YES! Last night's episode made me feel like America's Next Great Restaurant is FINALLY getting good. Or maybe it's that the restaurant concepts themselves are getting better, more solid. Either way, there's palatable (literally) drama. Nothing feels forced. It's just about the competitors going head to head -- or, err, mouth to mouth?
The challenge this week was for the would-be restaurateurs to outfit their "Restaurant Row" pods with tables, a real live menu, and other decor to give their area the look/feel of their restaurant ... before presenting several new menu items to 300 foodies. They literally had eight hours to pull this all together, and the result was pretty stunning. Finally, everyone's theme became 3-D.
Most impressively, I'd say, was Stephenie's altered concept, which had previously been the calorie-conscious restaurant, Compleat. This week, she unveiled a flavor and theme makeover ...
She's now Harvest Sol, which is seasonally-inspired Mediterranean. YES! She actually threw away the calorie-counting book! Woohoo! That's the way to be, girl. Calorie counts aren't sexy. But healthy food done right with lots of flavor = major turn-on. Clearly, I'm feelin' it now! Sunshine-driven Greek dishes? Yes, please! I've been waiting for that fast casual restaurant my whole life. And America could certainly use it.
We also got into some Real World/Project Runway catty stuff among competitors, which, interestingly, seemed to be addressed by the investors in the challenge. For instance, everyone seemed a bit annoyed by Eric (Meltworks grilled cheese), because he's had his vision for over three years. Ironically, it turned out that Bobby wasn't all that impressed. He said what Eric seems to be doing is paninis, not grilled cheese. He also ignored Bobby's advice from last week to create signature sauces.
Also, the whole group seemed to have turned against Joe (Saucy Balls), who is just getting more and more irritating every week with his "I wanna be Al Pacino," cocky, stereotypical Italian Brookylnite shtick. He's also constantly preaching about his grandma's "Sunday sauce" (which the other competitors' says tastes like Prego, ouch!). Too bad the investors weren't feelin' the Balls as much this week. At the taste testing, Lorena even said his menu, look/feel, and overall vibe was TACKY. Yes! Finally they're getting their heads on straight. (His is my least favorite concept, because ew ... are people really going to get fast casual MEATBALLS? Uh, no.)
Then there was big mouth jerkface Alex (Revolution Tacos). I LOVE LOVE LOVE the idea and am not really sure why the investors were "confused by it" ... (it's fusion tacos??). But he failed to deliver AMAZING food two times in a row, and everyone felt like his concept just isn't tailored to a national chain.
Sudhir (Spice Coast) ended up impressing both the foodies and the investors with his food at the tasting. But Steve asked him to consider serving his Indian food like a taco (What?? No!), while Curtis argued with Sudhir that he needed to keep it the way he envisioned it. Poor Sudhir -- caught between the two investors! He said he was at a loss for what to do, but it seemed like the way he delivered at the tasting was the way to go -- he ended up winning the most votes from the foodies.
At the end, Eric, Joe, and Alex ended up on the chopping block, given their wealth of individual challenges. I figured at least two of 'em could go home (Alex and Joe), but that's not how the show's playing out. But I can't say I was surprised when Alex was the one who Bobby offered his apologies of not being able to invest in his restaurant, Revolution Tacos.
I also can't say I was sorry to see him go. As he left he said, "I expected to win ... I can't blame anyone but myself." Finally, something genuine out of his jerkface mouth. Haha. Good riddance! Bobby said it again and again -- he was in the wrong competition. He's much better suited to win a show called L.A.'s Next Too Cool for You Great Bar.
Were you sorry to see Alex go?
Image via NBC