“Top Chef” Recap: Episode 4.11 “Restaurant Wars”

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Did you make reservations? — At the grocery store, the teams purchase everything they will need to start their restaurants from scratch. Team LSD is having a hard time finding all their components for their Asian fusion menu. Whole Foods doesn’t carry sticky rice, really? Dale grabs a mix used for rice puddings instead. Um, well, I guess it’s sticky.

Next the chefs cruise over to Pier 1 Imports to spend their $5,000. God, just imagine how much stuff they could have bought with $5,000 at IKEA. They could have furnished a dozen restaurants with that budget. Of course, they would also have to spend the entire challenge assembling their purchases with that tiny Allen wrench and those insane, wordless instructions.

So, maybe Pier 1 isn’t such a bad idea after all.

Spike assumes Team LSD’s front of the house responsibilities as well as interior design duties. I’ve got to question the wisdom of leaving a man who wears so much truly terrible headgear in charge of anything aesthetic.

But true to their restaurant’s name, they buy a boatload of Buddhas.

War, huh, yeah! What is it good for? — As they return to the warehouse kitchen, the teams divide and conquer tasks. Their menus and styles could not be more different. Each team serves three courses with two options per course.

Team ARS:

First course — beet and goat cheese salad, linguine and clams

Second course — trout with cauliflower, lamb leg and loin

Third course — gorgonzola cheesecake, banana “scallops”

Team LSD:

First course — shrimp laksa (soup), pork and pickled plum pot-stickers

Second course — butterscotch miso scallops, braised short ribs

Third course — halo-halo (flavored ice), mango sticky rice

Hmm, both teams have decided to recycle dessert dishes they had success with in past challenges: Richard’s “scallops” and Dale’s halo-halo. Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke, eh?

Spike, ever the strategist, has decided to make one dish. I detect a trend. Remember when he decide to claim one dish as his own during Wedding Wars and it saved his ass(hat)? This time he picks the braised short ribs.

Hey, you look familiar — The chefs get busy cooking. Antonia is worried about their made-from-scratch pasta, which isn’t coming together as planned. They didn’t buy any backup pre-made pasta, so she is having “a little bit of a heart palpitation about it.”

Before she can go into full-blown cardiac arrest, in walks a guy I know has No Reservations. Kitchen bad boy Anthony Bourdain is back and wearing the blue chef jacket normally reserved for Tom. In Tom’s absence, he will serve as the head judge.

Team LSD starts to worry about cooking Asian food for a man who has globe-trotted as extensively as Bourdain.

Spike: If there is any chef out there that has traveled all of Asia, it’s him. I think Dale is pissing his pants a little bit on this one.

But before Dale can break out the Depends, Bourdain goes to talk with each team. He seems impressed by Team ARS’ division of labor and decision to not use the smoke gun. Over at Team LSD, he tells Lisa he really loves laksa and takes it very seriously. Now it’s Lisa’s turn for some adult diapers.

Bourdain breaks down each team afterward. He says Team ARS is “deliberately creating modest expectations” but no one is “taking any big chances.” Whereas at Team LSD, things could go “really, really well here or really badly,” and that “Asia is big, how good can you be at all of those things?”

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