Neither did Art Smith’s take on Suzanne Tracht’s chopped-sirloin dish, which he repositioned as Scotch eggs. They didn’t turn out so well: the lamb was underdone to the point of being a turn-off. Even his sweet and appealing cherry tomato tartlet wasn’t enough to redeem this plate of misguided food. I wish Art had done something in the traditional American vein, which he has cleverly mined over the years—a meat loaf, maybe.
Suzanne’s grouper with spring vegetables and gnocchi—a reinterpretation of Art’s seared grouper with hearts of palm and trumpet mushrooms—was sprightly, but the wind was taken out of its sails by the fact that the fish (admittedly a very difficult one to work with) had overcooked to the point of chewiness. And it was cold. Very cold. Star-killing cold.
With such talented contenders on the ropes, it was knockout time. Rick’s roasted quail on sautéed radish greens was the champion. Admittedly, when the bird came to me, I couldn’t stop thinking of that scene in Eraserhead when a whole, naked teensy fowl starts doing disco moves on the plate, but once I got over that and cut into the dish, it was sublime—the essence of brilliant, assured cooking. The quail was savory and tender, and the pomegranate–red wine glaze sauce showed a perfect balance of sweet, sour, and salty. It was a respectful homage to Michael’s original dish. It was stop-the-presses good, which is why it got my five stars. The fight was an easy one to call—at least from where I was sitting.