Top Chef
Season 3 Finale, Part II

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The Huynh Of A Lifetime

The judges arrive and seat themselves. In addition to Colicchio, Ted, Gail, Padma, Rocco, Michelle, and The Todd, we also have one of the Brians showing up as a guest judge. Padma in a dub-over says, "And a special thanks to Brian, who can give us his unique perspective as a former contender for the title." Unique perspective, multiple perspectives -- it's all the same thing.

The cheftestants follow their plates out and take in the panel of judges. Hung is the first to explain his version of fish and chips, which is composed of raw hamachi drizzled with olive oil "and a touch of love," thin fried slices of fingerling potatoes dusted with preserved plum powder, and a tomato-sherry vinaigrette. That "touch of love" thing is spreading it a tad thick, Hung. Speaking of thick, Dale says his foie gras mousse is served with slices of raw Chioggia beets, donut peaches, a ras el hanout gastrique, and baby arugula. There's also lemon, thyme, peppercorn, and pistachios in there, but I'm not totally clear how. Also serving foie gras first, Casey explains that her seared version has been marinated in mirin and is accompanied by a citrus and honey reduction on top of some sous-vide Gala apples along with a cinnamon-scented scallop and lemon-poached celery.

The cheftestants retreat. Everyone loves Hung's dish, but note that it needed acid and salt. Michelle says it "screamed" for acid, but that seems to get really downplayed later. God, you'd think last week would have cured Hung of his lemon juice amnesia. They find Dale's foie gras wonderfully flavorful, but with an unrelieved richness. Colicchio wishes for more than just raw beets on this dish. Finally getting to Casey's dish, they're all pretty impressed; Rocco -- sliding his eyes sideways, as if checking worriedly to determine if he's voicing the right opinion, poor, battered guy -- thinks Casey cooked her foie gras beautifully. All agree on that, but they also all agree that the major problem is that the salmon roe makes the entire dish way too fishy.

Back in the kitchen, Casey bellows about too-small plates, and the other cheftestants call out for the servers. The dishes go out to the judges. Again, Hung goes first and explains that his shrimp has been caramelized with palm sugar and has a touch of tamarind and garlic. There's also a julienne salad of cucumbers, radish, and carrots, tossed with tamarind, lime juice, honey, and some olive oil, and the topping froth is coconut. Dale's dish is his "surprise" dish: he has a purslane, fennel, and marinated grape salad under a seared scallop, which is topped with freeze-dried sweet corn. Last, Casey showcases her sake-poached jumbo prawn on a crispy bamboo rice cake, surrounded by a yuzu-lobster broth with lobster mushrooms. Casey's dish also has some things that look like purple haricot string beans (either that, or she burned the shit out of them, à la CJ's broccolini) and a smudge of caviar. "Dale's dish is pretty amazing," Rocco ventures. "SO GOOD!" Michelle says, leaning in passionately. The Todd compliments Dale's sense of texture and says that it makes eating his dish fun. Michelle proclaims Dale's surprise dish to be her favorite of all the dishes so far. Brian says that Dale is "really going for it" in this dish, and The Todd agrees that Dale is not holding back at all. Hung's dish, while acknowledged to be delicious, again needs acid. Sadly, Casey's dish is criticized for having too much stuff and also for another addition of roe.

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