I sorely wish that the other judges had had the same first course from Paul that I had. There were tons and tons of flavor in that chawanmushi, and the texture of mine was exactly right. On balance, since the other judges received slightly overcooked versions, I’d say that Sarah’s first course ekes it out over Paul’s by just a bit. Sarah: 1. Paul: 0.
As for the fish dishes: Sarah’s was nicely cooked, with lots of flavors, that good use of fennel… the flavors of the dish were really bright. The rye crust was great, though it was not unique to Sarah -- I first noted it about eight years ago. But then the beets got in the way. Ironically, Sarah probably should have listened to Tyler Stone when he suggested that she sous vide. She added the beets to the dish to give it some acid, but they weren’t pickled enough. The technique not only takes all the oxygen out, but also pressurizes whatever you’re sous-viding. The liquid in the ingredients gets removed… which would have paved the way for it to be replaced with the pickling brine. Pickling the beets raw was simply a straightforward mistake.
Paul’s sea bass dish, on the other hand, was flawless. The fish was perfectly cooked, and that clam broth was unreal. It was a great combination of earth and sea with the mushrooms and clams. I can’t say enough good things about it -- it was a remarkable dish. As terrific as Sarah’s dish was, Paul won that course by a wide margin. Sarah: 1. Paul: 1.
And here’s where it gets more complicated.
Moving on to the third course… Both Paul’s congee and Sarah’s veal cheeks were outstanding. I’m not normally a congee fan, as you probably noticed on the show, but Paul’s was really, really delicious. Gail didn’t see how the dish fit into the larger scheme of the meal, whereas Hugh felt it was perfectly placed in the progression. But there was no denying how good it was. Sarah’s veal cheeks were fantastic, though her sweetbreads were probably prepared a bit too far in advance, and the polenta she served to the first set of judges was problematic. But her flavors were great. So. Again, I give the course to Paul, while Gail might have given the course to Sarah.