Top Chef

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Mai Buddha Sucks

"That does not say gastro pub," someone who sounds like Ted says about something. Regardless, Kitchen Warehouse's first courses -- the beet salad with goat cheese and ras el hanout spices and the linguine with littleneck clams, pork sausage and horseradish crème fraiche -- go over well. The Stephanie-made linguine is better than Bourdain expected (high praise), while Jose goes further, loving the texture of the pasta. Ted compliments the goat cheese -- boucheron -- in the salad, Padma pronounces something -- or everything? -- "delicious," and a guest praises the sausage in the linguine. Next, according to the simple menu, is the trout with cauliflower puree, caramelized cauliflower, and hazelnut brown butter, and the lamb loin and braised lamb leg served with Jerusalem artichokes and spiced honey. Both presentations are quite attractive, although the lamb elicits raves. Bourdain is truly effusive about the lamb -- he loves how it's cooked and presented, the sauce, and the way the ingredients work together. Ted digs the skin left on the trout, Jose just thinks, "My God," and Padma, joking around, says they're not joking around.

Dessert offerings are the savory gorgonzola cheesecake with sweet potato puree and concord grape sauce (from Antonia's lunch box) and Richard's sliced and seared banana "scallops" with banana guacamole and chocolate ice cream. Bourdain and Ted concur on their dislike of the smear, here found beneath the ice cream -- particularly the brown kind ("It reminds me of New York City sidewalks," says Ted -- yeah, after you rub your face on them, Allen), while Padma, confounding her expectations to hate the cheesecake, loves it. Credit is given for level of difficulty, and for toying with sweet and savory; as for the scallops, Jose likes chocolate, and think the use of cilantro was bold (it was!). It didn't work for Bourdain, but he can respect it anyway. Ted proclaims the entire experience "very interesting," and the judges decamp for Mai Buddha. Someone has finally done well in a restaurant war.

Jose thinks Mai Buddha "has a nice feeling," while Bourdain thinks the silver tablecloths and purple napkins (oh no you didn't, Spike) give off a "back of Prince's van" vibe. For Ted, it's "more Aerosmith from the mic stand." Those few seconds reveal so much about four individuals. The tablecloths and napkins do not work at all with the redder Buddha-esque tone of the rest of the room, and it pretty much goes downhill from there. As she's plating her laksa, Lisa says she feels she's made her first serious mistake in the competition (I'm sure others beg to differ) and that she'll suffer. That would be unusual for her! Dale's freaking out at the waiters, calling them "fucking assholes." Lisa kind of agrees with the sentiment, but thinks his delivery could better.

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