People always say they don’t want history to repeat itself, especially in the case of war. But the recurring ”Restaurant Wars” episodes of”Top Chef” are too good to resist, if only because most of the instant restaurants the cheftestants create bomb like a meatball in soup.
(First, I’d like to give a shout-out to my fabulous colleague Adam, who wittily covered for me last week while I was at the R. Kelly trial in Chicago. And I’d like to send my apologies to the Vanessa haters our there because I’m (delighted to be) back for the rest of the season.)
After last night’s ep, I’m bummed that I didn’t have a chance to get my egg on at Lou Mitchell’s while I was in Chitown — and even more disappointed that Tom didn’t come nudge me out of my hotel-room bed so we could partake in a little morning sunshine together. As for the former, I love the aura of a diner run by Greeks. It says family. And although co-owner Helena, with her eyeliner, dark lipstick, hoop earrings, and eyebrow raising, reminded me of some of my favorite New York haunts, watching Richard, Stephanie, Antonia, Dale, Lisa, and Spike flip eggs, potatoes, bacon, and sausage for the quickfire challenge still left a lot to be desired. It was kind of a nonevent, which Antonia won in case you missed it. Watching Olympia Dukakis flip that egg in the toast in Moonstruck is more fun than this.
Fortunately, the elimination challenge was a good one. The space they had to work with for the restaurant war was the best I’ve seen: raw and rustic, with wood floors and brick walls. There was also track lighting, which I thought meant that there would finally be a restaurant war in which the spaces didn’t look like a Kmart. But by the time the teams had finished decorating the space, they had somehow eliminated all the original ambience. The more notable change was Tom’s announcement that he had a charity event to attend and would be missing the elimination challenge. The cheftestants must have been like, Oh, no, Dad’s not going to be there to validate my touchdown. But wait, badass Anthony Bourdain is taking over. Sold. Bourdain said he was bringing his ”warmer, sunnier disposition to this challenge.” Right.
Antonia’s quickfire win gave her the advantage of picking her partners out of the quintet. This was as predictable as a football draft: She went for Richard and Stephanie. They dubbed their gastropub concept Warehouse Kitchen. Meanwhile, Lisa, Dale, and Spike, who have not played well together, instantly chose to go Asian and settled on the name Mai Buddha — the only two times they were able to reach a consensus for the entire challenge.
Spike was in charge of Mai Buddha’s front of the house, and he was inspired to decorate it with — guess what? — Buddhas, as well as purple napkins that Bourdain said looked like they came from ”the back of Prince’s van.” The Buddhas didn’t inspire any culinary enlightenment, nor did they help Spike realize that he’s the worst kind of jerk: the type that doesn’t think he’s a jerk. The tomato-chicken-lettuce thing in the last episode was so childish, and his unwillingness to participate in this ep as if he were taking some kind of high road was equally obnoxious. In the kitchen, Lisa and Dale were a hot stinky mess. Lisa’s laksawas too smoky, and her sticky rice was mush. Dale made an avocado mousse that looked more like some nasty veggie baby food, and he decided that butterscotch would go well with scallops.
Warehouse Kitchen was better thought-out in both interior and gastronomical design. Stephanie seemed to be juggling quite a few things: getting started on the homemade pasta that Antonia was having a ”heart palpitation” over, making a gorgonzola cheesecake, and running and decorating the front of the house. Both teams eventually got some help from former season 4 Top Chefers. Jen went to Mai Buddha, and Nikki to Warehouse Kitchen; the latter was a bit of a lifesaver by calling out those gritty clams before they went out.
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