Restaurant Wars, Part 2
Aired 11 February 2016
Last episode…a twist on the Restaurant Wars concept…the cheftestants must serve lunch AND dinner…lunch service…both teams were judged to be fairly even if a bit boring…the Orange team didn’t serve a quarter of their food…and we’re caught up!
The two teams have three hours before the dinner service. Three. Hours! But before they begin prep Tom and guest judge Bill Chait arrive. Fun fact: Bill Chait was a child star, using the stage name Josh Saviano, appearing on the Wonder Years as Paul Pfeiffer.
The judges warn the teams they played it too safe. I’m waiting for them to also chide the Orange Team for not completing service. Nothing is said, so I assume we’ll hear about it at judging…
Gray Team (Carl, Isaac, Karen, Marjorie)
Front of House: Karen
Executive Chef: Carl
Marjorie has elected to prepare three dishes, including dessert. There’s some comment about how she hopes it doesn’t doom her. Because dessert on Top Chef. But we’ve seen her make great desserts in previous episodes so this is hardly likely. Karen’s workload is also heavy – two and half dishes plus front of house. She’s so in the weeds that Marjorie has to start with the wait staff in her stead. And again Marjorie shows me why she’s my favourite this season – there’s not a hint of ego here – it’s not about her, it’s about the team.
In fact, that’s true of all the Grays. They’re working together as well as they did for the lunch service. Maybe other viewers enjoy seeing drama during these restaurant episodes but for me it’s far more satisfying to see four people under immense pressure able to rally together.
Parmesan Parsley Garlic Bread (Marjorie)
Oxtail Consommé With Tripe, Tortellini and Mushrooms (Carl and Karen)
Snapper Crudo With Cucumber, Ginger and Grapes (Carl)
Stuffed Trout With Coconut Rice and Heirloom Tomato (Karen)
Braised Lamb Shoulder With Couscous, Pickled Fennel and Orange (Isaac)
Cheese Plate – Rogue Creamery Blue Cheese, Dates, Pecans and Plums (Marjorie)
California Berry Soup With Buttermilk Panna Cotta, Vanilla and Macadamia Nuts (Marjorie)
The judges – Padma, Tom, Gail and Bill – are immediately impressed with Karen’s front-of-house skills and those of her wait staff. They’re pleased to get a bowl of Marjorie’s tasty bread rolls – crunchy on the outside, soft inside – served in distressed white colanders for extra rusticness. Carl’s consommé has “a ton of flavor” and even has tripe non-fan Padma singing its praises.
Carl’s snapper is lampooned for being yet another crudo, but at least it’s good crudo. And Isaac’s lamb is lauded as “best piece of meat that’s been served” this Restaurant Wars.
But Karen’s trout is ”misconceived from step one”. Marjorie’s cheese plate delivers but no one likes dessert – as Gail says “there’s a strange flavor in Majorie’s panna cotta dish. I’m not sure what it is but I don’t like it”. Will the Top Chef dessert curse strike again!?
Orange Team (Amar, Kwame, Jeremy, Man Bun)
Name: District LA
Front of House: Man Bun
Executive Chef: Amar
Unlike the Grays, the Orange Team aren’t a “team” so much as four men cooking in the same space – that was apparent last episode and it only seems to worsen under Amar’s hands-off style of “leadership”.
Wait, there is a random stranger working on Man Bun’s dish! Bringing in an extra worker to assist with prep? It’s like what we see isn’t really “reality”! I assume both teams got the extra support, producers…
Man Bun had the great idea of offering a complimentary cocktail except it’s not so much “offered” as “forced on the diners as they enter”. The execution is awfully clumsy – the receptionist hauls out a bottle of liquor from underneath the front desk like a bartender in a 1920s speakeasy. The cocktail is called a Bangkok Dangerous, which also happens to be the name of a 2008 movie starring Nicolas Cage. Bangkok Dangerous currently has a 9% approval rating on the Rotten Tomatoes site. From the feedback it seems as though Man Bun’s cocktail probably rates the same…
Amuse-Bouche: Beet Cured Hamachi With Avocado Mousee, Osetra Caviar and Celery Lime Emulsion (Kwame)
Avocado Gazpacho With King Crab Salad, Lemon Pudding and Fried Tortilla (Amar)
Strawberries, Pickled Cucumber, Roasted Beets, Arugula and Strawberry Champagne Gazpacho (Man Bun)
Roasted Amish Chicken Thigh With Cauliflower, San Marzano Sauce and Marcona Almond (Kwame)
Artichoke Risotto With Crispy Shallot and Marin County Olive Oil (Jeremy)
Slow-Braised Pork Belly With BBQ Sauce Consommé, Heirloom Tomatoes and Shaved Snap Peas (Amar)
Dry-Aged Rib Eye With Celery Root Miso Purée, Miso Butter and Summer Squash
Wait, they don’t have a dessert? Worst. Restaurant. Ever.
Kwame’s amuse-bouche is not the “mouth amuser” it’s name implies. The cucumber foam on the side is especially rank. According to Gail “it was sort of like spittle”.
Kwame (and, presumably, that random stranger) had assumed responsibility for Man Bun’s strawberry dish and during preparation Kwame suggested that it was too sweet, something Man Bun decided to ignore. But the judge’s side with Kwame – apparently it’s diabetes-level sugary. Maybe they should have served that as the dessert…
Amar’s gazpacho tastes like nachos – which actually turns out to be a win. Gail, who was ON FIRE this episode with bon mots, summed it up perfectly – “odd but I kept going back for more”.
Last episode, in what I can only assume was a fit of Stockholm Syndrome, Amar selected Man Bun because the latter had said he wanted to do front of house. Man Bun, of course, it awful at it. First there was the whole bizarre “liquor underneath the front desk” thing and now the servers are topping off Tom’s wine even though the glass is practically full. Meanwhile Man Bun spends half his time showing off his tattoos and talking up his own restaurants. How did this idiot last so long on this show?
Carl’s risotto is gluey and flavourless. Kwame’s chicken is overlooked and “one note”. The consommé on Amar’s pork belly is so tart Gail is forced to wash it down with a glass of water. “It’s like vinegar” she gasps. Jeremy’s rib eye is “not going to win a ribbon at the County Fair”.
Hmmm, it appears Marjorie’s bad dessert may have not doomed her after all…
After what we just witnessed it’s no surprise which team is the winner The lunch service might have ended in a draw but the dinner service was a clear win for the Gray Team who, of course, are the victors.
There’s a nice surprise in the top cheftestant, however. Isaac is awarded his first win. He’s told it’s because the judges could find no fault in anything he cooked which isn’t exactly a compliment. But still, for the guy who got picked last in the preceding episode, this is a sweet victory.
The judges begin by slamming Man Bun’s “amateurish” cocktail service. Man Bun smugly says “Well, thank god I’m not judged on the cocktail”. He’s quickly put straight. Oh Man Bun, you foolish bearded child.
The Orange Team’s various dishes are torn apart. In particular Amar is hauled up for not leading but in fact there was no leadership in either service. I assume this is where we’ll see Jeremy told off for not finishing the lunch service – but it’s not mentioned at all. I DO NOT understand why such a fatal error has been swept under the rug. Sorry, Jeremy, if it was me you’d be packing up your knives about now.
While Jeremy receives no punishment for falling down spectatularly during lunch, he does get the benefit of having cooked good food during that service. The same goes for Kwame, which means it’s either Amar or Man Bun who is going home.
Out in the back room Man Bun appears clueless about how bad his team did. “Was I in a different room?” he wonders. Not only a different room, Man Bun, a different planet.
Of cousre, it’s Man Bun who goes home. “I’m very surprised” he says. I’m not.
Best Line of the Week: Padma (as the judges enter District LA) “I think we have a reservation under Lakshmi”.
Worst Line of the Week: Man Bun – “When you add acid to olive oil it turns acrid.” Tabouleh would beg to differ.
Will the producers do another two part Restaurant Wars? Tonight’s episode contained A LOT of filler. That said, it gave the judges, especially Gail, room to describe their dining experience which provided some must-see mouth reactions. Plus, the two-pronged approach allowed the Orange Team’s lunch failure to slip through literally unmentioned by the judges. The idea is good but they’ll need to refine this recipe for next season.
Last Chance Kitchen
Jason vs Man Bun
Since Man Bun tended to blame others for his failures he gets to pick the time and main ingredient. He picks sweet breads and 20 minutes. In fact Jason loves sweet breads so it is on!
Oh no, Man Bun cut himself. There’s blood everwh- Oh, look, it’s hot hipster bear Chad! Hi Chad!
Jason cut himself as well! Now he’s bleeding all over th- Hey, there’s Chad again!
On his rounds Tom is careful to keep his distance from Man Bun – he doesn’t want to get any of Man Bun’s blood on him, or any of his crazy.
Man Bun – Roasted Sweetbreads, Salmon Belly, Sweet Potato Chips, Shaved Apple and Radish With Yogurt, Ginger and Carrot Sauce
Man Bun thinks his plate looks “really good” but it actually looks like a pumpkin ate a fish dinner then threw it up which is impressive considering that there is no pumpkin in his dish.
Jason – Fricassée of Poached and Pan Roasted Sweetbreads, Artichoke and Saffron
Winner: Jason. I typed that before Tom even announced it. Tom tried to sell it as a real contest but come on…Man Bun’s looked like orange vomit. Jason only has to win anoth- Chad!