DO-OVER! That's right, for the first time in Top Chef history, the "Restaurant Wars" challenge has ended in a stalemate, with no one sent home. Everyone was on the chopping block this week -- even CJ, who won the "Build a Better Burger" Quickfire -- because there are no more Immunities.
With the adorable Chef Daniel Boulud guest judging tonight, the final eight cheftestants split into two teams and open their own "restaurants." CJ, Tre, the Brians, and Casey open the redundant "April," a New American contemporary type of place, and with a totally new (or contemporary?) idea, Howie, Sara M., Hung, and Dale open "Garage," a contemporary American-style bistro. The Brians work April's front of the house with lots of sweat and manic-ality, and for a while, I was afraid he'd be sent home, and that just wouldn't do because I need my MALARKEY! every week. Dale is more competent with his service, but sadly is also responsible for choosing the black tablecloths and shoving vanilla-scented candles up his diners' nasal passages. The food at April wasn't so great, with Tre's oversmoked potatoes, but neither was the food at Garage, with heavy dish after heavy dish and some sticky mushroom risotto.
So, after bringing both teams up on culinary charges, the judges then proceed to scare the pants off the Brians and Dale by calling only the two of them back to judges' table, where they announce that both restaurants get another chance at "opening night." That's right, people: next week is "Restaurant Wars, Part Deux: Now With Less Boulud."
You know what? I really enjoyed this episode. I don't know why, given that very little happened. I think I was just so relieved that the Brians were spared from packing up their twenty-nine-piece luggage and going home. Also, we got plenty of tasty MALARKEY! tonight and it was awesome to be so sated.
I kind of love Dale for doing that dance in time to the opening-credits music.
Regarding last week's episode, CJ tells us, "This is the final straw -- Howie's done for us." Meanwhile, in case there was any smidgen of doubt left, Howie reminds us that he doesn't mind being an asshole. Sara M. tells us she's lonely because her (boon-dog? Bonny Doon? Bahn da?) isn't there anymore. Okay, captions illuminates me that Sara's curious word (and one I have now started using every day) is: "bunda," and a lazy Wikipedia search defines this word as "a Portuguese, Bangla, and Haitian-Creole name for backside, bum, posterior, buttocks." So, Sara M. is missing her butt. Sara N. was her butt. She is lonely without her butt. She loved her butt. But now her butt is gone. BUTT!
Walking into the Top Chef kitchens, the cheftestants get an eyeful of a sweetly and somewhat excitedly smiling Chef Daniel Boulud. While CJ is calmly impressed and awed by Boulud's august presence, Hung dorks out with his excessive grinning and bowing. He also looks around to see if anyone else gets who is standing there in front of them. Dale gets it and tells us, "Holy shit -- it's Daniel Boulud!" In jeans and a dark grey tee-shirt, I think Padma is fronting the most casual attire I've ever seen her on this show, and you know what? I think she looks hotter here than when she's all dolled up in silks and spices. Boulud's famous db burger is an orgasmic patty made up of "an exterior of ground sirloin with a filling of boned short ribs braised in red wine, foie gras, black truffle and a mirepoix of root vegetables." You'd think that would be enough, but you'd be wrong, because "[t]he homemade bun is topped with toasted parmesan and layered with fresh horseradish mayonnaise, tomato confit, fresh tomato, and frisée lettuce." I believe I could comfortably die after a burger like that. The cheftestants are NOT told to come up with a burger comparable to Boulud's, but to look at a menu from Red Robin, "the restaurant chain specializing in gourmet burgers," and come up with a "gourmet burger." Boulud shows how truly angelic he is by not walking right off the set when slapped with this ridiculous juxtaposition of his food vs. chain food. And I know that there are three Red Robins in Minnesota, two in Massachusetts, seventeen in Michigan, and sixty-one in California, but I still have never heard of it. (I list all the places I've lived to forestall any emails that might begin with, "Um, Keckler? I went to Harvard and I thought you might want to know that Red Robin is a real thing and…") Okay? I did my research and I still have never heard of it. In-N-Out Burger? I've heard of. Burger Chef, Fat Burger, and ButterBurger -- all familiar to me. Red Robin? Not so much. However, I did check out the RR menu, and after reading their description of their Banzai Burger -- "Marinated in teriyaki and topped with grilled pineapple, Cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and mayo. Dude, you'll be like, ready to ride the pipeline on O'ahu's North Shore after you chomp on this!" -- my only comment is: SWIMMER CRAMPS!