‘Top Chef: Seattle’ recap: ‘Restaurant Wars’

It’s time for Restaurant Wars! As Stefan says, this challenge is always a bleep show, and almost immediately I get the impression this episode will be no different than previous seasons. Stefan and Josh know nothing about Sheldon’s Filipino cuisine, and Kristen has to put up with Josie. This is, I think, the greater disadvantage. 

When the chefs go to see the restaurant space, there’s a little surprise… no kitchens. That’s right, the chefs must create their kitchens outside, on the patio. I’m thinking Kristen and Sheldon may want to scrap their concepts and go for barbecue. 

Oh my Lord, Sheldon is putting balut on his menu? If you’re not familiar with them, these are fertilized duck embryos. There are beaks and feathers and, well, they’re a little extreme for the American see-no-eyeballs, eat-no-beaks mentality. Fortunately, Sheldon is putting a modern twist on this. I’m assuming this means no baby bird beaks. 

Shopping and prep whiz by, and there doesn’t seem to be enough fighting or breaking down for the show to dwell on it. Before we know it, Padma Lakshmi, Emeril Lagasse, Tom Colicchio and Danny Meyer are showing up at Kristen’s restaurant, Atelier Kwan.

Lizzie – Charcuterie: Rabbit, pickled turnips & yellow bets in chicken & rabbit broth

Danny likes that it’s unexpected, while Emeril thinks Lizzie did an excellent job with the broth. Tom agrees. No one expected charcuterie in soup form, but everyone loves it.

Next up, Josie’s dish. Which Josie has managed to screw up. Shocker! Oh, and she’s slow getting it to table. Again, shocker!

Josie – Bouillabaisse: Halibut, Dungeness crab, bay scallops with shellfish broth

Emeril’s halibut is overcooked and his scallops are raw. Tom doesn’t have any broth. Padma thinks it tastes nice, but obviously there are huge problems in execution. Yay, Josie!

Kristen – Beef Bourguignon: Braised short rib, garlic puree, mushrooms & carrots

Padma thinks the beef is wonderful. Tom thinks there’s no sauce. Gail is missing red wine flavor. Tom thinks it’s a good dish, but thinks she didn’t take the reinterpretation of the classic far enough.

Brooke – Baked Gougeres, St. Agur blue cheese, roasted radish & stone fruit compote

Emeril loves the cheese, but doesn’t get the sticky thing. Danny Meyer thinks someone is going to lose a molar filing. Gail thinks the flavor is good and Tom says it all works. 

Kristen – Almond cake macaron with coconut custard & caramel buttercream

Danny thinks the almond flavor is terrific, but Gail thinks it’s nothing like a macaron, so she’s very sad.

Padma asks Gail what she thinks of the restaurant overall. Gail thinks there were some amazing moments. Danny loved the charcuterie soup, which he declares the dish of the night (thus far). 

On to Urbano! 

Stefan – Kilawen: Yellowtail with cilantro, spicy chili & white soy sauces

Emeril thinks it’s delicious. Danny likes the interchange between acid and sour. Gail thinks there are a lot of beautiful contrasts on the plate.

Josh – Balut: Poached egg, duck confit & foie gras mousse

Gail thinks Stefan is screwing up by simply calling balut “the infamous egg dish from the Philippines” and then plopping the food on the table.  Danny says he’s letting his chef down by not giving a better explanation. But Gail loved it. Still, Tom thinks there’s nothing really Filipino about the dish. 

Sheldon – Miki: Prawns, tapioca roll with achiote

Tom loves the tapioca pasta.

Padma asks Stefan for a better explanation of what the miki is, and Stefan barks out about five words more than he said when he served it. Tom feels like he was scolded. Gail says they were made to feel like idiots. Emeril thinks his behavior was worse than Josie’s bouillabaisse. 

Sheldon – Adobo: Pork belly with mung bean puree & pea shoots salad

Tom thinks it’s the best dish he’s had all day. Danny wanted to keep eating it. I think it’s Sheldon for the win, if Stefan’s service doesn’t sway the judges.

Josh – Halo-halo: Coconut sorbet, avocado mousse, banana & shredded coconut

Stefan – Dark chocolate with macadamia nuts, ginger & peppermint oil

Gail likes Josh’s dessert. Emeril feels it’s not too sweet. Gail likes the tea.

The judges’ verdict overall? Tom isn’t sure he’d come back to this restaurant because the hospitality was so awful. 

The judges talk it out. Danny thought Urbano was great food, but crappy hospitality. Gail thought it was inconsistent in its concept. Padma thinks Stefan should go home for such horrible service, though Tom thinks Josie should go home for screwing up the bouillabaisse. I will say, I would go with Josie going home because Stefan’s food was fine — his service was poor, yes, but this isn’t “Top Server,” it’s “Top Chef.” Focus, judges!

Judges’ table! Kristen’s team is first on the block. Kristen gets some knocks for her beef, Brooke gets praise for her front-of-house skills, and then it’s Josie’s turn. Josie says Kristen plated her dish! It’s Kristen’s fault! Of COURSE Josie is throwing Kristen under the bus!

And now, Urbano. First up, Stefan is called out for being a crappy server. Stefan’s response? He’s a chef, not a server. Exactly. Tom tells Sheldon his adobo is the best he’s ever had. 

Tom tells all the chefs they did an amazing job… and the winner is Urbano. Sheldon gets a new Toyota Avalon! 

This means Josie is finally going home, right?

Lizzie and Brooke are safe. So, more discussion about the stupid bouillabaisse. Josie starts crying. KRISTEN didn’t want to use the gelatin! This was HER concept and SHE sucks! Kristen tries to take all the responsibility. Stop it, Kristen! 

The judges send the chefs away and bicker about whether Kristen or Josie go home. Padma thinks Kristen can’t delegate, so she should go home. Seriously? Kristen is a talented chef, and Josie is a train wreck. Gail finally points out that Josie has been skating by for a long time. Tom agrees. 

C’mon, Josie has to be going home, right? RIGHT?

Padma delivers the news. Josie, you’re safe… Kristen, please pack your knives and go. Gail says that the reason Kristen is going home is really because she stepped up and took responsibility for Josie’s screw ups. So, what would work in the military is just stupid on “Top Chef,” which rewards whining and crying and blaming. 

Everyone, of course, is shocked because JOSIE HAS BEEN CIRCLING THE DRAIN SINCE THE BEGINNING. Stefan tells Kristen he loves her. Kristen knows people will think she took on too much responsibility, but she has integrity. Unlike Josie, who would cry and whine and throw anyone under the bus to stay on the show. Brooke is frustrated, because she can’t understand why Kristen didn’t put the blame were it was deserved. Me, neither. 

I’m floored. Floored. Kristen was really in a position to win this whole thing. Josie is in a position to someday run a restaurant where everything is slow to get to the table, is over or undercooked and is poorly seasoned. I really thought Kristen might be the second woman to win “Top Chef.” I still have hope for Lizzie and Brooke, but damn. 

Do you think the judges made the right decision? Do you think Stefan was rude to the judges? Have you eaten balut?