I haven't exactly been thrilled with the Trinity Groves concept Kitchen LTO since it opened. I gave the restaurant a tepid review in 2013, and nothing that's happened since has given me much hope. The whole concept has always felt flawed, because the restaurant draws from a pool of under or unemployed chefs, drops them in a brand new kitchen, and kicks them out again just as they might be hitting their stride.
The short tenure has been addressed recently (chefs now stay for six months), but the menus the restaurant has produced have been boring, too. Braised short ribs, seared scallops and the like have joined the same upscale spin on comfort food we've seen at restaurants around Dallas. It's hard to get excited about cooking like this, especially combined with the instability of it all. But with the announcement that Anastacia Quinones is taking the helm next, I have to admit that I'm looking forward to dining at Kitchen LTO again.
Quinones has gotten consistently good press for several years. Morning News critic Leslie Brenner raved about her tender tortillas at Alma, and she earned decent praise for her time at her next post Komali, too. But at Komali, Quinones was cooking for Abraham Salum for a Highland Park dining room, and with Kitchen LTO the kitchen and menu are hers alone.
I'll temper my enthusiasm by noting that no matter how great Kitchen LTO supposedly gets under Quinones' tenure, she's still going to get the boot, eventually. As soon as we fall in love with her design, those tender tortillas will be ripped out from beneath us. Quinones is also dealing with what I think is a less than adventurous palate with the Trinity Groves dining set. Aside from Casa Rubia, none of the restaurants in this incubator have done anything truly adventurous or inventive, and I worry that her more adventurous dishes could sit on the menu unordered.
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A menu was released with the announcement of Quinones as chef, but it's only tentative. Still, there are enough dishes and ingredients listed to tempt me into going soon after the opening. Duck fat refried beans, huitlacoche, squash blossoms, mole, carnitas made from pig's cheeks: My leg is twitching; I need to go. I hope the twitch continues when I sit down at LTO in the coming weeks. The restaurant opens under Quinones June 2 and lasts through the end of the year.