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Fork Fight Round Two: Uno Immanivong (Chino) vs. Norman Grimm (Kitchen LTO) at Trinity Groves

Chino's Pina Colada Cake (photography by Kyle Pennington)
Chino’s Pina Colada Cake (photography by Kyle Pennington)

At last night’s Fork Fight at Trinity Groves, Uno Immanivong previewed some of her Asian-Latin cuisine in her upcoming restaurant Chino Chinatown, while Norman Grimm of Kitchen LTO (a rotating restaurant concept) brought his best game to the table.

Fork Fight is really just a fancy smackdown between all the new concepts at Trinity Groves, and the last incubator restaurant still standing will battle it out with Sharon Van Meter at 3015 at Trinity Groves. It’s a smart idea. Trinity Groves makes money and introduces its food to potential customers in one go.

This is how it works: Guests start with cocktails, feast on four courses, and drink cocktails made by each competitor. (Immanivong provided a sake sangria and Grimm a spritzer.) Tables are given both chefs’ dish for every course for side-by-side comparison. However, we were told to vote based on the overall experience – not on individual dishes. To vote, we placed a fork in the bucket labeled with the chef who we thought did the best overall.

Jump for the play-by-play.

LTO's crispy yellowfin tuna tartare
LTO’s crispy yellowfin tuna tartare
Chino's duck confit
Chino’s duck confit

First course: Grimm: crispy yellowfin tuna tartar, tamari glaze, Asian pear, avocado, and fingerlimes – also topped with rice krispies. Immanivong’s banana leaf, duck confit tamale with roasted heirloom tomato salsa, and crispy duck chip.

Comments: Guests wanted more of the duck filling and the salsa was a little watery. Loved the tuna, and the pears were an interesting and clever addition to the tartar.

LTO's sake glazed pork belly
LTO’s sake glazed pork belly
Chino's butter poached lobster spring roll
Chino’s butter poached lobster spring roll

Second course: Grimm: sake-glazed pork belly, pink lady apple puree, sunchoke, herb salad with an intermezzo of watermelon mint granite with a tequila lime essence. Immanivong: Butter-poached lobster spring roll with pineapple habanero dressing.

Comments: The roll was bland. The lobster was a little lost. The pork belly and watermelon intermezzo were great.

LTO's braised short rib
LTO’s braised short rib
Chino's lemongrass short rib
Chino’s lemongrass short rib

Third course: Grimm: braised short rib, seasonal vegetables, and a braised marble potatoes. Immanivong: braised Mexican coke and lemongrass short rib with grilled bok choy.

Comments: This one was harder to judge. I love the bok choy, but the meat was overpowered by flavor and sauce. You can definitely taste the sweetness of the coke in the short rib. The dressing on LTO’s salad was incredible, but I wasn’t expecting another dense dish right after the dense pork belly. The short rib on his plate reminded me of my grandmother’s pot roast.

Uno Immanovang (left); Norman Grimms (right)
Uno Immanivang (left); Norman Grimm (right)
Table decor (left); LTO team prep (right)
Table decor (left); LTO team prep (right)

Fourth course: Grimm: He ran out of desserts so his did not make it to our table and a few others, but it was supposed to be crème fraiche sorbet with balsamic reduction, strawberries, and black pepper. Immanivong: Piña colada cake with salted coconut rum caramel. (Pictured at the top of this post.)

The back end of the room did not receive LTO’s dessert and many of the guests were disappointed because they were looking forward to the sorbet. This made it difficult to judge. Many of the people at my table enjoyed all of LTO’s dishes (the entrée course varied) compared to Chino’s, but the missing dessert course turned the tables for a few.

Comments: The cherry tastes like cherry cough medicine because of the rum.

The event was completely sold out. The chefs were told to plan for 250, but 282 people showed up, which explains why chef Grimm ran out of food. It wasn’t necessarily Grimm’s fault.

“It was tough, I was really stressed, but I don’t ever take anything for granted, so my partner Adrian Verdin and I brought our creativity, took chances and risks because we wanted to blow away the captive audience.” Immanivong said.

The winner of this Fork Fightround will be made on the 3015 at trinity groves’ Facebook page, but even before the crowd left, there was a clear winner. The bucket for Chino was overflowing with forks.

To buy tickets to the third round of Fork Fight, go here. It’s Amber Jaxx vs. Saint Rocco.