Top Chef Las Vegas: restaurant wars return

I confess I’ve only been watching Bravo’s “Top Chef” for one-plus seasons now, but I’ve become hooked in a hurry. So this was just my second time experiencing “restaurant wars,” when they break up the final eight contestants into two teams and have them run an actual restaurant for the night.

But first, the episode began with a Quick Fire challenge, and the guest judge this week was Rick Moonen, who owns a sustainable seafood restaurant in Vegas. They would have a tag team cookoff, in which each chef had 10 minutes out of 40 to complete a dish, but while one chef was working the others were blindfolded. Man, that looked HARD. They drew knives and Jennifer and Michael V. had to choose teams…Jen chose Kris Kringle (Kevin), Mike Isabella and Laurine, deciding to let the brothers be on the same team and duke it out, literally. So Michael had Brian, Eli and Robin.

Jen’s team was blue and Michael’s team the red team. Jen started out with black cod and scallops, with a sauce and stock….nice and easy. The red team did a steak with mushrooms and a salad with some kind of avocado mousse. By the time they got to the anchors, Kris Kringle and Michael, they appeared to be neck and neck. But Kris Kringle decided to ditch the idea of poaching the fish and instead pan fried it in butter. Michael had to make sure the steak was cooked enough and had time to rest before cutting it, but that didn’t happen, and the blue team won.

Their prize? $2500 each, or they could parlay that into $10K each if they won restaurant wars. They decided they had a shot, so they rolled the dice. At the challenge, the blue team and red team would each have a floor at Moonen’s restaurant with their own kitchen and dining room. They would be serving to real guests as well as a judge’s table of Moonen, head judge Tom Colicchio, host and judge Padma Lakshmi and regular judge Toby Young.

The blue team’s restaurant was called “Mission,” a slightly boring name but not as offensive as the red team’s “Revolt.” What? They decided that Laurine and Eli would run front of house, respectively, but each would also be responsible for one dish. The blue team opted not to serve dessert, because this has become a reason teams have lost restaurant wars in the past on this show. Meanwhile, the red team did have two desserts planned. Here is a synopsis of each menu:

Blue team: asparagus appetizer, arctic char, trout and endive, mussels and clams with boulliabaisse broth, lamb chops with carrot jam and pork three ways.

Red team: chicken and calamari appetizer, arctic char, duo of beef, cod and slaw, pear crisp with vanilla ice cream and a chocolate ganache.

Eli did a much better job of greeting the guests and keeping them informed during the process, while Laurine did not. In fact, when Laurine brought out entrees, she failed to describe them to the judges. Meanwhile, the blue team was struggling as Jen was cooking mussels and clams to order and Kevin was having a hard time getting his meat out. And Laurine and he were arguing over what was considered medium rare on the lamb.

The red team, however, was clicking on all cylinders despite bickering between the brothers and between Michael and Robin. Go figure. But they sure did get their food out, and the judges loved all of it. Game over.

So the red team was asked out first and they were told they won restaurant wars, and that they really loved everything, and even added that they had done the best job ever for restaurant wars on the show. Wow. But in particular they loved Michael’s chicken and calamari dish and his dessert, as well as Robin’s pear dessert. They had to pick one winner, though, and that person was Michael, who won the $10K the other team had forfeited. He decided to split it amongst his teammates, though for some reason this angered his competitive brother.

Then the blue team had to face the music. It was unusual seeing Kris Kringle and Jennifer in this position, but someone had to lose. The judges said that Mike Isabella’s dishes were not great, but weren’t horrible either, so he was safe. They gave Kris Kringle a hard time about the meat not being done properly, but gave Laurine a harder time because she had insisted beforehand that she would oversee that and make sure her dish was done properly. Of course, Laurine failed at front of house too. Meanwhile, Jen just failed miserably in the kitchen, and while her made-to-order shellfish was okay, the judges did not like her trout dish at all. So this was likely between Jen and Laurine.

Who do you think they sent home? Naturally they had to consider past work, and so Laurine was told to pack her knives and go. I mean, let’s face it, she’s just not as good a chef as Jennifer, so that was the right call.

We’re down now to seven, and you can bet Robin is next to go home….unless the brothers beat the crap out of each other before that. Should be interesting. See you guys next week!

  

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