Top Chef recap: Restaurant Wars, Part 2
Lunch was playtime — now for dinner service
Too much Restaurant Wars is too much of a good thing. We really didn’t need a lunch episode and then a dinner episode — it felt like all those times my dad made my family go to Old Country Buffet at 3 p.m. so we could have Sunday lunch AND dinner in one sitting. There was always indigestion and always an ill-conceived plate of Jell-O touching Boston crab salad touching macaroni and cheese touching a random spoonful of jalapenos. Goodness, that’s the taste of home.
The restaurants of Restaurant Wars this season were way worse than Old Country Buffet (later called HomeTown Buffet, at least in Georgia). At least the many dishes at a cheaply priced buffet are consistent, unlike the ones at Palate and District L.A.
We left off last week’s lunch service with Isaac killing it and Jeremy the bro being a little too bro-tastic and taking a ton of shortcuts that left customers waiting half an hour just to sit down. Did my eyes deceive me, or was Phillip taking an enormous chug out of a bottle of vodka as Jeremy scrambled to finish the lunch service? (I’m pretty sure it was bottled water).
Tom stopped by both kitchens, Palate and District L.A., to let the chefs they hadn’t done enough at lunch; they needed to step it up for dinner if they actually wanted to impress the judges.
Let’s start with Palate. For dinner, Karen would be taking over the front-of-house duties from Marjorie, and the judges agreed that she had done the best G.M. services so far. Karen and Carl started out the evening with oxtail consommé with tripe and tortellini and mushrooms. Padma had never really learned to love tripe, but she liked it in this dish; Tom agreed that it was a great way to start the night. Carl followed it up with a snapper crudo with cucumber, ginger, and grapes. The judges liked the flavors but wondered if he was capable of anything beyond crudo. Isaac’s lamb with couscous was an enormous serving, but everyone liked the meat; Karen’s coconut rice-stuffed trout was a big failure with guest judge Bill Chait saying it was misconceived from step one.
Marjorie, known for winning challenges with her desserts, took a misstep with her panna cotta with berry champagne soup; this time her sweets failed to impress. Padma said her berry soup tasted like seltzer water.
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Team Palate definitely had the better lunch service, but their dinner menu was all over the place. They seemed to leave the door wide open for District L.A. to take the lead, but it soon became clear that Team Bro was a complete disaster. From the moment the judges arrived at District L.A., they weren’t impressed — Phillip, who was in charge of the front of the house, started things off with what might as well have been a jug of jungle juice at the host stand. Personally, I would have loved that, but I’m still at the stage of life when I’m impressed by any kind of free alcohol. The judges, however, found it a bit déclassé, and the front-of-house service devolved even further as Phillip kept talking about his own restaurant and dropped names more frequently than Wesley dropped cooking utensils. Plus, Phillip had apparently directed the servers to top the judges’ wine glasses to the absolute brim. Once again, I have no problem with that, but the judges were clutching their pearls.
District L.A.’s menu could not have been longer or more oppressive. It started off with Kwame’s beet-cured hamachi topped with a cucumber foam that tasted just like salty spittle. Amar’s avocado gazpacho apparently tasted exactly like “crab nachos,” which sounds DELICIOUS but were probably not befitting Top Chef. Phillip’s strawberry salad was like a Fruit Roll-Up melted in the microwave with a few shaved onions on top. Phillip, once again, claimed it had come out exactly as planned and that if the judges and the roomful of diners hated it, they were all complete idiots.
Jeremy’s risotto fared no better; it was called gluey and “the worst risotto in Top Chef history” — and there have been plenty of crappy risottos. Kwame’s chicken dish was called “one-note.” Amar’s pork belly was too vinegary, and Jeremy’s rib-eye was a throwaway. Phew, that was a long list of underwhelming dishes.
At the Judges’ Table, Team Palate won handily, with Isaac taking the individual win for his two solid dishes and his executive chef abilities. Phillip ended up getting eliminated, but any of his teammates could have justifiably gone. At least we don’t have to hear any more about Phillip’s esteemed chef friends in L.A.
Did Phillip actually end up growing on you in the end? Should Jeremy have gone instead? Let me know in the comments!