Well, what do we think? Did Restaurant Wars live up to the hype? I gotta say -- Bourdain certainly did. Baby vomit with wood chips? Yikes! I wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of that scathing review.
Before we get into all that, let's talk about the Quickfire Challenge, which seemed like maybe the most stressful one we've ever had. I particularly liked how it was pointed out that short order cooking is such a big part of the culinary world, and even if these chefs never need to do it, they need to appreciate it. The only tip I could have possibly offered these chefs as they were barked egg orders is that they need to cut the top half of the bagel, bread, or whatever before they put eggs on it, especially over-easy eggs because it makes it easier to cut, and well not a disgusting mess (same goes for pretty much anything you put on a bagel.) Yes -- that' s right. I worked in a local bagel shop on Long Island. I'm basically a walking cliche. Anyway, all of the chefs seemed to, well, not do very well, except Dale and Antonia. In the end, Antonia prevailed and gets a pretty awesome advantage by getting to choose her team for ... dun dun dun ... Restaurant Wars.
She, of course, chooses Stephanie and Richard -- and the dream team was created. They get the extra help of Nikki to help roll out some pasta dough. All I could think when they chose her was "Poor Nikki" -- all people will think she can make is pasta! Sigh. Anyway, what I would have loved to have seen is the separation of those two. Do you agree? Who do you think would have won if Richard and Stephanie were on different teams? They create a fairly standard gastro pub menu, which is apparently kinda new to the Chicago scene, as Stephanie discloses in our discussion with her this week HERE. And Dale, Lisa, and Spike, with the addition of Jennifer, chose to go Asian, which was expected since they all specialize in various forms of Asian cuisine.
Bourdain, obviously, brought up a good point that Asia's a big place, and to do all of the different types of Asian cuisine well is difficult. I would also argue that they probably shouldn't' have stuck to such traditional dishes or at least changed them up a bit so there wasn't as much of a reference for the judges, and therefore less disappointment. Although they didn't know they'd be serving Bourdain, who loves Asian cuisine and has made the effort to travel throughout most of the continent, they should have assumed the judges would know their stuff.
Honestly, it seemed like Mai Buddha (we'll get to the names in a moment) were doomed from the get-go. Lisa and Dale in a kitchen together just doesn't seem to go well. I was hoping they would prove everyone wrong and pull a surprise upset, but it just didn't' happen. Spike was pretty smart to stay out of the line of fire, which Bourdain pointed out at Judges' Table. Dale and Lisa shared words at the Judges' Table, and I literally yelled "zing" after both of their comments: "A Team is only as strong as its weakest link." Zing! "A team is only as strong as its leader." Double zing! and an extra "Touche!" (pronounced "Toosh" in my world) for good measure. Our Foodie Poll this week asks you which "zing" was better. I'm tending to go with Lisa if for only that she came back after kind of a low blow.
OK -- so Mai Buddha kinda failed. But what did we think of the name? I can only assume it was an amalgamation of Spike and Dale's places of employment at the time -- Mai House and Buddakan. The other team's name was "Warehouse Kitchen," which I didn't even realize until I watched the episode again. Eh. Not my favorites, but not horrible. What would you have named them? (Be nice!) The decor was pretty OK too. How funny was Bourdain and Ted trying to one-up each other on the purple napkin comments? Honestly, they should just be thankful no one put out scented candles!
In the end, Dale went home for what was apparently a gross dish (the butterscotch and scallop combo), and for being responsible for the team as exec chef. Honestly, I'm not a big scallop fan, but i can't imagine Dale has never made that dish before or at least put that combo together, so the fact that it was that inedible is shocking to me. The conversation in my office with my fellow editors while watching went like this: [Disclosure: This is a re-eanctment]
Me: I can't imagine Dale has never made that dish before.
Other Writer: Both butterscotch and scallops are sweet -- they shouldn't be put together.
Me: Yeah -- he really needed something to cut the sweetness and lush texture of the scallops like a citrus.
And there you have it. See? we learn a lot from watching Top Chef too!
I'm sure -- based on your comments -- that plenty of you are happy Dale went home, but i don't know, he kinda grew on me. And he cried. The man cried. That won me over. (Was anyone else reminded of Ricky from Project Runway when he started crying, though?)
Stephanie won for being the mastermind of the whole gastro pub idea and for making a tasty linguine and clam sauce so kudos to her. Seems like good positioning to go into the next challenge.
Anyway, just wanted to mention (because I'm sure a grand total of one of you cares) that I'm finally making my trip to Chicago this weekend and will hopefully be eating at one of Rick Tramonto and Gale Gand's restaurants. So, I'll be sure to let you know how it is! I'm very excited!
And now to address some of your comments.
1. It was cabbage! Enough said on that.
2. KathyNJ wrote: You said you had some exciting news about Andrew at the end of the post - what was it - that he didn't own a TV? I re-read a few times, but didn't see anything exciting at all - did you forget to put it in? Anyway - I was hoping to see the last of Lisa's sneer, but I have to admit that Sushi looked lame and didn't in fact meet all requirements of the challenge - but I too will miss Andrew's antics and crazy attitude - he seemed fun! p.s. - someone update the website - the bios still say Spike has never won a Quickfire. posted on May 20, 2008 at 1:27 PM
The exciting news was that I was on my way to watch Top Chef with Spike and Andrew. And you can read all about it and watch it HERE. Hopefully as exciting for you as it was for me.
3. I just want to give a shout out to all of the Rochesterians! And "Tracy," let me know what you think when you visit California Rollin'!
4. And to all the conspiracy theorists that think I let the cat out of the bag by saying I watched the show with Spike so he obviously did win or did not win, well, nice try. I may make mistakes from time to time, but something like that would get me fired!
Anyway, let me know what you thought of Restaurant Wars and your predictions for the final four! Until next week, "superfan"