Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Dallas Restaurant Review - Chino Chinatown

When I found out my friend, former "The Taste" contestant Uno Immanivong was opening a restaurant, I only had two questions: Where? and When can I get a table? It ends up the answers were Trinity Groves and Opening Night.  Booyakasha!

The extremely helpful hostess helped our party, swollen from 8 to 11, to squeeze into a round table with a nice view of the very active kitchen.  We started, as our waiter suggested, with a cocktail.  It was tasty, a bit tart, and the name is now lost to the sands of time*.  But it's the first on the menu:

 Next up were the starters:  Our group of sharers chose two from the menu, Elotes and Duck Fat Fries. It's hard to say which was the bigger hit -- the rich, sweet and slightly spicy elotes with queso fresco on top or the creamy yucca with a hint of duck-y goodness and topped with cotija. Both plates were immediately cleaned. Any blurriness or poor composition in the attached photos is due to the combat conditions of trying to get a shot while fighting off ravenous friends. It was basically Thunderdome.

 Next up were the Share plates -- we opted for the griled romaine salad, a surprising winner, the amazing chicken lollipops, and the meltingly-tender short ribs.  Others at the table inhaled their barbacoa banh mi sliders before a photo or a taste could be had.  They did rave about them.

Our aptly-named Large plates were Ramen, decadently rich and meaty due to the marrow, sea bass and flank steak drunken noodle.  I normally opt out of sea bass due to pretentious overfishing reasons, but I'm glad I kept my liberal mouth shut and enjoyed the HUGE portion of succulent flesh.
The drunken noodles, a variation on my favorite thai dish, Pad Kee Mao**, was divisive at the table.  Part of the group was off-put by the barely-cooked onions, while the rest hoovered them up and enjoyed the crispy bite that offset the sauce. Personally, I almost came to blows over the last bits. So you know where I stand. The sad remains are shown below:
 Our final Large dish was the Ramen.  The noodles and accompanying tasty bits are cooked separately, then the broth, which I estimated to be 72% bone marrow, is added tableside***.  With only one ladle, the mob was a bit more restrained for this dish, but the popularity was the same.

Size-wise, a pair would probably want a Share and a Large, and even then will likely want to take some home.  However, it's a fun, social place and I would recommend a group of 6 or so like-palated eaters to cover as much of the menu as possible.  And request the table overlooking the kitchen!

As stuffed as we were, we couldn't pass up an offer of Mexican chocolate cake with coconut cream and a heavenly coconut ice cream.  You know how homemade coconut ice cream never even approaches your memory of that one time you had it in Mexico and it changed your life? This one did.  And the cake, with its mole ganache? Yo yo ma.  I'd like to try Kate Weiser's chocolate fortune cookie, but it'll have to wait for the next visit.

As for wine, we opted for the very reasonable Pinot Noir, quite tasty for $36 bucks a bottle.  This is in keeping with the restaurant in general -- with drinks our bill came out to under $30 each. All in all, a fabulous experience, marred only by our waiter's less-than-stellar service.  However, going on the opening night means this sort of thing (plates arriving out of order, a disappearance or two) is to be expected.  If it continues on the next visit,

* And to the pinot noir we had with dinner
** Your mileage and spelling may vary
*** "Tabletop" is a bit more accurate