Friday, January 23, 2009

Top Chef: Part One – It’s War!!!

I’m talking about RESTAURANT Wars, of course.

At the beginning of the episode, they show too many people to get a hint of who’s going to be leaving. Radhika says Leah and Hosea had a hand in Ariane’s removal. Leah feels bad, but then said Ariane didn’t defend herself.

Quickfire Challenge
Padma introduces Stephen Starr. This is exciting. I love his restaurants. (I’ve been to 7 out of 11 of his Philadelphia restaurants.) Morimoto opened his first restaurant with Stephen Starr in Philadelphia in 2001. I love fusion cuisine and so does SS.

Padma says it’s time for Restaurant Wars! It’s not just about the food, Stephen says. It’s about the design, the service, the ambience and the concept. AMEN!!!

They have to create one dish to showcase their idea for a prospective restaurant. That’s a big order. They give them 30 minutes and they can use anything in the Top Chef kitchen. The two winners will be the chef owners of the two Restaurant Wars Kitchen.

They run and grab stuff. Oh, there’s the name of Jeff’s place of employment again. THAT is so off-putting.

Leah’s snapper smells “like ass”, she says, and she throws it away and starts over.

Jamie doesn’t want to win, because she says the leader usually goes home.

Carla’s concept is “homey, rustic foods”.
Cod Seared in Tomato Oil with Italian Salsa & Mache Green Salad

That could be good...Stephan says he doesn’t taste enough salt. Uh-oh.

Hosea wants to do a seafood restaurant with Mediterranean flavors and world cuisine. In other words, everything in the universe.
Shrimp with Morel, Mushroom Cream Sauce, Garlic Potato Purée & Poached Asparagus

Sorry…but BORING! What the heck do I know?! Stephen says, “Very good.”

Leah, sounding really bored, tells them what her dish is.
Tempura Poussin with Dashi, Soy Sauce & Rice Wine Vinegar
I like her not at all, but I think that sounds good.
Stephen: “It’s tasty, it’s very good.” (We also learn her mom is from the Philippines, so I guess her concept is Asian-y.)

Stefan, unappetizingly licking his lips, says his concept is Euro-American. Stephen: “What does that mean?” Old stuff from Europe mixed with an American twist. Boy, it’s lucky these folks aren’t PR professionals, because their descriptive and selling skills are sorely lacking.

Trio of Asparagus – Fried White Asparagus with Trout, Asparagus Salad & White Asparagus Soup

I suppose for that tiny window of time when white asparagus is in season, that would be fine, but I don’t really like asparagus enough to eat it three different ways.
Stephen:” Very good”. I can't tell if that's good or bad.

American, simple and fresh from Jeff
Grilled Salmon with Sunchoke & Artichoke Purée, Grilled Corn & Asparagus Salad
A three year old could make that…it’s so lacking in pizzazz. Leah’s has been the most noteworthy, which is good, because if she’s picked she’ll fail and then she’ll be gone.
Stephen: “For some reason, it’s a little mushy.” Jeff looks SHOCKED.

Guess who says this: “My background is Indian, but my restaurant would be globally influenced.” Radhika, of course.

Stephen looks bored with her. The thing about his restaurants, which the chefs may very well not know, is that each one has a distinct point of view, not some vague "global" thing. Whether Cuban, or high-end sushi (is that okay to describe Morimoto that way?) or old time diner with fusion food and INCREDIBLE skinny fries, there is a guiding vision to each one. The chefs are being too loosy goosey on the concept. SS wants to see a specific dish from each chef with a precise perspective and I think Leah has come the closest, even though she is unable to spit it out in words. Let’s see.

Oh, sorry, back to Radhika.
Pan Seared Cod, Butter Braised Corn, Spinach & Chorizo with Cream Sauce
BLECHHH!!! I wouldn’t order that.
In my inimical ability for accurate predictions (not): “Very well seasoned”, Stephen says.

Seasonal cooking is Jamie’s concept.
Chilean Sea Bass with Creamed Corn, Bacon, Peas & Garlic Scape
(Huh? Garlic what? Is that thinly sliced fried garlic? No it’s not, it’s this. I just learned something.)
Stephen: “I appreciate the simplicity, THOUGH it’s refreshing to get something so simple.” Why did he say THOUGH?

Fabio says if you do well with your BRANCH business, your restaurant will do well. WHAT??? What’s a Branch Business? OH, sorry, he said lunch…lunch business. His concept involves having a whole meal on one plate for a quick lunch. Not a bad idea.

Tuna & Swordfish Carpacchio, Roasted Vegetable Salad, Filet Mignon Sandwich. Fabio’s portions were TINY and the salad looked like it had died on the plate and started oozing stuff.

Stephen says “Cheesesteak!” Fabio says it’s a high end cheesesteak. Stephen: “It’s a little salty,” and that salad is decomposing in front of our eyes…

The losers:
Jeff – salmon wasn’t the right fish to choose to blow him away.
Fabio – He liked his passion, but he didn’t get it as a restaurant concept. (Stephen didn’t mention the vegetables melting on the plate.)

The winners:
His favorites were Radhika, who represents an emerging cuisine AND…
LEAH!!! (I KNEW she was going to win.) Go me! Go me! "Her food is clean and forward thinking," Stephen continues. Good…one of them will be going home.

“My ass is one the line.” That’s the second time Leah uses the word “ass” this episode. I’m no prude, but it just sounds coarse. Of course, Dale was foulmouthed, but I didn’t care, because Dale could cook up a storm and only failed in one dish. Leah, it seems, has only succeeded in one dish.

Padma tells Radhika and Leah that they’ll be opening their restaurants tomorrow night for one night only. Radhika picks Jamie, Carla and Jeff on her team. Leah picks Hosea (Surprise! Not!), then Fabio, and Stefan gets left for last.

I think Leah has the better cooks.

Radhika names her restaurant Sahana, which means strong and powerful in Sanskrit. She asks if Jeff wants to do front of the house. He doesn’t want to. She halfheartedly says she’ll do the front. Bad choice. NOW that will give them a reason to send her home - if it’s YOUR restaurant, you NEED to be in the back. This should be good.

Leah’s doing an Asian concept. Fabio immediately offers to do the front of the house, because he’s not that familiar with that cuisine. Hosea sticks his nose in and doesn’t want her to “get run over’ by “the Fabio and Stefan show”.

They buy the stuff and the food. Each team gets $5000 to spend at Pier One for décor. Back at the apartment, they plan their menu. It should be “Pretty, small, tight and sexy,” says Stefan. Those words coming from HIM are disturbing. Leah is fed up.

Carla is acting clueless. Radhika is giving Jamie lots of responsibility because she’s too wimpy to take charge.

Hosea and Leah complain to each other about Stefan. He’s doing desserts, so he’ll be in his own little world. Leah and Hosea sleep all over each other. Is this Real World? Leah says she’s never cheated on a boyfriend before and Hosea isn’t happy.

Morning dawns and Hosea regrets “kissing” Leah. They both feel weird. They each want to be with their significant others after this whole thing.

Some go to Whole Foods; some to Restaurant Depot. Leah’s restaurant name (thought up by Stefan, which I had to replay several times, because I had no idea what he was saying – is Sunset Lounge. He pronounces it Sn-set LOUNGE. I don;t like that name.

Team Sunset Lounge
Leah, Hosea, Fabio & Stefan,
Concept: “Asian Influence”.

I asked my LA-based daughter what she thought of the name "Sunset Lounge" and she said, "Is it a restaurant for hookers and their rusty needles?” A chip off the old block...I’m so proud.

Team Sahana
Radhika, Jamie, Jeff and Carla
Concept: “The Old Spice Trade”

They run around shopping, making sure we see them calling each other on their Sidekicks. They go to Bridgewaters restaurant to use their kitchen. They get to work.

Sunset Lounge Menu
Egg Roll
Sashimi Two Ways
Short Ribs
Coconut Curry Bisque
Seared Cod
Chocolate Parfait
Panna Cotta

Sahana Menu
Curried Carrot Soup
Grilled Scallop with Chickpea Cake
Braised Lamb Shank
Seared Snapper
Chocolate Cake
Frozen Yogurts

Maybe I’m an uneducated dolt who doesn’t appreciate Sanskrit, but I hate that name. It makes me think that they misspelled Sahara, WHICH WOULD HAVE BEEN an awesome name.

Plus things I hate on that menu –

Any carrot soup but my own
The idea that Chocolate Cake is going to win restaurant wars
The word Yogurt with an "S" on it

Hosea asks Leah cooking questions and she’s not concentrating. She keeps saying how she feels bad about what happened. Are they just running the same interview over and over?

Jamie’s cooking frozen lamb. Leah shows Hosea the cod with bones. Okay, I should just watch the end, because I know where there is going.

NOW they’re calling the dessert “Spiced Chocolate Cake with Cashew Brittle”. THAT sounds good. What did they write on the menu? I’m confused.

Fabio is working in the front of the house. Stefan’s desserts are not freezing. Neither are Carla’s.

Radhika goes in the back and Carla wants her opinion on things and she’s just not giving it. She is a terrible leader.

Fabio cleans up good and knows it. He says we can serve “Monkey ass in an empty clam shell” and because he’ll do such a good job in the front of the house, everything will be fine. (Ass-mentioning number three, BTW.)

Was that massive lightening or special effects right before we see a preview of Padma saying to someone, I think it’s really undercooked?
The judging…next time.


Anonymous said...

Sunset Lounge...sounds like a strip club if you ask me! I had to replay that part again and again because I thought I heard the name wrong.

;) amy

Lys said...

I am SO upset that I missed most of this ep. Let's hope they repeat it. Stephen Starr fascinates me - can't wait to try some of his restaurants on the next Philly trip

Sue said...

Yes, Amy!
That's exactly what I thought too.

Go here and it will tell you when the episode is being repeated: