The judges arrive at Marea first. Colicchio, Padma, and Bourdain are joined by the restaurant's owner, Michael White and Kate Krader, the editor of Food and Wine. The chef explained that his food comes from the Northern Italian tradition, so we're going to see a lot of seafood as opposed to what many think of as Italian food: pasta, tomato sauces, and the like. Tre presents his dish first: grilled swordfish, braised artichoke, mushroom panna cotta, basil oil. Spike serves seared branzino with caponata and spicy prosciutto vinaigrette. Blais offers up crudo of Spanish mackerel, braised veal shank, fennel mostarda. And Stephen has Coho salmon, black Mission figs, broccoli rapini, and fennel pollen.
The judges like the crispy skin on Spike's fish, but they think his caponata (a type of eggplant salad) is too loose. I guess they mean that they want it to be thicker and more cohesive; the way it was plated, it kind of looked like he just threw some olives and capers and eggplant on the plate under his fish. Bourdain points out that if he had called it something else, it would have been more acceptable. He should have said it was deconstructed; the judges love that shit. Blais gets high marks for the flavors in his dish, and Chef White thinks the preparation fits in with how his restaurant prepares food, a good sign. At first, the judges seem to like Stephen's salmon, but as they taste it, they realize that the pollen is overwhelming. Bourdain comments that it "tastes like a head shop." So I'm guessing it has a strong incense or sandalwood or patchouli kind of smell. And finally, they like the simplicity of Tre's dish, and his panna cotta gets high marks.
The judges head to Ma Peche next. Fabio wants to please David Chang, but he worries that it's like an Asian grandma trying to make fresh pasta for him. Well, only if the Asian grandma is in a reality competition where she claims to be the best all-around chef. It's called Top Chef, not Top Italian Chef. I'm starting to think that Fabio isn't long for this competition and I'm starting to wonder how he lasted so long in his own season. Angelo, meanwhile, is in full geek out mode and decides to add white chocolate to his fish and meat dish. Great idea or terrible idea? We'll find out.
Fabio made roasted lamb, hoisin plum BBQ sauce, corn tomato salad and lemongrass chevre ricotta that he made himself. Tiffany serves crudo of summer flounder with pickled radish and peach puree. I kind of see what Mike was saying about how her dish should have taken like ten minutes. Mike offers up warm Sockeye salmon, eggplant, marinated tomatoes and pickled peach. Angelo prepared turmeric marinated fish, dill, cilantro, salmon roe, chorizo and white chocolate.