Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Live Blogging - Top Chef Season 5: Episode 9

Tom comes down harshly on both Carla and Radhika, but my prayers are answered, and Carla survives another week. As she would say, thank the Lord! I liked her, but she was always kind of a lightweight, and we're getting closer and closer to the end, so the judges want to get down to only potential winners. Next week, all-stars from past seasons return to help in the kitchen, and it looks like Jamie heads for a breakdown. Should be another fiery one!

After the tumultuous kitchen service, the chefs all bond in the waiting area over the various deficiencies of the kitchens. Somehow the Sunset Lounge takes the win, really only because of Fabio's service and Stefan's desserts. The judges still manage to take a swipe at Leah's cod, declaring it the worst dish of the night. Stephen Starr gives his seal of approval to Radhika's restaurant, though. Carla's good attitude stays with her in the face of a beat down from Tom. She seems to be on the chopping block, but Radhika's abysmal service may be Carla's saving grace, at least that's what I'm hoping for. On another note, Toby Young gets more grating every week. Please come back from your honeymoon Gail; we need you!

Ok, I just saw that Leah's restaurant is called Sunset Lounge. That sounds more like a Phoenix strip joint than an upscale New York restaurant, but the space is actually well decorated. The judges try Radhika's restaurant, whose Sandscrit name I won't even try to spell out, first, and while they seem to enjoy the soup, lamb shank, and flat bread, they equate the cous cous to "dish water" and give tepid feedback on the snapper. Carla's "hot mess, train wreck" desserts fail miserably, but at least there's a sizeable crowd present. Let's just say that Radhika's hostess duties are almost as pathetic, as she spends more time moping in the kitchen than greeting people. Luckily, Fabio more than makes up for her lackluster performance, employing his Italian charm to full effect. The amuse-buche falls flat, and the next two dishes (a sashimi and a coconut soup) only improve marginally. Hosea's short ribs are the easy highlight, especially when paired with Leah's undercooked cod. The bigger problem may be her horrible attitude, which sucks all the life out of her teammates in the kitchen. Stefan's inventive desserts take top honors, which ensures his safety for another week. While it's definitely a tossup for the win, I think that Radhika's team may squeak out the victory thanks to a more consistent menu.

Now Leah and Hosea still have to work together in the aftermath of their regrettable hook-up. Hosea seems much more shaken up than Leah, but honestly, neither one seems too repentant. Radhika's team's Where's Waldo search for lamb shanks ends with Jeff finally making himself useful and uncovering a box seemingly out of thin air. In their six hour time limit, the teams have to decorate the virtually bare spaces and prep their menus. Leah and Hosea need to stop complaining about the cheating. I know working on the line with each other is awkward, but restaurant wars is far more intriguing than their junior high love affair. Carla says that she's scared, because both of her desserts have run into road bumps, and I'm afraid too, because she needs to stay and keep me amused. Get that baklava together! The servers walk in, and they look like an army of black-suited zombies, so I'm sure that will help the ambience. Of course, Fabio's running the front, and although that should give his team some confidence, I'm not sure that they could serve "monkey-ass in clam shells," although I'm sure the judges would praise that dish's originality.

Before we get back to the show, I'm excited to let you know that the February 25th season finale will be coming to us from New Orleans with guest judge Emeril Lagasse. BAM! We get a little game of school yard pick-em to decide teams, and Leah chooses Hosea first and Stefan last, although I'm sure his ego is just fine. The teams head to Pier 1 for an with a $5,000 budget, so they'll be able to buy a whole lot of candles, which I'm pretty sure all that that store is good for. Both teams have a few issues ironing out the kinks, as the chefs struggle for leadership, or in Radhika's case, non-leadership positions. Uh-oh, say goodbye to the girlfriend back home Hosea, because that's definitely some making out I see going on.

The episode starts with Hosea talking about missing his girlfriend, which given the previews of his flirtations with Leah, might be ominous foreshadowing. Here comes the quickfire, and Philadelphia's own Stephen Starr is the guest judge! The chefs must prepare a tasting for Mr. Starr, who will choose the winners. Instead of immunity, the top two will be the leaders of the teams for this week's restaurant wars. They try to feign excitement, but we all know that they'd rather have immunity at this point. Leah's description of her tempura-ed something is definitely a mouthful, but Starr seems to enjoy it. For some reason three quarters of the judges went in a seafood direction, but amazingly Jamie refrains from feeding her scallop obsession and opts instead for some Chilean Sea Bass. Radhika's Indian-Middle Eastern (surprise of the century) and Leah's Asian concepts win through, but it will be way more interesting to see if the other chefs play along.

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