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Everything posted by oakapple

  1. It isn't just Gail. Everyone who has ever spoken or written about it says that the judging sometimes goes on for hours. If they issued an extended version, it would only make sense for the latter part of the season. And no, I wouldn't sign up for 6 hours of it, but maybe for a well-edited 30 to 60 minutes. Combine that with other stuff that we don't normally see, and you've got a DVD-length show. What you call fluff is appealing to many viewers. The producers spend a lot of time with focus groups, and the like, figuring out what makes people watch. You'd expect that, given the expense of putting on a show like this. Mind you, I am not disagreeing that there is plenty of fluff, by my standards. I just realize that my standards aren't the only ones they have to appeal to.
  2. According to Eater.com, even the bar has closed now.
  3. Minetta Tavern is very good for what it is, and I am a fan, but I don't think it's on quite on the level the O.P. was asking for. Then add the high level of uncertainty about when they would be seated, and I would scratch it off the list for a 3-day stay.
  4. Apiary, Blue Water Grill and Turquoise, whatever their merits, are not in the same class as the others. Cru has recently hired a new chef, and there are no reviews yet, so you would be entering uncharted territory there. Any of the remaining ones could be good choices, and it just depends on what you are looking for. It really depends on how you feel about eating that late. Personally, I would not. Your idea (mentioned in a later post) of trying Eleven Madison Park for lunch might be better, and it's also a lot less money that way. Daniel does not serve lunch, and I am not sure about the other two. I should point out that I had a 10:15 p.m. reservation at Daniel recently, and we weren't seated until almost 11:00. I have to disagree with the earlier poster. As I understood the original premise, you tried to book Per Se and Babbo, and as those are full, you were looking for comparable substitutes. Even at its best, Spice Market was never in the class of those two places, and by most accounts it has gone way down in the ~6 years since it opened. The Times recently demoted it from three stars to just one.
  5. They claim they don't; but over and over again, whenever it was at all close, it seemed the chef with the worst cumulative performance was the one sent home. I think Robin was the only chef who persisted conspicuously longer than she deserved to be there.
  6. December is one of the toughest months of the year to book on short notice. It's the industry's busiest time, with lots of celebratory dinners. In lieu of Babbo, try any one of Michael White's restaurants (Convivio, Alto, or Marea). In lieu of Per Se, try The Modern. These are very good places where I think you have a shot at getting in on a few weeks' notice.
  7. Doesn't that explain it? In a challenge where all of the chefs made little mistakes, but no one failed completely, someone has to be lowest. If she "did not get praised as much as the other chefs," there's your answer. Obviously, in a blog, Colicchio and Simmons have the opportunity to give additional reasons that weren't accommodated in the 1½ minutes allotted to the final segment at the end of the show. But clearly, from what you saw on TV, there were ample reasons for her to be the one eliminated, in an admittedly close race.
  8. My sense is that Michael is still experimenting, and learning how far he can go without losing his audience. Obviously he is very good, but if you have to choose, I think Bryan is more consistent. This, of course, is based solely on what I can infer from the edit, and without actually tasting the food. Which is another way of saying I could be way off base.
  9. Well...not quite hallucinating, but I think you are mistaken. In every episode this year, either it was very clear who would be sent home, or it was a close call between two chefs, and one of those two was sent home. During this season, I cannot think of a single elimination that "came out of left field." The judges have said that their deliberations sometimes take hours. In a show edited down to one hour, obviously a lot gets left out. Clearly they are trying to maximize the drama; this is entertainment, after all. But most of the time, the reasons for their decision are pretty obvious. That's probably right. Both judges with blogs (Colicchio and Simmons) said that this was the best final four the show has ever had, and that no dish was actually bad. Someone had to lose. I think we already know that all three don't nail it. There hasn't been an episode yet where at least one of them didn't make at least a minor mistake. Colicchio has said that, in the event of a tie, the chef's performance over the course of the whole season is taken into account. I think that benefits Kevin, because he has won the most challenges. Also, don't discount that Colicchio is the head judge, and Kevin is very much a chef after Colicchio's heart. If Kevin is the one who screws up, and the Voltaggio brothers tie, then I think Bryan wins, because he was never in the bottom three, and his cooking is more mature.
  10. Even without reading the blog, it was apparent to me from the comments at Judges' Table that Jen was pretty likely to be going home. In an episode that lacked a massive screw-up or an obviously awful dish, the rules require that someone nevertheless must be selected as the losing chef. If that was her reason, then she's a fool. Does anyone say that Eric Ripert is playing it safe for serving an all-seafood menu at Le Bernardin? Even if you confine yourself to that, the opportunities for creativity are limitless. Totally apropos of nothing...but Gail's décolletage set a new standard. Even my girlfriend (without prompting from me) commented on it.
  11. I agree. You don't even need to taste the food, to see that the V brothers and Kevin are operating at a much higher level than the other chefs this season. I am not sure, but if seafood was available and she didn't grab it, it was a crucial error, but not the first time she's done that.
  12. Regarding the decision to send Jennifer home, Colicchio has a couple of important points on his blog. He says that this is the strongest quartet of chefs ever to make it to the final. And he also says that, for the first time, the four best chefs of the season actually made it that far. In past years, there was someone who squeaked through because a more talented chef had unaccountably screwed up in an earlier challenge. Last year, Carla was the one who clearly did not belong there. With that in mind, Colicchio notes that no one in this challenge actually cooked a bad dish. The rules required a winner and a loser, and someone had to go home for a relatively minor transgression. Jennifer went home because there were clear issues, albeit subtle, with both of her dishes. That wasn't the case with the other three. I also think it was the fairest result. Jennifer fell apart in the second half of the season. Based on her performance to date, she was clearly the weakest of the four remaining chefs. Colicchio always claims that the judging is one challenge at a time, but if it was close, she was the one who deserved to go. The finale should be interesting. Bryan is the only chef who was never in the bottom three, all season long; he has given the steadiest performance. Kevin has won the most challenges (4 quickfire, 5 elimination). Michael has been in the top three the most often, though he has won fewer of them than either Bryan or Kevin.
  13. I dined there a few times. I actually thought that it was quite good—certainly a lot better than its reputation would suggest. As I understand it, the sale is part of a general retrenchment in Ramsay's over-extended empire.
  14. I think it's normal to engage in post-mortems and "what ifs" over a restaurant that folds, particularly one you had strong feelings about—good or bad.
  15. Sneakeater is absolutely right about over-hyping the opening. Mason all-but admitted that original menu was wrong, which is why it was overhauled. I haven't, but that's irrelevant. I haven't coached football either, but when Notre Dame goes 6–6, I know that something is wrong (they just fired their coach). I do wish him better luck next time. As I've stated upthread (more than once, I believe), I liked the place. But there weren't enough of me.
  16. Sadly, Soho is pretty ludicrous, too, these days. There hasn't been an important new dining destination in that 'hood, other than Boqueria. That may very well be no more than coincidence. Tailor's bad reviews weren't because it was in Soho; they were because of Mason's mistakes. Given that the bar was consistently busy, there was clearly no inherent obstacle to attracting patronage to that area.
  17. Several folks have already debunked this so thoroughly that it hardly requires further elaboration. But one can generalize beyond Kevin this year and Carla last year. Over and over again on Top Chef, when chefs attempt a technique they haven't tried before, it usually turns out badly. This has happened countless times. It's not because they're stupid. It's because anyone improvising with an unfamiliar technique at a time of stress is likely to make mistakes. Kevin's success is one of the rare examples in the six-year history of the show when this has not backfired.
  18. I am not saying that the block never matters, only that it didn't matter for this type of place. The John Dory's problem was not the block, but the neighborhood, and neighborhoods definitely matter. The Dory's economics required a lunch trade, and that area doesn't get much traffic at lunch, because it's too far away from anything else. Any block in that area would have had the same problem. The avant-garde cuisine served at Tailor, regardless of price point and level of ambition, was never going to be "neighborhood food." It was never going to be a place where people just dropped in on a whim. That's why the block, in this case, did not matter. The people who dine at that kind of restaurant are those who've planned to go there, and once you've made a plan, a block here or there doesn't influence the decision very much. The neighborhood, of course, does matter: Tailor on the Upper East Side would have been ludicrous.
  19. Bear in mind that Tom Colicchio made his reputation by cooking simple things well. Kevin, in a sense, is a chef after his own heart. And I wouldn't exactly say that Kevin is playing it safe: he cooked sous vide for one of the challenges, despite having minimal experience with the technique. On this show, that is usually a recipe for disaster. At this point, it would surprise me if Jen wins. If it is at all close, they will consider the arc of the season, and conclude that she has barely squeaked through in too many challenges. I could easily see Kevin or either Voltaggio winning. If they're looking for someone homespun and telegenic, Kevin takes the palm. Of course, he has to deliver on the plate, but he has done that more consistently than anyone else.
  20. That is probably the one explanation we can discount: the bar was the only successful thing at Tailor, and the only part of it that is still open. When a restaurant becomes known as a dining destination, the block it is on is of relatively little importance. Not just the block, but actually the entire neighborhood where WD~50 is located, was unknown as a dining destination not that long ago. If your restaurant is important enough, people will find it. This was never the type of restaurant, regardless of its location, that was going to do much walk-in business. In its early days, the dining room at Tailor was reliably full. Restaurants survive when a sufficient quantity of the early visitors are motivated to become regulars, and to recommend it to their friends. Tailor failed because not enough people felt the urge to do so. It didn't help that practically all of the reviews were middling to negative. The original menu at Tailor was a mistake. It didn't have enough savory courses, and some of the dishes were awfully expensive in relation to the portion sizes. Mason eventually adjusted, but the reviews were in by then. I do agree with an earlier poster that the much-delayed opening and the early hype (fueled by Mason himself) were unhelpful.
  21. For some reason, the word "tourist" is practically always used as a pejorative on these threads, which is why I prefer the less-judgmental word "visitor." Some visitors are extremely keen on finding excellent, but lesser known, dining options. Several of the places mentioned on this thread are very well known. A visitor who does his homework in advance is quite likely to find out about them. Does that make them bad?
  22. Maybe, but not because of her cooking. Her main weakness on this show has been self-doubt. She let a couple of bad results spiral her downward instead of using them as a springboard to bounce back up. If she gets her head straight very quickly, the cooking ability is still there. I've been a Jennifer fan since the start of the season, I'm not giving up on her 'til Padma tells her to pack her knives. Jen is the weakest link because she has the narrowest range of skills and the bad results and the self-doubt she has experienced are a direct results of that inability to cook outside her box. The OP had it right. A lack of confidence, not a lack of skills, has been her major problem. All of these chefs have limitations. What Kevin does, as Jennifer has not, is to use the skills he has to work each challenge to his own advantage. I still predict that the producers do not want an all-male finale, and if it's at all close Jennifer will make it into the final 3. I also think it's to her benefit that the last two episodes were taped months after all of the others. She, more than any other chef, needed some time off to recharge.
  23. There have been jerks in past seasons who lasted longer than Mike did. He got sent home because he cooked the worst dish in that challenge. The judges may have felt that it was poetic justice, but the competition was decided on the plate. Bear in mind, though, that many of the scenes that make Mike look so bad are things the judges never see until long afterwards. Actually, I thought she did her usual babbling in this episode, and the turnaround (in the quickfire) was short-lived. Of course, she was going to go back to seafood; she would have had to be a complete idiot to keep cooking red meat. That is fairly typical of the show. If you or I were on the show, we would probably do the same: stick with what we know.
  24. Are you suggesting that relaxing and casual places satisfy the NYC aesthetic, but that formal places do not? And for that matter, are you suggesting that "relaxing and casual" places that take food seriously are a New York invention?
  25. Oh, I agree that there is a New York esthetic, but restaurants that emulate it are frequently derided as derivative.
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