflects all the time, skill, creativity and passion, and….yes, intensity, of its creator.
Riding on the success of Kuma Inn, a second restaurant is in the works which promises to continue taking diners to new and exciting culinary heights. “I’m living the dream,” said Phojanakong, “and it hasn’t stopped.”
*Article adapted from a feature story by Olivia J. Quinto, Fil-Thai chef takes on tapas, the online edition of www.philippinenews.com, June 22, 2005. Photos courtesy of Niwa Public Relations. Recipe courtesy of Chef King Phojanakong.
Wasabi pork shumai
A plate of plump steamed shumai filled with wasabi spiked pork.
King’s Signature Dishes
Sautéed Chinese sausage with thai chili-lime sauce
- a platter of sautéed spicy Chinese sausages sliced into oblong circles so they are easily swished through a Thai chile lime sauce that King makes using a mortar and pestle.
King’s version of pork Tonkatsu
- a Japanese fried pork cutlet. The pork is pounded down so it is lean and thin, and then gets shallow-fried to a golden crunchy crisp on the outside, but it remains moist on the inside. It is sliced into slivers and drizzled with a soy-mirin glaze and served on a warm bed of watercress salad dressed with lime butter. This Asian-spiked pork schnitzel is comfort food at its most simple and most effective.
Pan-roasted Ocean Scallops with Bacon
Yield: 1 serving
Canola Oil 1 tsp.
Salt and pepper to taste
Scallops 4 pcs. (U-15)
Bacon 1 tsp., lardoons cooked
Kalamansi 1 tbl.
Sake 1 tbl.
Unsalted butter 1 tsp
heat and lightly oil pan
season scallops to taste
sear scallops evenly on both sides (approx. 5-7 min.)
remove scallops from pan and deglaze pan with kalamansi and sake
finish sauce with butter
serve over sautéed greens and garnish with bacon
Zip Fusion Sushi Westsite
11301 W. Olympic Blvd. Suite 116
Los Angeles, CA, 90064
Cuisine: Asian-fusion, Korean, Japanese