Elimination Challenge – Back to the TC Kitchen, and Padma in what may be the worst dress I have ever seen her wear. Hard to make Padma look less fabulous than she is, but here it is. She is with Ludo Lefebvre – you may remember him from being the really, really annoying French guy from Top Chef: Masters. The challenge is to do something Ludo is known for – a pop up restaurant. Basically, it is a real life Top Chef challenge. Make a short lived restaurant just for fun – or in some cases – totally change your restaurant’s menu unannounced.
Dale selects Marcel to be his opposition in team building. Marcel picks Angelo, Mike, Antonia and Tiffany. Dale gets Blais, Tre, Fabio and Carla. The mismatch begins. Dale’s team selects the name “Bodega” and does a playful take on bodega food – chips, tuna, etc. Dale describes it as a place you can get a sandwich, a bagel, a six-pack, and in this case, pork shoulder. Marcel wants to name the Mediterranean-themed restaurant “Medi,” and is rightfully shouted down by the others. The select (off-camera) “Etch,” because it will be etched in your mind from its awesomeness. Or crappiness.
Appetizer – Dale – Bag of Potato Chips with Fried Herbs and Sea Salt
First Course – Blais – Raw Tuna Belly and Fried Chicken Skin with Chiles and Lime. Blais’ inspiration was a can of tuna, so he served the dish in a tuna tin. Clever. However, it made it awkward to eat.
First Course – Dale – Bacon, Egg and Cheese with Homemade Focaccia. Some guests thought it was brunch menu-worthy, and southern tasting. Tony thinks if you put a runny egg on anything he’d be happy. Ludo liked the flavor and the kick.
Tom was mesmerized by Fabio’s skills with the wait staff in between courses. He said that no one has ever done as well in working the front and managing the wait staff on the show as Fabio did here. I thought between this and his dessert that Fabio had a real chance at winning the challenge, and I wonder if he was the 2nd choice instead of Dale.
Second Course – Blais – Chicken Fried Codfish with Brussels Kraut. Typical clever Blais dish. Tom thinks it all worked well.
Second Course – Tre – Pork Shoulder, Grits with Cheddar Cheese, Corona and Lime Sauce. Diners loved the Corona sauce, almost as much as Corona. Tony also snarked in his Bourdain Way that it was a good dish. The meal was so good so far, that when Fabio cleared the plates and asked Padma why she didn’t finish (Nice touch, Fabio), she said she was saving room. Because it was so good!
Third Course – Fabio – Amaretto Cake with Candied Lemon Peel and Cappuccino Mousse. Tony effin loves it.
Third Course – Carla – Blueberry Pie with Dry Milk Ice Cream. Holy crap this looked delicious. Ludo yammered in his accent about how good it was too.
First Course –Tiffany – Frisee and Shaved Asparagus Salad with Egg and Chorizo. Padma thinks it is good, except for the fact that it lacks chorizo! Tony found it salty and Tom thought it was bland.
First Course – Angelo – Crudo of Fluke, Grapes, Pink Peppercorns and Lemon Zest. The problem is that this really isn’t a Mediterranean dish. Tom thinks the fish needed to be the star, and it was drowned in other stuff.
Second Course – Marcel – Roasted Monkfish with Kalamata Olives, Peperonata and Parsley – Ludo thought it was mushy, and Tony thought it was effin baby food.
Second Course – Mike – Braised Pork Belly and Octopus with Cannellini Beans. Tom likes it, however, several diners sent it back to be cooked some more. Marcel thinks that Mike was paying too much attention to this dish, and not to his, and was thus “sandbagging” him.
Third Course – Antonia – Ricotta Gnudi, Braised Oxtail Ragout, Arugula and Lemon Zest. Padma found it to be salt, but Tony thought the Gnudi was perfect.
Third Course – Mike/Angelo – Slow Cooked Lamb Chop, Cauliflower Puree Turmeric and Flowers. Tony was happy with it.
Fourth Course – Marcel – Duo of Peaches: Unripened Peach and Sweet Peach with Coconut Foam and Powder.And it was steaming. Yuck. Tony called it the perfect storm of awfulness. I loved their panning of the dish – which probably sent Marcel home – crosscut with Fabio kissing hands and sending the diners home happy.