Kevin's idea of smoking the kale was very smart. Smoke is a great tool to use, especially for vegetables, because it adds an element of depth that makes you think of meat, because a lot of items that are smoked usually come from an animal. However, I think it would have been kind of cool to smoke the mushrooms instead. They are really porous and I think they would have had a super interesting flavor if they were smoked (in fact, I might try that ... never had a smoked mushroom before. Think of the possibilities: smoked mushrooms with scallops, smoked mushroom soup ... blah blah blah.). Another one who impressed me was Picasso. Banana polenta? Never heard of it, never would think of putting those two things together, but I it worked. I can't imagine what it must taste like to have banana polenta, asparagus, and tomato on a plate, but apparently the judges liked it because he ended up in the top three. I do have to say, I was most impressed with Eli though. For the first time I thought he really created an awesome looking dish, and I hate eggplant, but the idea of confiting it and then serving it over lentils with that fresh, crisp radish salad just seemed so smart. He had all different textures on the plate. He used a vegetable that is hearty and meaty and then he paired it with garlic puree, which for me was my favorite part. I swear I could live off garlic, and when it is cooked down and pureed it becomes so sweet and delicious, almost like candy on the plate. I was impressed. I think the top three really nailed the vegetarian challenge. They created well-balanced (which is key), flavorful, beautifully-presented dishes that deserved to be in the winner's circle.
On the other hand, I have to say that I was less impressed with some of the other chefs. Surprised a little to see Bryan and Jenn still sitting in the Stew Room, but not at all surprised by Mike I. and Robin. I think the two of them had the worst of the dishes of the episode, and that one of them will probably be departing. Mike's leek looked vapid and tasteless, like he boiled it or steamed it. Leeks are so lovely and there are so many ways to make them taste delicious. His just didn't seem to cut it, and the carrot puree, although pretty in color, seemed to have nothing to do with a big hunk of leek. Where was the tie-in? How did these ingredients play off each other? It seemed like they were just put on the plate for the sake of going on the plate. Then there's Robin, who shaved some beets, stuffed a limp looking squash blossom with mushroom and added a lot of salt, so who deserves to go home? I can't imagine it would be Jenn or Bryan, so my guess is that it may finally be Robin's turn. After all, I know A LOT about over-salting, and I know best that it doesn't fly on Top Chef.
PS: I do read all your comments. I can't respond, but if you wanna try and chat or something like that hit me up on Twitter. I do my best to respond to people when they have questions. It's @chefjamielauren. Thanks for reading!