It was far easier to remember the two best dishes we tried. Tre took us all by surprise with his Ostrich Filet, Tomato Risotto and Abalone sauce. Although classic in presentation, the flavors were anything but. Perfectly seasoned and seared, the richness of the meat contrasted beautifully with the tomatoes and the risotto was as creamy and satisfying as it sounded. What I liked most about his dish was that had this been an actual restaurant setting, the visual appeal would make it extremely approachable for any diner who may be hesitant to taste these unusual ingredients in the first place, let alone eat them together. We all loved that he was also able to incorporate the two into one cohesive and logical dish. Nothing was forced or unnatural, in contrast with Dale and Clay's dishes. Tre was our clear winner and, with luck, one day we may even see it on his restaurant's menu.
Hung's precision and mastery of technique was apparent as soon as he laid down that plate. The slow poached (sous-vide) black chicken was balanced and incredibly tender. The raw geoduck and fennel with innards sauce, ginger and scallion was not only subtle but also very imaginative. I stand by the fact that his dish could have used some color, but the delicate presentation of texture and flavor could not be rivaled by any of his competitors on that day. I don't want to spend too much time on our bottom four contestants. I think it was obvious as to why they were chosen and why Clay went home. What I would like to mention is how impressive I found Howie and Dale to be with their humility and articulateness about their mistakes.
While they remained confident in their own skill and stood behind that which they knew they were capable of, they both had great insight into what went wrong. As I am sure the many esteemed chefs who gather at the Food & Wine Classic this weekend would agree, two of the most useful tools in any kitchen are open-mindedness and the ability to learn from your mistakes.