Top Chef

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Mai Buddha Sucks

Back at HQ, Padma summons Warehouse Kitchen to the judges' table, surprising no one with the news that they've won. Proclaiming himself "really impressed" by the entire effort, Bourdain breaks it down dish by dish. The beet salad? Richard's, and "one of many smart decisions." The pasta? Stephanie. Jose thought it was "perfectly cooked" and "very successful." The gorgonzola "thing?" Stephanie again and -- hey, wait, what about the rest of the meal? Ted thought it was nice and enjoyed the grape syrup, and with that, Padma turns it over to Jose to choose the winner. Seriously, not a word about the rest of the dishes? Even the judges are bored by the obvious way this challenge unfolded. The fact that Warehouse Kitchen so handily won kind of diminishes the level of achievement here -- they pretty much nailed the challenge, which must be incredibly hard to do. For great teamwork and excellent conceptual choices, Jose chooses Stephanie, who also receives a Journey Pod-branded piece of cardboard that can be traded for a culinary tour of Spain -- airfare to Barcelona, four-star accommodations and a guided wine tour for her and a guest. I bet Richard's wishing he'd held on to that Crate and Barrel gift certificate right about now. Stephanie also doesn't have to lower the boom on anyone, since Mai Buddha's obviously the losing team.

Padma tells them that the restaurant guests, in addition to judges, thought they were the weaker team (I wonder if the guests got to try both, or if this factoid was culled from the comment cards). Citing some "very unpleasant aspects to this meal," Bourdain starts with the choice of tablecloths and the napkins. Spike claims "all three of us" selected the silver and purple pairing, which cracks Dale up, as Spike mentions that they didn't get their first choice -- what first choice could possibly lead you to purple and silver as your second? Regardless, Bourdain feels the d├ęcor amplified the high hopes for this eatery, announcing itself "as the sort of place where a greasy dumpling would be unforgivable, rather than the sort of place where a greasy dumpling would be a delight." Damn, he's good.

Butterscotch scallops? Dale's dish, which he admits he thought was "a little sweet." "A little?" asks Padma. "Nothing seemed to work," says Jose, as Bourdain adds that just the combination of the words butterscotch and scallops together is off-putting, not to mention what "looked like a melted candy bar" on the plate. The laksa, says Bourdain, "was like putting my nose into a campfire," an excessive smokiness for which Lisa takes full responsibility. Bourdain and Ted ascertain that Spike thought of laksa in the first place, but that he makes it differently than Lisa, and that Dale, as executive chef, doesn't know laksa, so he had to trust Lisa and Spike on this one. This strikes Bourdain as a bad idea in general and me as a really bad idea in this case.

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Top Chef

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