Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Top Chef 10/21/09--"Restaurant Wars" summary

Previously on Top Chef: the Quickfire challenge involved product placement. Yeah. The rules weren’t even clear, because it involved snack food, and it was not clear if they were supposed to use the snacks in the dish or just serve them alongside. Anyways, Eli won, which would have been nice if he hadn’t gotten so annoying. Remember when we all hated Mike? I know, right? And he’s started to shut up and is less offensive. Well, then the Elimination challenge had to do with pairing pork dishes and pinot noir, and Eli went ON and ON about how he kicked ass at pairing wine with food. Then his pairing didn’t work at all. The only thing that would have made that better is if he had been called out in the loser group. Before that, though, he and Robin had a stupid fight which concluded with his eating dinner out of a frying pan because he was too stubborn to take a dish from her. I’m sure she’s annoying but he’s no angel and he’s annoying without Robin. In the end, Kevin won, which is fun because I like Kevin, and Ash lost, because he hasn’t been doing well and this time he listened to others and made cold pork tenderloin. And it ended poorly. (click for more)

Jen wanders around in her bikini and suggests she’ll cook in it. Laurine says she’s glad she’s still here and you can’t let yesterday affect your cooking today. So she’ll be leaving tonight. Kevin says losing Ash means that the dynamic of the house is a lot different, I guess because he was a buffer. Like, say, between the brothers who are constantly bickering. However they can’t manage to insert any footage of Michael and Bryan actually bickering.

Padma greets everyone and introduces our guest judge Rick Moonen. She also lets us in on the fact that this season’s finale will have 3 people in it. Today’s Quickfire? A tag-team cook-off. Knives are drawn. However none of the knives have anything on them, until Jen draws one with “First Choice”. Kevin thinks this is a mistake by some production assistant, but I know Lee Anne wouldn’t screw up that badly, so it must be on purpose. Michael gets “Second Choice”, but no one else gets anything. Jen gets to pick her team first, and picks Kevin after agonizing briefly about whether she should split up the brothers. So of course Michael picks his brother. Jen takes Mike and Laurine, and Michael picks Eli and is left with Robin. Each team will make one dish in 40 minutes, each individual cooking for 10 of those minutes. No speaking. And blindfolds will be worn until you are cooking. Kevin is so confused by the crazy. Winning team gets an advantage. And it’s high stakes, so you get $10,000 to split. Weak. Padma gives them 30 seconds to choose the order. Both teams put their weakest players (Laurine and Robin) in the second spot.

First up are Jen and Eli. Flailing ensues. Jen has black cod and scallops, and shrimp, and a sauce. Eli grills some steak and mushrooms. Both of them seem to be doing basic prep work that can go in many directions depending on what the rest of the team feels like doing. Laurine and Robin tag in. Laurine keeps the sauce going but doesn’t understand the oil that Jen had put out for poaching the cod. There’s some thyme in it and I think Laurine is wondering about a fried thyme garnish. She also pulled some scallops but I thought Jen did that already? Eventually she realizes the oil is for poaching. Robin heads for Caesar vinaigrette with yuzu and anchovy. Bryan and Mike are up third. Mike stares at the ingredients as he figures it out. He has to get new oil because the other oil is burnt. Bryan starts making foam. Sigh. Last up is Kevin and Michael. Kevin has to actually figure out what is going on. He’s going to ignore the scallops and also the oil for poaching. Interesting. He’s doing it on purpose, too, not because he can’t figure out what’s going on. Michael puts the beef in the oven to cook and does some random stuff with chemicals.

The Red team (Michael, Bryan, Eli, and Robin) serves a pan roasted NY strip steak with whipped miso, avocado puree, nasturtium salad, and pickled vegetables. It looks fairly tasty. Eli wasn’t going for this but it’s pretty close. The Blue team (Jen, Kevin, Laurine, and Mike) has pan seared trout with sautéed mushrooms, shiitake broth, and radish salad. Right away, Rick calls her on the fact that the fish is sablefish and not trout. Oops. The Red team’s beef was rare but the other components were great. The Blue team’s stock and sauce was fantastic. Rick awards the win to the Blue team. Woo!

Elimination challenge! Restaurant Wars! The Blue team claps but the Red team just kind of stands there. Rick gives them use of his restaurant, which has two floors and two kitchens. The Blue team can pick their kitchen, and this season they don’t have to worry about décor, probably because Rick doesn’t want them messing with his stuff. Plus the décor never affects the eliminations anyway. However, front of house and service are still important. Padma adds (in a dubbed in voiceover) that the person doing front of house will still be responsible for one dish. They have 1 hour and $1500 at Whole Foods, and the same time and money at Restaurant Depot. Rick wants them to respect his restaurant concept while planning, which is sustainable seafood. Padma turns to the Blue team and tells them a great piece of news: they can take their $10,000 to split, or they can let it ride and if they win, they will get $10,000 EACH. They all want to let it ride. Jen says game on.

I don’t care which brother is the better chef. Thanks, poll question. (Kmanpat: “C. they are both hot so who cares?”)

30 minutes to plan menus. The Blue team immediately decides not to do a desert so as not to have it bite them in the ass. Laurine gets stuck in front of house. 3 course menus are planned. Red team is making dessert. Michael and Bryan argue about dessert, and they want Robin to make her crisp which helped her win her Quickfire. Bryan wants to make his chocolate ganache from that same challenge but his brother remembers that he didn’t execute it well. Michael is basically like, well you can do your dessert if you can do it properly.

Eli claims that he will be able to get along with Robin today. Much running around and product placement phone calls ensue. Robin gets sort of jokingly upset because Laurine saw they have sparkling water? I don’t get it. I think she was joking around, shoving Laurine and whatnot, but Laurine didn’t think it was funny because it wasn’t. Instead she just rolls her eyes and says that no one is going to win with sparkling water.

Back at the house Eli tries on a jacket and his shirt’s untucked and he looks like a schlub. He’s going to be front of house, so that should go well. Michael jokes that they should call their restaurant “R.E.Volt”. Heh. But not with that punctuation, that was just so you could see their initials in it. And not the “disgust” definition, but the “uprising” definition. Blue team’s restaurant is “Mission” which is a simple non-flashy style of architecture. Michael is changing Robin’s dish, so it matches all the rest of his fancy food, probably with foam or something. Mike thinks if they finish with Kevin’s meat (…hee) and if he’s as good with his meat as he has been all this time (…hee again) then they can’t lose.

The next day they head to the restaurant for 3 hours of prep time. Red team takes the fine dining restaurant, which is the top floor, and Blue team is on the bottom floor, which is more casual. Bryan says it works better for them anyway. Kevin knows that restaurants aren’t opened in 3 hours. Sigh…”Revolt” has a backwards E. You know, because they are all nonconformists and stuff. Michael yells orders to Robin, who gets all pissy about it. He says she’s out of her league, but he’s asking her if she has a brush for the egg wash. Even I know that.
We get a little bit of menus. Mission’s menu (that’s the Red team) includes asparagus & six minute egg, and arctic char tartare; second course is bouillabaisse consommé, or seared trout; third course is pork three ways, and lamb with carrot jam. I think that’s two choices per course. Jen is making the bouillabaisse and trout, Mike is making the first courses, Kevin has the pork and Laurine has the lamb. Laurine’s done the prep for the lamb but Kevin will have to execute it while she’s out front. Everyone is behind on this team. Revolt’s menu (the Blue team): chicken and calamari “pasta” (if you’ve ever watched them make fish noodles on “Iron Chef” then you’ve seen that before), and smoked arctic char; duo of beef, and cod & billi-bi sauce; pear crisp, and chocolate ganache. I think billi-bi is a mussel soup of some kind. Michael is doing the “pasta” and cod, Eli is making the arctic char, Bryan has the duo of beef and the ganache, and Robin has the crisp. Michael feels his food will be more playful than safe. Eli and Laurine leave to get ready for front of house.

Tom time! Laurine says she’ll be watching dishes and sending them back herself. Kevin knows that he can do it because he works main courses at his restaurant. Jen is behind and won’t really talk to Tom. He heads to find Eli, who knows he’s not safer out front. Michael claims he’s not team leader. Lots of flailing ensues. Laurine and Eli tell the waiters how to run things. People are hanging out at the bar, but Laurine is still telling the servers what the dishes are, and Eli also has to seat people. Jen is nowhere near ready.

Service begins. Jen is going to have to cut fish to order. Some random woman says she doesn’t understand the “Revolt” name. The judges arrive at Revolt, and I love Padma’s shoes, they have fringe and are cool. I had to rewind here because Toby was holding his arm weird and it looked like he was walking arm in arm with Rick which would be odd. Eli kisses up to Rick and once he leaves Tom and Padma laugh at the restaurant name. Eli returns with the first courses. The smoked arctic char has beets, horseradish sour cream and potatoes. The chicken and calamari is described as pressed chicken with calamari noodles, tomato confit and fennel salad. It looks pretty good. Tom wants more chicken, and Padma teases him that she’s surprised he left her that much, and he says he was hoping she would give it back to him. It’s nice to see the judges joking around. The char didn’t pop though. Eli is back in the kitchen yelling at them to get the judges’ second course out. There is some discussion about if this wait is too long, but Tom notices that everyone else is waiting too, so maybe they’re doing it on purpose? Certainly the judges haven’t been singled out. Michael says that if you wait longer than 6-7 minutes between courses people get antsy. I tried to figure out if that was true, but it’s been so long since I’ve been anywhere with courses I don’t remember. Sigh. Kmanpat is nodding so I think that’s right. Anyway, then he says that if they drop everything to serve the judges first they’ll get backed up. The duo of beef is braised short rib and prime NY strip. The cod has a parsley sauce, a billi-bi croquette (how do you make a soup into a croquette?), and zucchini “tenderloin”. I put it in quotes because how do you get tenderloin from zucchini? The cod melts in your mouth, but the beef is just OK. Some poor woman gets cold beef. Why doesn’t she send it back? Back in the kitchen Robin and Michael argue about the portion size of her dessert, and he pretty much shoves her out of the way to do it himself, and she gets all shouty about how this is her desert and she cusses about it how this is HER goddamn dessert. So Michael tells her never to cuss at him like that again because he’s just trying to help. That’s not cussing at you. So much for “Oh, no, Tom, I’m not the leader.” Robin tries to get Michael to see how all she wanted was to do her own dish and be respected, but Michael just says she doesn’t respect anyone by cursing. This argument goes on too long, because neither of them are going to admit to anything, and Michael is really condescending, and Robin is too sensitive, and they should both just shut up. Dessert finally makes it out to the judges. Chocolate ganache with spearmint ice cream and chocolate tulles, and also pear pithivier with vanilla ice cream and elderflower syrup. Pithivier is puff pastry with frangipane inside (kind of like marzipan? Right?). So that is pretty far from pear crisp. However, they love the pithivier and also the ganache. Rick likes Eli’s intensity in front of house. He remembers to say goodbye.

At Mission Laurine does manage to greet the judges and seat them quickly, which is good, but Tom notices and announces right away that there are no desserts. Padma gasps. First courses come out, and Laurine leaves without announcing what the dishes are. At least that’s how it’s edited. The char is so under seasoned that Padma asks for salt. Oo. Mike of course is offended. The asparagus is boring. Jen is holding up the tables because both fish dishes are labor-intensive. Laurine is starting to flail, and the kitchen slides into chaos. She’s going around to tables, apologizing about the wait for the second course, and Padma asks her about it. Laurine lies and says it’ll be one minute, and then returns to the kitchen to discover it’s not even fired yet. Jen curses because I think no one told her to fire the judges’ table. Again she leaves without explanation. Padma calls her back to explain, so I guess we’ll never know what was in the first course dishes. The trout has a brown butter emulsion, hazelnuts and braised endive. The halibut has mussels, clams, and saffron aioli in consommé. I love that the other judges will comment on something being wrong, but it’s Padma who actually asks Laurine for stuff. Kind of like how my friends will stand around wondering about if this is the right line, until I finally just go ask someone who is already in line. The halibut is OK but the broth isn’t clear so it’s not really consommé. The brown butter emulsion has broken, sadly, so everyone is disappointed in Jen. Kevin has trouble cooking the lamb for some reason, and he says that his definition of doneness doesn’t match Laurine’s. I think this results in her taking the wrong plates to the wrong tables, maybe? Someone sends their lamb back. Kevin tries to be nice about it, saying that he doesn’t know who is right. Padma, having learned from the last two courses, asks Laurine to explain the dishes as she’s serving them. The lamb has carrot jam, green bean salad, and morel mushroom sauce. The pork three ways is maple glazed pork belly, pork sausage wrapped in cabbage, cornmeal mousseline, and red-eye gravy. The lamb is pretty rare. Kevin’s pork is great, but they do miss dessert. Revolt gives out sunflowers to the female guests at the end of service. For some reason this irritates me a lot. Don’t kiss up to your guests to try to get a better score on your comment cards. The camera people find several people who liked Revolt and several people who didn’t like Mission so much.

They should just go ahead and make the Restaurant Wars episode a two-part episode. Enough with this “extended episode” crap. Thank God for my DVR so I don’t have to worry if I missed the last 15 minutes on my tape.

Commercial interlude: an interview with Michael where he talks about how a good leader doesn’t yell and scream and isn’t arrogant, intercut with him cursing at his brother and yelling at Robin and being arrogant. Nicely done, editors.

The Stew Room is not a happy place. Mike admits that his team did not do well. And sure enough, Padma calls Revolt up first. Tom actually tells them they are the best Restaurant Wars restaurant in the history of the show. Wow. Even with the stupid name! Bryan’s ice cream and short ribs were fantastic. Eli’s front of house skills were great and his dish was solid (although they do tell him it was not that exciting). Michael’s food was delicious, as was Robin’s dessert. Tom says it was more homey than everything else, and he asks her if she fought for that. He must have heard some things while he was back in the kitchen, that was a really loaded question. Robin says she encountered some resistance about that. Michael adds that he gave her some recipes, or something, but she banged it out, and Robin rolls her eyes because of course she thinks she was dominated. Michael kind of laughs, but dude, you did leave out the part where you took over her station because you thought she was ruining your chance at a win. Michael wins, and gets $10,000, since the other team lost. Rick gives everyone a copy of his cookbook, and then Michael asks if he can share his money with his team, which is a really nice gesture and makes me kind of forgive him for being arrogant before.

Back in the Stew Room the mood is pretty dour. Once the teams swap out, I think there is a Michael/Robin fight coming but there is not. Bryan is kind of pouting, but he says it’s nothing and then says that Michael should keep all his money. He interviews that Michael’s a control freak and that they’re rewarding his unprofessional behavior. Bryan won’t admit to being annoyed, though. On to the losers. Tom starts by pointing out to them that each person was responsible for both dishes in the same course, which caused them to end up in the weeds. Yeah, that was a bad idea. Laurine felt the most comfortable in the front of the house. Mike knows exactly what was wrong with his dishes, namely that the arctic char was inconsistent. Jen steamed all her clams and mussels to order, a factoid that causes the judges to pretty much bang their heads on the table. The halibut was cooked perfectly, but the broth and the halibut kind of cancelled each other out. The trout was brown and blah and the sauce was broken. Jen can’t even really defend herself. The judges attack the lamb next, and I am just remembering that Laurine promised Tom she’d send back lamb herself if it didn’t look right. Sure enough, she says that she thought it was a little underdone, and he reminds her of their conversation. Laurine admits she didn’t follow through on that. And on explaining dishes to the diners. Tom knows they didn’t have a leader. Padma kicks them out without saying anything to Kevin. Well, I assume they said things to Kevin but we don’t know what they said.

At least they knew it was bad. Nothing went seriously wrong with Mike. Jen put out a horrible trout dish. They get on Kevin for the lamb, because he was sending out rare lamb as medium rare, but also on Laurine for not doing well in the front of the house.

Interesting. 64% of viewers think Bryan is a better chef than Michael. (Kmanpat: “Bryan is a better chef, but Michael is cuter.”) Fair enough.

Jen did poorly in general, Kevin undercooked the lamb but did well on the pork, Laurine did not do well at all, and Mike was just boring. Laurine is sent home. I told you. She’s really calm about it and tells Kevin she doesn’t blame him. She doesn’t want to compete against anyone for anything ever. Someone asks Kevin what the judges said, and he says he’s really angry and doesn’t want to talk about it.

Next week: Natalie Portman. For some reason. Robin is confident, something is disgusting.

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