I don't usually watch Top Chef. When I watch reality cooking shows, I tend to look for shows that deal more with the craft of cooking or the business of running a restaurant, such as Hell's Kitchen or Last Restaurant Standing. I've also watched Top Chef Masters, because everyone on there has already honed their craft. What I do not like is watching a bunch of wannabe artists who do not have all the basics down. However, this episode was titled "New York's Finest" and featured four famous New York chefs, so it drew me in. My first impression was that this being the Top Chef "All Stars", the contestants' skills are much more developed than I would expect of a normal Top Chef cast. That might be enough to sway me into watching the rest of the season.
The show featured four very different high end New York restaurants and the competing chefs were asked to draw inspirations from a meal at the specific restaurant they were assigned to. You can watch the show for how the competition went, but I want to share a few thoughts on the four restaurants that were featured.
The midtown outpost of the Momofuku Empire focuses on French-Vietnamese inspired cuisine. I have never been to the restaurant since it finally opened, but did stop by a few times when the kitchen was serving lunch in the mezzanine of the adjoining hotel. There is clearly talent in the kitchen and when my body and wallet are up to it, I'd definitely like to give their version of beef 7 ways a try.
David Burke Townhouse
I used to go to this restaurant a fair amount back when it was David Burke and Donatella. They serve solid food with a whimsical twist in a fancy setting at a very good value. David Burke was probably the first celebrity chef whose food was strictly what is known as New American or Contemporary American. I remember the first I'd heard of him was when he was on an episode of Master Class at Johnson and Wales (PBS) demonstrating his cheesecake lollipops. His food is very playful, but classically grounded. One of my favorite dishes there is the cavatelli with wild mushrooms and mushroom chips (with beef short rib for dinner, as is for lunch).
My second favorite restaurant of 2009, and yet I didn't go there even once this year. Just amazing seafood and pasta. Michael White has certainly gotten himself noticed and opened two more restaurants this year. If I find suitable work again, I will go back for the branzino.
I did have a terrific meal there back in October and I'm hoping to get around to writing about it before the end of the year. An amazing display of artistry and craft that was not only whimsical, but practical in how it elevated the tastes and textures.