Top Chef Recap: Nightmare on Eldridge Street

Not pleased.
Not pleased. Photo: Bravo

We’re back from our vacation, and so is Top Chef! Last night’s episode kicked off with reflections on Spike’s elimination and Angelo defending himself, while Richard complained that Jamie is like an octopus — never seen except to come out of its hole and cook some chickpeas. We like Richard a lot more than Jamie, but might have to change alliances if he keeps making “points” like that. (Kidding, obviously.)

At the Quickfire, Padma wore a larger version of a shirt we owned in 1989 and explained that the chefs would need to compete against the clock, whose time would be set by a very famous chef — Tom (not exactly a nail-biter, considering we saw this in the preview two weeks ago). Tom explained that “people come to restaurants for the food, but they come back for service” [Editor’s note: For us peons, it’s mostly the food], and then proceeded to make black sea bass with clams, tomato, and zucchini in eight minutes and 37 seconds. Everyone was amazed at how organized and quick he was, with not one of them stopping to think that maybe, just maybe, Tom knew what he was going to make well beforehand.

The cooking madness was even more maddening than usual, with only Marcel having a cool enough head to take from Tom’s unused ingredients at the front of the room, rather than fight with the rest of the chefs at the fridge. While most chefs reflected on the difficulty of the challenge, Jamie remarked that speed is only important in certain contexts, like being fast when you’re dating. Go home, Jamie. Her clam amuse bouche with bacon and tomato ended up in the bottom, along with Dale’s very unfinished pad Thai with egg noodles and Angelo’s branzino crudo. Tom’s favorite dishes were Richard’s foie gras and Marcel’s black sea bass with dashi broth, but he gave the win, plus immunity and a Prius, to Mike I and his pan-roasted branzio with olive and caper stew. Marcel thought Mike in the Prius was something straight out of Jersey Shore, proving that he has not seen a single episode.

The elimination challenge asked the chefs to go to Chinatown (“essentially going to China” —Marcel) and serve continuous dim sum during the lunch rush at Grand Harmony. But first the chefs had to menu-plan back at their apartment, where Jamie announced she wanted to do a scallop dish and the producers gave us a belated Christmas present of a montage of every time Jamie made scallops in her season — including, of course, Fabio’s famous line about this not being Top Scallops. She then proceeded to whine her way out of being on the floor, leaving Casey and Carla to step up to that plate. After menu-planning, the producers showed us some footage of just how drunk (and scared of bras) the chefs get when they’re not cooking — all except Dale, who was busy looking at pictures of an incredibly cute baby with very giant cheeks.

At the Asian supermarket, Tiffany felt confident in her knowledge of Chinese cooking, having spent a month in China, while Fabio was sad to see turtles being chopped up into soup, as he keeps a pet turtle on a leash at home. Back at the kitchen, however … well, chaos doesn’t even begin to describe what went on. Suffice it to say, continuous dim sum service did not happen, despite having Mike as an expediter. Most tables ended up with none or very little food, while the chefs spent their time intricately plating their dishes. Had not one of them eaten dim sum before? Elaborate presentation is most definitely not part of the experience.

Not everyone totally screwed up, of course. The judges loved Fabio’s “first Top Chef miracle” soy-honey-glazed pork rib, Tiffany’s authentic steamed pork bun, and Angelo’s shrimp and pork spring roll that was so good it didn’t need dipping sauce. But they gave the win to Dale and his sticky rice in a banana leaf (our dim sum regular mom’s favorite dish). The bottom group was crowded this time around, consisting of Casey, Antonia, Jamie, Carla, and Tre. Tre’s dessert just didn’t work in the hot kitchen, Carla’s Vietnamese summer rolls were pretty but bland, and Antonia’s shrimp toast was great but her longbeans with Jamie were not. It basically became a showdown between Jamie’s beans and scallop dumplings and Casey’s almost-inedible chicken feet … and the judges sent Casey packing, surprising gasp-out-loud Jamie most of all, who, like everyone else, knew she should have been the one leaving. Here’s hoping for next episode.

Next week: Field trip to Long Island! Fishing! Like idiots (seriously, who does that with a fishing pole?)! Yelling on a rooftop! Dale is going to beat some ass! And also we are now probably going to go eat dim sum this weekend.

Dim Sum Lose Some