Top Chef

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Film Food

And explore they do -- lighting pieces of wood and holding it near the salmon (which burns the plastic wrap). Richard labels the results that the smoker would have delivered as a "bonus," and makes the executive decision to pull the plastic off and serve the dish without it. Padma -- in a bright blue dress (yes, that color again) that emphasizes her ample bosom -- and Colicchio lead the party to the dinner table, where Padma raises a glass in a toast to "Richard Roeper, Aisha Tyler, Chicago." Roeper, sitting next to Daniel, is sporting an unfortunate choker -- something silver on a black string. Padma, Tom, Ted, and Daniel will be this week's four judges -- Gail must be involved in some other projects, because she really hasn't been around much.

Back in the kitchen, Andrew, Dale and Richard have hit upon a solution -- igniting a large block of wood and holding it under the salmon, which presumably creates the smoky flavor in a way that doesn't require the plastic. The effect won't be as dramatic, but it's impressive that they managed to work together toward a solution -- I'd have crumpled into a little ball.

As the guests receive their first dish of the evening, Richard takes the lead in explaining their choice of film and flavor -- "all about pure imagination." In addition to the salmon, which looks appetizing and well composed, they've made a "play on the fizzy lifting drink" with a pear and celery soda. As the guests tuck in, they all seem impressed with the salmon, which Colicchio thinks is "surprisingly good." Daniel feels that "all the combinations are so creative and maybe not predictably made to go together but very well-executed." Roeper loved Richard's connection of the dish to Willy Wonka, in particular the drink, while Ted appreciates the choice of an appropriate light course to start the meal -- and five teams have a tough act to follow.

Spike and Manuel's summer roll arrives next, and by the looks of things, this dish will be a letdown -- first of all, based on Spike's cursory explanation, the connection of the dish and Good Morning, Vietnam is in name only. Plated atop a banana leaf, the summer roll includes black vermicelli, green apple, Chilean sea bass and Swiss chard, and is joined by a spoon of what looks like a chili sauce and a lump of chard leaves wrapped with ribbons of chard stem. The colors look flat, and the separate elements of the dish don't come together. Daniel immediately questions the inclusion of fish in the roll, and Ted thinks that "with the budget they had, they could have bought lobster, they could have bought crab," which would have made the roll feel more luxurious. Aisha Tyler finds the whole thing chewy, Colicchio hates the lump of chard on the plate, and Padma (taking a cue from an unidentified guest) labels the choice of film an uninspired afterthought.

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Top Chef

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