Speaking Chino: A Q&A with The Taste's Uno Immanivong
Long story short, there's this show on ABC called The Taste. It's just like the show The Voice only instead of blindly listening to contestants sing, judges on The Taste blindly taste contestants' cooking. Seriously, that's like the only difference. Oh, and instead of three famous dudes and a busty chick, it has ... well, pretty much the same thing.
Anyway, there's a former mortgage broker from Dallas who has made it onto one of the judges' teams (that of one Mr. Anthony Bourdain, to be specific), and her name is Uno Immanivong. And why should you care? Because 1) Ms. Immanivong (pronounced "em-man-eye-vong") said the judges would "orgasm" when they tasted her food, and 2) she has plans to open up a Latin-Asian fusion restaurant called Chino right here in town. I had the opportunity to ask her a few questions over the weekend, and here's what she had to say.
Let's get right to it, Uno. What's it like to work with Anthony Bordain?
Working with Anthony Bourdain was the most AMAZING experience! My heart is racing and palms are sweating just thinking about when the hatch opened for the first time on The Taste. After all, who would go on TV and cook minced chicken with gizzards? I wanted to stay true to my cooking style, highlight Asian street food and demystify the art of cooking with Eastern ingredients (and maybe some offal) -- I am blessed that Anthony embraced that about me.
Was it challenging working on an all-female team?
I'll have to say that it was refreshing to be working with a team of independent, smart, hyper-focused women who like to drink occasionally. At the end of the day, it wasn't just about individually winning but how our team would make it to the finals together. It is a competition and we will have some non-winners but I think that any of us would have been happy if someone from our team won. We are family! [Cue some Sister Sledge here.]
Tell me about your pop-up dinner on February 9.
I am excited and nervous about the pop-up dinner. [The Taste Judge] Nigella [Lawson] actually inspired this; we had a great conversation about doing a pop-up restaurant since I wasn't sure about transitioning from mortgage banking to this crazy, adrenaline-rushed food world. I've created each of menu items down to the house-made Sriracha ketchup; there is not one detail that is left unturned. It's a expression of who I am and what Dallasites can expect from me in the future.
Will your now-famous larb gai be on the menu at Chino?
We haven't finalized the menu yet, but I suspect, if I had it my way larb gai will definitely be on the menu.
What's an example of an Asian-Latin-fused dish?
It's like Napolean Dynamite's "'liger:" a lion and a tiger mixed ... bred for its skills in magic.
OK, but seriously?
An example of Asian-Latin food is duck confit tamales topped with spicy ginger tomatillo salsa and crispy duck fat chicharrones wrapped in a banana leaf or a spicy pho"zole" that will cure any hangover. Our menu is distinctly us -- meaning my partner, Adrian Verdin and I -- and is inspired by our ancestors.
So, why should Dallasites try your food?
My food is innovative, humble and approachable. Unexpected flavor profiles that Dallasites will find intriguing and can only find from me ... AND Anthony Bourdain likes it so it can't be bad ... right?
Seems like Dallas will be the ultimate judge in the end. And the judging begins this Saturday night. Chino's pop-up dinner will be at Four Corners Brewery at Trinity Groves. Tickets are $80 and there will be three seatings on Saturday, February 9. The menu looks pretty solid, and if anybody orgasms from eating Uno's food, please be sure to report back.