The Canlis of yesteryear was the star of Wednesday night’s ‘Top Chef Seattle,’ with contestants recreating the restaurant’s opening menu from 1950. (As I remember, for once the judges didn’t use the word “iconic” to describe a location — but they could have here!) Portland chef Naomi Pomeroy came along as guest judge for the quickfire challenge — it involved butchering sides of beef (get it?), and John won. Pomeroy stayed on for the evening at Canlis. Among the highlights and lowlights:
Best line: When brothers Mark and Brian Canlis entered the room. Brian quipped that he was “the better-looking brother.”
Biggest lesson: Do not underestimate the Canlis salad (another missed chance to use the word “iconic.”) The extra-suspenseful music should have been cued when Chrissy opined “I can’t get sent home for something as stupid as a salad.”
The menu: It also included French onion soup, marinated herring, steamed clams Bordelaise, squab in a wine reduction, Seafood Louie, mahi mahi, New York steak, baked potatoes, mixed vegetables, vanilla ice cream, and a frozen Hawaiian pineapple parfait. (If they’d been recreating the modern menu, they would have had assignments like a smoked torchon of foie gras served with beets, chamomile and chocolate.)
The time warp: CJ cooked his lamb kebab sous vide. He got points off for its mealy texture, and more points off for his modernist judgment. “Why did you think about sous videing something? We’re talking about the ’50s,” judge Tom Colicchio told him.
The Canlis way: Came out when Brian Canlis critiqued Josh’s onion soup. Other judges called it salty and cold. Brian pointed out it was also “not guest friendly.” It required a spoon, knife, and fork to eat, with its thick bread and cheese on top. “It’s too much work.”
Brewing battle: Between Josh and “most hated chef” John, whose personalities clash. (“He’s just full of $#@ is what I think,” said Josh, apparently less easygoing than he first appeared. He later blames John for letting his soup get cold.)
Eeeeew: Flirtations and foot rubs between Kristen and Stefan.
Winner: Kristen, for her boring-sounding but perfectly prepared side dishes of mushrooms and french-fried onions. She got $10,000.
Packing her knives: Chrissy, whose Canlis salad was soggy and overdressed. (Brian: “It fell flat as a Canlis salad. It fell flat as any salad.” Mark: “In Chrissy’s defense, I felt like she had the hardest task.”)
Also packing her knives: Two contestants left this week, and the second was — there goes half the fun! — Carla, who hadn’t tasted her squabs enough to know they were going out overcooked. Except for the ones that were undercooked. “It was a game…I’m no good at games,” she said through tears.
Shot at redemption: The eliminated contestants will compete on a “Last Chance Kitchen” show for a chance to get back on Top Chef. Who are you rooting for to win?
Photo (it’s just a coincidence that they gave Brian Canlis the close-up, really) courtesy of David Moir/Bravo TV