What a transcendently great thing it was to have both of these styles of cooking represented in this showdown and what a great pleasure that with both sides the dining narrative was so assured and so centered. Both Kerry and Chris went at this challenge with a riveting intensity that they brought all the way to the critics' table, and because of this (and because of their formidable talents), it was, without exception, a joy to eat.
Kerry's food was remarkable. His subtle take on jigae, a classic Korean stew, was vibrant and pure, with a restrained heat that spoke of forceful Korean flavors filtered through French technique. His flan was the essence of who Kerry is as a chef -- you could sense the technical precision in that dish from ten feet away, and it was one of the best plates of food any chef produced all season.
In Chris' dishes, there was none of the subtlety and restraint that Kerry brought to the table: The volume was loud. And yet there was still evidence of the focus and control that Chris has behind the stove. His beef heart tartare wasn't nearly as scary as it sounds, but even before the first bite I knew it would probably be great, simply because I feel safe in Chris' hands. That's one of his truest gifts: his food is wonderful and shocking, often intimidating, but he has a confidence that makes the diner sure he won't deliver anything that's less than phenomenal. His tripe course was fabulous, that angry streak of charcoal on the plate a very delicious charred chile oil that brought a great energetic heat to a soulful, rich trippa napoletana.