Stephanie's very pleased with the tastes and texture of her sweetbreads with a sweet and sour sauce of golden raisins, pine nuts, as well as some fennel, haricots verts, and bacon, and the judges agree. Harold would have liked the pine nuts toasted, but over all finds it "really solid". Hung, a sweetbread fan, like the range of flavors and textures, while Gail feels that "exactly what Spike's dish was missing, Stephanie's had". Like flavor, texture and fresh ingredients? The diners graduate from swilling Tramonto Red to Clos Du Bois as Antonia's warm mushroom and artichoke salad, poached egg and bacon vinaigrette rounds out the first course offerings. She's poaching eggs to order, and poaching them well, which elicits kudos from the judges, but Gail feels it's not the strongest appetizer, which Rick goes further. He thinks "the rest of the dish fell apart" into a soggy mess, and Harold calls it "hit and miss".
As service begins on main courses, Richard's slow plating irks Colicchio, but Richard, with "intricate" dishes comprised of many ingredients, doesn't want his art to be rushed. He wants "slow and perfect over quick and half-assed", but taking one's time does not always make for perfection. In fact, he could have spent less time building the separate sections of his beef filet with potato puree, turnips, red wine and pickled Brussels sprouts, as the deconstructed nature of the dish bugs the judges. After Ilan lets everyone know that tenderloin is his least favorite cut of beef (for they spit on them in a Spanish kitchen!), Harold observes that, if one gets a bite of each ingredient together, it all works really well. "Then put everything together!" exclaims Padma, to general assent, as Ilan pipes up again to call it a "project" rather than "a relaxed dining experience".
Lisa's grilled New York strip, apple caramel sauce, peanut butter mashed potatoes, haricots verts and an apple-peanut gastrique makes Gail nervous, but Rick really like the potatoes. He feels that their nuttiness compliments the "smokiness of the beef and the pop of the apple", but Ilan finds the beef under seasoned. Hung agrees, and adds that it's tough, while Gail finds the whole thing unbalanced, and thinks her piece of meat was too thin. That's certainly not an issue with Spike's tomahawk chop, which he's serving with sweet potato puree, Brussels sprouts, and cipollinis. Of course, there are plenty of other issues: Ilan maintains, and the other judges agree, that the meat tastes better without any of the other ingredients. Everything but the chop could have been left off the plate -- the too-sweet potato puree (Gail tastes added honey, which she doesn't appreciate), Ilan wants his mind blown (is that all?), and all Rick can muster is a half-hearted "It's okay".