Top Chef

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Chuck: B | Grade It Now!
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Film Food

Spike, drawing on his training in France, decides to show off how creative he can be, which involves using a fun-looking device to make tiny scallion ribbons, which he places in an ice bath. End result: delicate scallion curls. Honestly, they look more interesting to make than to eat, but I have to assume he'll integrate them into something else.

Daniel and Padma start that walk-through with Zoi's shaved asparagus, poached egg, batons of green beans, and chiffonade of radicchio and frisee. Daniel, impressed by the "paper thin" chiffonade, and makes a point of showing it to Padma before they move along to Dale. He's created a vegan sashimi platter with daikon marinated in tobanjan (which I've never heard of before, and which is a spicy miso bean sauce used primarily in Korean cooking), tournee of avocado and cucumber. His platter is well composed -- served over ice, nicely architectural with bursts of color. Both Daniel and Padma are quite impressed, and Padma fingers the avocado to appreciate its beauty before chowing down.

While there are no cucumbers to be seen on Lisa's plate, there are plenty of other vegetables: blanched asparagus, batonettes of bell pepper, grilled zucchini, as well as a few unlisted garnishes, all accompanied by a poached egg. It looks thrown together, like separate garden plots on a plate. Daniel pronounces it "back to basics," which could be a compliment. I don't think it is.

Richard has also assembled a number of vegetables into separate mounds (eschewing the white platters for a long, dark plank, although they show everything on clear glass for the close up). He claims "restraint" as one of his techniques, sycophantically adding that he learned it from Daniel. For Richard, restraint takes the form of blanched mushrooms (tossed with truffle oil and yuzu -- yum), pickled beets, and sliced radishes with lime juice and scallions. It's a much more attractive composition that Lisa's, and Daniel appreciates "the different tastes and textures."

Spike's pulled together a Carpaccio of cucumber, tagliatello of asparagus, cucumber cup, and tournee of mushroom. It looks like the scallion curls perch atop some thinly sliced purple cabbage, but I can't tell -- most of the dishes appear to have several ingredients more than the ones mentioned in the official descriptions. "You definitely show the different skill of cutting and all that," says Daniel, but adds nothing about how the food tastes. Manuel plated blanched asparagus, brunois of yellow pepper, supremes of lemon, and endive with fennel fronds, as well as dots of bright pink beet vinaigrette. Daniel doesn't agree that the endive with fennel represents a technique -- it's really just a composition.

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Top Chef

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