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Offline apskip

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Ramsay's Best Restaurant
« on: December 08, 2010, 08:30:07 AM »
Gordon Ramsay has a new show in the U.S. on the BBC America channel called Ramsay's Best Restaurants and it should have the suffix (of Britain) since the restaurants are all located in Britain. The first episode was shown last night and will be repeated Sunday at 10am (your only chance to catch it since there are no videos available yet as for other BBCA shows). It was on Italian cuisine and my VCR tape ran out midway through so you will have to wait until Monday for a  complete review. What I can tell you from my personal research is this:

1. each episode focuses on a specific cuisine and was selected by Ramsay from BBC viewer nominations of 12,000 restaurants all over Britain
2. two restaurants were selected for each episode
3. the first 8 episodes feature these cuisines: Italian, Indian, Chinese, British, Thai, French, North African, Spanish
4. ep. 2 is Tuesday 12/14 9pm, repeated 12a, 2a and Sunday 12/19 9am
5. ep. 3 is Tuesday 12/21 9pm repeated 12a, 2a
6. ep. 4 is Tuesday 12/28 pm and repeated 12a, 2a and maybe Sunday 1/2 9am?

The basic format of each episode is that Ramsay has 3 challenges for each restaurants. The first is to, during an otherwise empty period for that restaurant, handle a busload of 30 diners who arrive and order at the same time. The restaurant has 2 hours to serve them all and Ramsay is there watching like a hawk. The 2nd and 3rd challenges are:

An undercover diner (either Simon Davis or Sarah Durdin-Robertson) is sent to each restaurant, to reviews the food and service. The undercover diner is intentionally difficult, to evaluate how the service staff and the kitchen respond to customers with out-of-the-ordinary demands and problems.
The chefs from each restaurant prepare a dish using a protein of Ramsay's choosing, and serve it to twenty guests, including their front of house staff and VIP guests, at the Restaurant Gordon Ramsay at Royal Hospital Road in Chelsea, London. Ramsay then samples the dish from the final challenge, and decides on the episode's winner.

In the semi-finals, Ramsay, Angela Hartnett, and Simon Davis stop by unexpectedly at each restaurant to enjoy a meal (in some cases, with a 90 minute time limit), evaluating each restaurant on service and food quality. He recruited a second party of people to dine at the restaurant at the same time, to see if the service and food provided is the same for all customers. Each restaurant was then given restaurant space in North London, £2000, and a guided tour of Ramsay's favorite markets for fresh ingredients. They are tasked with decorating and operating a temporary "pop-up" restaurant for an evening, where guests pay what they feel the meal was worth. Ramsay eliminates two of the four semi-finalists on the experience and food of the pop-up restaurants.

In the finals, the two remaining restaurants will be cooking in Petrus, Ramsay's central London restaurant, for a variety of guests that include chefs and staff from previously-eliminated restaurants. They created a full three-course meal that demonstrates their passion for cooking while Angela Hartnett, Simon Davis, and Sarah Durdin-Robertson supervise them from the chef's table in the kitchen. Through sampling of the dishes from each course and consultation with his guests and the chef's table, Ramsay selects the winning restaurant.

From the little I have seen of the the first episode, I am very impressed with this series and can recommend it to all foodies. Ramsay is an acquired taste and this time he can do his thing with a positive twist (unlike Kitchen Nightmares).
« Last Edit: December 10, 2010, 12:52:09 PM by apskip »


Offline georgiapeach

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Re: Ramsay's Best Restaruant
« Reply #1 on: December 08, 2010, 09:48:06 PM »
I could enjoy being an undercover diner! :lol: Sounds interesting!
« Last Edit: December 10, 2010, 04:33:22 PM by TexasLady »
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Offline apskip

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Re: Ramsay's Best Restaurant
« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2010, 08:58:28 AM »
Peach,

I would too. Undercover is the way many restaurant reviewers operate, as they want to evaluate the service the average diner gets, not special service because they are known to be a restaurant critic. Ruth Reichl when she was the primary restaurant reviewer for the New York Times used to dine in disguise and under a false name to avoid recognition.
« Last Edit: December 10, 2010, 12:52:48 PM by apskip »

Offline TexasLady

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Re: Ramsay's Best Restaruant
« Reply #3 on: December 10, 2010, 09:40:39 AM »
I'll set my DVR to catch this. I like Ramsay, his shows are always interesting to me.  :tup:

Can I join the two of you to round out the dinner table?
« Last Edit: December 10, 2010, 02:02:38 PM by TexasLady »
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Offline apskip

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Re: Ramsay's Best Restaurant
« Reply #4 on: December 10, 2010, 09:44:57 AM »
TexasLady, you certainly may, as I know I would enjoy dinner with such classy individuals as Georgia Peach and you. However, England is a long way to go for dinner. I suggest we wait until Ramsay does a U.S. version of this, which I think has a probability of about 98%
« Last Edit: December 10, 2010, 12:53:22 PM by apskip »


Offline TexasLady

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Re: Ramsay's Best Restaurant
« Reply #5 on: December 10, 2010, 04:33:03 PM »
Heh! Good point apskip! Now would not be the best time to go to England since they are having a really cold winter. I'll wait till he brings the show to the states.  :cmaslol
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Offline apskip

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Re: Ramsay's Best Restaurant
« Reply #6 on: December 13, 2010, 03:45:46 PM »
Ramsay's Best Restaurant, round 1. Menulla vs. Casa Mia

This is a face-off of the best Italian cuisine in Britain. Menulla is a London restaurant run by Chef Santino Busciglio to feature Sicilian recipes. he has a sous chef Marco and a Maitre D' Rocco. Ramsay's first test of 30 simultaneous diners is passed barely. The maitre d'  won no acclaim from Ramsay and is regarded as the weak link in the restaurant's management.

Casa Mia is a family establishment in Bristol with the parents of Jonray and Peter Sanchez-Iglesias owning it and managing the Front of the House. The brothers are two of the youngest chefs to be bestowed with a Michelin Star, so you would expect them to do well. Their test drive by the 30 simultaneous guests went well. They featured very modern cuisine containing dishes created using liquid nitrogen. The management and kitchen both received high marks from Ramsay.

Ramsay sent his chef Sarah Durdin-Robertson undercover into Menulla and Simon David into Casamia. They were directed to be a bit obnoxious and make critical comments about the food. the elder Sanchez-Iglesia had trouble with that, as he is not used to his sons food  being criticized. However, he agreed with Ramsay that good hosting requires listening carefully to customer feedback and I am sure that no feedback was invented. Criticism of Mennula again focused on the Maitre D'.

The third round was a cook-off at Petrus in London using veal as the basis for a single plate of food that both restaurants would prepare for 20 elite diners knowledgeable in Italian cuisine, including the Front-of-the-House for both restaurants. Santino went with classic Sicilian cuisine of veal with Marsala wine sauce, summer truffles, potato cakes, cream of celeriac and girolle mushrooms. Rather than cutting edge Itlaian food,  The Sanchez-Igelsias Brothers went with classic cuisine, sliced sous vide veal caponata with sous vide sweetbreads over a green sauce. Ramsay warned them that sweetbreads are notoriously difficult to get exactly right, but they accepted that challenge. Ramsay stated that every plate must be perfect  to gain his approval. They slipped up only by slicing the veal with 5 minutes to serving, instead of 30 seconds before. Ramsay explained that allowing the juices to leech out is criminal.  With its maitre d' dining and not running the front-of-the-house, Santino and Marco did fine.  Ramsay said that both restaurants did better in his kitchen than in their own. So did Jonray and Peter.

Ramsay had to make a tough decision, but went with Casamia. I believe it was the deficiencies in Menulla's service that caused that result because there did not appear to be any difference in the food and Santino was a magician in his kitchen
« Last Edit: December 21, 2010, 10:49:12 PM by apskip »

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Re: Ramsay's Best Restaurant
« Reply #7 on: December 20, 2010, 07:55:59 AM »
The second episode focused on Indian cuisine, Prashad from Bradford vs. Brilliance from Southall, London. both are family ventures. Prashad is owned by a woman named Kaushy who serves as sous chef, with her son Bobby as Front-of-House Manager and her daughter-in-law Manil as the head chef. It is a tiny restaurant, with seating for just 22 people. Brilliance is a 250 seat restaurant owned by the brothers Gulu and Kewal Anand family with daughter Dipna and son Shankar all working front-of-the-house while the head chef is Jasvinderjit Singh .  It is particularly known for Punjabi food with a Kenyan slant and its "Brilliant" Pickles and Chutneys.

The first test by Ramsay sent the 30 diners simultaneously into each restaurant at an off-time when no other customers were there. Prashad had to import tables to seat 8 more. We learn that Bobby is the glue that holds it all together by supporting his wife when he is in the kitchen and by developing formidable customer relationships with his geniality and helpfulness. The cuisine is Gujarati vegetarian. Manil specializes in creating gorgeous-looking dishes that have cutting-edge tastes.

Prashad's menu for the competition days featured stuffed dosas (fermented rice and lentil pancakes) and deep-fried spiced coconut. Briliantís menu featured lamb chops with cardamom and nutmeg and tandoori prawns with lime and fresh herbs. Ramsay's 30 diners found the dishes in both excellent, but I think Prashad had the edge due to Bobby's excellence an ability to listen to customers.

The second test was an undercover visit. Simon Davis went to Prashad  and tried to act difficult with last-minute requests for changes. Prashad passed all his tests and produced brilliant food. Angela Hartnett went to Brilliant and did the same. Brilliant also did very well on food, but I though Prashad had the edge on service.

The final test was for the kitchen staff to cook for 20 selected diners knowledgeable in Indian food, including the FOH staff of each restaruant. Menil was concerned that her support system was eating her food rather than there to support her, but she survived. Both Prashad and Brilliant were rated exceptional in their food quality.

Ramsay had to make a decision. He selected Prashad based I believe on its higher service quality. Prashad now awaits the end of round 1for its neext challenge in this competition.

« Last Edit: December 20, 2010, 11:21:56 AM by apskip »

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Re: Ramsay's Best Restaurant
« Reply #8 on: December 21, 2010, 10:48:06 PM »
For the third episode it's Chinese cuisine, Kai in Mayfair vs. Yu & You in Blackburn. The owner of Kai hired as chef the brilliant Alex, assisted by his sous chef Wing and a horde of other cooks. Alex shouts at everyone in the kitchen to "coordinate," but Ramsay questioned whether that is necessary. Yu & You is family-run Cantonese cuisine with the front-of-house being handled by the daughter (who in a pinch moves to the kitchen), the son Victor and father Charlie  from Hong Kong serving as chef and sous chef when the father is not insisting on playing head chef. Ramsay tells them to cut that out, as he expects the chef to be THE CHEF.

The first test is 30 simultaneous diners.  Kai appetizer choices are liquid lamb shanks (not appreciated by several diners who return it), scallops and prawns. The main dishes are lamb and lobster. The kitchen staff is tightly run by Alex, but there are coordination problems with the Front of the House.
Yu & You appetizer choices went by too quickly for me to catch. Their main courses were scallops (rated bland) and Dover sole (3 portions of this returned due to blandness). Ramsay cautioned them to pay attention to seasoning. The wait staff is "young and pretty" but there is little experience there and it showed. I give the edge on this part of the competition to Kai.

The undercover visit had Sarah Durdin-Robertson going to Kai and Simon Davis to Yu & You. Both acted bitchy with last-minute changes in their order requested. The original order came out anyway at Kai, which indicated coordination problems being the FOH and the kitchen. She did not like the liquid lamb shanks served in a hot martini glass (like soup). Yu & You started slow but finished very strong with Davis really liking the Chinese dessert. I give the edge on this part to Yu & You.

The third test is the cook-off at Petrus with 20 experienced Chinese cuisine diners, including the FOH staff for each restaurant, using expensive Waygu beef as the main protein. Kai did that beef with ginger and spring onion pesto, tomato sauce, and spiced pumpkin over spiced rice. Yu & You did braised Kobe beef, garlic and ginger over rice. Yu & You had a problem with one portion of an order ready before the other 3 portions, but with Ramsay's help they solved it but it took 4 minutes. Alex had trouble coping without his large staff. Ramsay recommended that he hire fewer of more experienced and expensive staff.  The diners gave rave reviews to the food of both chefs.

Ramsay as always in this type of competition had a tough decision to make. He chose Yu & You, the third consecutive win of a non-London area restaurant over a London are restaurant.

Offline apskip

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Re: Ramsay's Best Restaurant
« Reply #9 on: January 05, 2011, 09:58:53 AM »
I finally got access to the preliminary round British restaurant competition that I had missed, so I have appended it in its proper place between the 3rd and 5th competitions. Milestone is in Sheffield, owners are Mark and Matt, chef is Simon and sous chef is James. West House is in Bettenden, Kent and has 1 Michelin star with owner Graham Garrett and sous chef Ben in the kitchen and his wife Jackie as front of House along with their son James and daughter.

Milestone is known for its black pudding, salmon with pea puree and gnocchi dishes. These were available to the 30 diners sent in on a bus by Ramsay, but the wait staff failed to mention that they would receive an amuse bouche which also contained black pudding; for some, that would have resulted in changing their order.The kitchen procedures had all of a given type of dish cooked at the same time without regard to the status of other dishes for that table. That resulted in dishes cooling down and drying out on the hot plate while waiting to be served. The kitchen was one portion short of rabbit loin, so a final table's order caused the a substitution to rabbit leg, which was not cooked properly and resulted in a diner complaint. Ramsay's summary was that despite the excellent food, the banquet style serving procedure was not appropriate for fine dining.

West House's problems started with the first order. Jesse's handwriting was indecipherable, which left the kitchen at a loss on what was really ordered. Jackie was clearly not in control of the Front of the House. She failed to take orders from one table until more than 1 hour (out of 2 to have the meal completed) had passed. Their featured dishes are Scotch egg with black pudding and haddock carpaccio. The food was judged by the diners to be excellent.

Ramsay sent secret diner Simon Davis into Milestone. He got under-seasoned corned beef, but the FOH team decided to not charge him for it, which both Simon and Ramsay though was a classy move. He also got a bowl of chips (French fries in U.S. English) that were burned and asked to speak to the chef; head chef Simon did come out to discuss this with him. This personal service won high marks for Milestone to go along with its excellent food.

Ramsay sent secret diner Sarah Durdin-Robertson into West House. The FOH got mixed up her order. No doneness level was requested for some meat, so how would the chef know how far to cook it? The food was excellent.

It appears to me, as is frequently the case, that there is a large lead for one of the pair of each preliminary round restaurants over the other going into the final cookoff. In this case, the service deficiencies of West House were likely to cause them to lose. The reason is that both restaurants in almost every round do well when the service is provided by Ramsay's experienced staff and the menu is limited to one meal.

The cookoff pits these meals against each other with venison as the classic British ingredient:
Milestone - venison loin, braised venison, nettles wellington, beetroot fondant, watercress puree, game gravy
West House - roast venison loin and liver, potatoes, pickled cherry, lettuce
For one diner, that lettuce was inadvertently left off the plate so another whole meal was prepared as a replacement. For both restaurants the food was quite complex but they both excelled at the flavor and the diners were split on who had the better food. Ramsay could not decide either, so he made the decision on who won Best British Restaurant based on the earlier results. The nod went to The Milestone.

NOTE - the review above was added on Feb. 13 to the original one below so that the missing Best British Restaurant competition appears there.

The 5th competition is for best Thai restaurant between Mango Tree in Belgravia and Namh-Jim in St. Andrew's Scotland. The key individuals are Nopf in Front of House, Mark as Executive Chef (neither of which is shown in a current list of Profiles for that restaurant) and Ood as head chef for Mango Tree and the husband and wife duo of Sandy (FOH) and Bee for Namh-Jim.

Ramsay's busload of 30 diners arrived at Namh-Jim and Sandy had to explain the menu to them before they ordered. It included a unique version of Thai haggis. One of the principal dishes was Tamarind duck with bok choy. On appetizers, Sandy missed one table entirely but corrected that. At one point, Ramsay stated that "there are more waiters in here (the kitchen) than there are chefs." The staging of appetizers, entrees and desserts was not always time-separated, as some diners got two courses in the same time frame. However, this allowed all meals to be served in 75 minutes, a huge achievement. Ramsay's conclusion was that the kitchen staff was scoring a hole-in-one while the FOH was the weak link.

The diners also went to Mango Tree, which had physical layout deficiencies with the kitchen 2 levels below the dining room. Dumbwaiters and headsets and even telephones are used for communications between the wait staff and  the kitchen. Prominent dishes were:
Shrimp Tom Kha
Chicken Satay
Tiger Prawn Pad Thai

A small group of customers noted that there were no vegetarian options. Nopf responded that all dishes could be done vegetarian. One diner's chicken was sent back undercooked and the replacement chicken was also sent back undercooked, both verified by Ramsay. Raw materials for the final meal cooking and assembly were in half-cooked form. An interface guy named MIkey associates the food coming up with the correct table it is to be served to. Ramsay stated that the diners, even the guy who got the two undercooked chickens, were happy campers but Mark was not. He was embarrassed about his own quality control.

At Namh-Jim Ramsay sent Simon Davis in as the secret diner and he loved the Thai haggis. However, his attempts to try out Thai white wine and order it by the glass were rebuffed multiple times. The waiter was apparently making up his own rules about this. Sandy was visibly embarrassed as it was pretty outrageous, including a threat to notify the police. Ramsay called it an aggressive service error.

At Mango Tree, Sarah Durdin-Robertson got a dirty menu. She asked for the food to be less spicy and was offered an immediate and innovative solution. The noise level was high and someone resetting tables appeared to be encouraging diners to leave and allow their tables to be turned. The food was delicious.

Going in to the final cook-off at Petrus I feel that Namh-Jim had a distinct edge. both restaurants had to create a dish using chicken. Mango Tree did chicken with a very special broth. Namh-Jim did chicken with mushrooms and  a ring of basil puree around it. The Namh-Jim meal looked mediocre but tasted great. The Mango Tree meal looked and tasted outstanding, but one diner got his chicken undercooked. That was it for Mark, who had suffered that problem in the initial part of this competition and knew that a recurrence of that problem would be fatal to his ambitions to be named Best Thai Restaurant in Britain by Ramsay. That honor went to Namh-Jim.
« Last Edit: February 13, 2011, 04:03:09 PM by apskip »


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Re: Ramsay's Best Restaurant
« Reply #10 on: January 16, 2011, 04:04:16 PM »
It's the competition for the best French restaurant in Britain between Winteringham Fields in Lincolnshire vs. La Garrigue Bistro in Edinburgh. Winteringham Fields has head chef Colin and sous chef Lavette in the kitchen and Colin's wife as Front of the House. La Garrigue has Jean MIchel as chef/owner in the kitchen, Ganny as sous chef and Julie as Front of House.

Winterinigham Fields got the 30 simultaneous diners pressure test first. It served 2 amuses bouches to the diners while no orders are taken in the first 30 minutes, which put tremendous strain on the kitchen once those orders arrived. The appetizers were Cornish Brie with mustard, ham hocks terrine and John D'Ory with ham and olives. Ramsay noted that the kitchen was being overshadowed by the service, as there were far too many waiters around (total 1 wait staff for every 2 diners) and the results were chaotic. Entrees were lamb with polenta, chicken cannelloni with foie gras and lobster risotto with lobster bisque. It took the full 2 hours before all diners were fed, but the diners were highly impressed by the quality of their dishes.

La Garrigue specializes in rustic French cuisine. The appetizers are twice baked Rocquefort souffle, pan-fried scallops and rabbit briere. Entrees include saddle of rabbit, black pudding and apples. Ramsay noted that Jean Michel is not communicating with his kitchen staff when he is focused on finalizing dishes; Ganny is handling that role. Ramsay also believes that he does not really have control of his kitchen through leadership (that is always a Ramsay concern in the last 2 episodes of any Hell's Kitchen season). Food sits on a hot plate for 2.5 to 3 minutes, which is something Ramsay abhors. Dessert is a special brioche Pomplidou with apricots. Ramsay observed that he checked the dish going out of the kitchen but did not taste it. The apricots were off, so dessert was returned by all diners with complaints. That plus some delays in entrees caused not all diners to be served in 2 hours, a big no-no. Ramsay said that the food was very good and the service friendly, but overall the total experience was not up to his standards.

Ramsay sent secret diners Simon Davis into La Garrigue and Sarah Durdin-Robertson into Wntteringham Fields. They both came away with positive experiences that did not show major differences between the two restaurants, although there was some sort of air conditioning problem when she was there and a minor food issue at the end. So that left the cookoff in Petrus, with Winteringham Fields going in with a significant lead in my opinion. The common protein is fish.

Jean Michel tried something totally different, with an emphasis on haute cuisine. The meal was poached John D'Ory, langoustine cake, deep-fried oyster and lobster bisque. Colin countered with red mullet in a complex boulliabaisse sauce with Mediterranean salad. Jean Michel's hand was shaking while he plated the sauce.

The 20 select diners with major French cuisine experience found both meals to be superb. Ramsay expressed major kudos to Jean Michel for raising the level of his cuisine (something akin to going for broke to make up for the deficiencies of Ramsay observations at La Garrigue). However, Colin's dish was also delicious and Winteringham Fields was declared the winner.



Offline TexasLady

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Re: Ramsay's Best Restaurant
« Reply #11 on: January 16, 2011, 05:46:22 PM »
I hope they re-air these shows, for whatever reason they did not record for me.  :(
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Offline apskip

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Re: Ramsay's Best Restaurant
« Reply #12 on: January 20, 2011, 10:19:18 AM »
TexasLady,

I know where these videos can be found, but unfortunately they are not accessible by anyone in the United States. This is the same sort of discrimination our brethren in Asia suffer on Elimination Station and similar CBS Amazing Race-related restrictions.

Offline TexasLady

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Re: Ramsay's Best Restaurant
« Reply #13 on: January 20, 2011, 10:23:59 AM »
Darn it! Maybe they will rerun them, the BBC has a tendency to rerun programming. It doesn't seem fair does it to keep other countries from access to the shows.
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Re: Ramsay's Best Restaurant
« Reply #14 on: January 24, 2011, 07:10:48 AM »
Copmeting for best North African restaurant are MoMo in Mayfair, central London, and Azou in the Hammersmith section of West London. MoMo has 26 tables and Azou seats a total of 35 people. Head chef David of MoMo is British and his sous chef  is Philippe. Azou is owned and run by head chef Chris, a  native of Algeria, and wife Chris.He works in a tiny kitchen with a half-refrigerator and one burner on his stove. Ramsay feels that the winner will be the one best able to produce layering of complex spices and flavors.

Ramsay's bus of 30 hungry diners descended on MoMo for a limited 3 choice appetizer/3 choice entree meal. Things went very well in the kitchen, but the Front of House activity was chaotic. There is an overall FOH manager and then sub-managers under her for each different type of food, but this results in huge overlaps of responsibility with some not knowing that orders have already been taken by others.

Azou's focus in on Moroccan, Algerian and Tunisian cuisine.  Appetizer items for Azou included bourek, crisp pastry filled with marinated minced lamb, herbs & spices, and brik, a Tunisian specialty of crisp thin pastry filled with potato, egg & tuna.  Entrees were 3 tajines, mixes of chicken or lamb with spices and vegetables. The ordering system for Azou was done with written orders and without any no computer-based systems because FOH Chris wanted to stick to traditional ways.  Ramsay was negatively astonished by this. She actually made a mistake in mixing up the order for a table.  Head chef Chris was a control freak and one-man band in the kitchen. He wanted to do everything himself and leave his sous chef and underchef standing around watching. Ramsay's feedback told him he was burning out and could get away with it for that evening but not long term.       

For both restaurants, the diners were very satisfied with the  quality of their meals, citing delicious food.

Simon Davis went into MoMo undercover and he found the same thing that Ramsay did, that 2 FOH sub-managers wanted to take this order after it had already been given. He found the pigeon dish dry but Ramsay checked it out later and decided that the problem was insufficient pigeon in this dish. Sarah Durdin-Robertson went undercover at Azou and went into her "I want to change my order after it was already cooked" routine. She did not get customer-oriented handling of that from the Azou wait staff. Ramsay recommended that they fix that.

I felt it could go either way as the final cookoff at Petrus using lamb.  The usual diner group of North African cuisine experts was assembled and they raved about the food from both chefs. Ramsay could have called it in favor of either one. He chose Azou.


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Re: Ramsay's Best Restaurant
« Reply #15 on: January 31, 2011, 06:53:32 PM »
The final first-round competition is Spanish food, between Fino of central London (originator of tapas in the U.K.) and El Pirata Detapas in Notting Hill. The managers of Fino are the Hart brothers, the head chef is female Nieves and sous chef is Alicia. They serve on average about 700 tapas plates every evening and Nieves tastes and seasons each one of them. The manager of El Pirata is Roberto , his 26 year old head chef (trained under Ferran Adria) is Omar, known for his molecular techniques and avant garde cooking, and the sous chef is Adriana. One minor quarrel that Ramsay had was the service of plates as soon as ready without attempting to coordinate arrival of all dishes for a table simultaneously, which is a bit harder to accomplish.

The visit by Ramsay's 30 diners simultaneously to Fino involves a menu of special appetizers (one seafood) and choice of two entrees, roast suckling pig and turbot. Ramsay's diners rate the food and service as both excellent. Ramsay calls Nieves brilliant, a "culinary Picasso."

The same diners on another day visited El Pirata Detapas and were pig trotters Wellington, gazpacho, lentil stew and risotto with unusual coxcombs (free but seldom used by any U.K. chefs). Ramsay's diners again rated the food as brilliant. However, the wait staff missed one diner who did not receive his risotto until after all the other 3 at his table had finished. 

The secret diners did their thing. Sarah Durdin-Robertson was her usual difficult self at Fino (putting her own hair into a salad to see how the staff reacted; they got her another one rapidly even though stating that the hair color did not match any of the dark hair people in the kitchen), but the female waitress handled it with aplomb and also demonstrated great knowledge of Spanish wines. The food and service were both rated excellent.  Simon Davis went into El Pirata and ordered a bottle of wine. 7 minutes later there was no sign of it, but the camera had caught the waiter playing on a PC. he had apparently forgotten that order and had to be reminded. The food was excellent.

going into the cookoff, I see Fino with a huge Front of the House edge despite the superb cooking of Omar. I don't see how Nieves is going to give him enough room to make up the deficit. The cookoff is based on pork. Nieves creates a dish of pork cutlet with cauliflower puree and broad beans, very simple yet executed perfectly. Omar does a much more complex dish, his Wellington pig trotters combined with miscellaneous waste pork parts cooked in an unbelievable sauce. Both have again done brilliantly, but the victory was preordained for Fino based on the original service deficits at el Pirata. Omar is congratulated by Ramsay for brilliant cooking but Fino is moving on to the semi-finals.

Offline apskip

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Re: Ramsay's Best Restaurant
« Reply #16 on: February 02, 2011, 08:48:44 AM »
SEMI-FINALS part 1

I expected that the competition would have another face off between the four pairs of restaurants who won the preliminary rounds for their type of cuisine. However, Ramsay surprised me with a different format. For the semi-finals, he was using prior information plus a new round of undercover diners to eliminate 2 of 4 restaurants in the first part and then the two remaining face off in what Ramsay referred to as "sudden death." In the next episode, the same ting will happen.

This episode's restaurant are Casa Mia (Italian), Yu and You (Chinese), Namh Jim (Thai) and Fino (Italian). Based on what I remember, I would give the edge to Casa Mia and Fino and call it even between those two. Let's see how Ramsay decided. The problems he focused in on in the first round were:

Casa Mia - the brother chefs went too far ahead of customer tastes with avant garde dishes designed to please other chefs; their parents were unwilling to rein them in
Yu and You - overstaffing cause lack of continuity in who a customer sees at their table
Namh Jim - service problems caused food to wait on a hot plate and get cold
Fino - atmosphere noisy (I note that's difficult to fix without moving the restaurant) and too much salt put in by the chef Nieves

Ramsay sent in Simon Davis, Sarah Durdin-Robertson (not shown but you could hear her), rob Allison and an unidentified female as his secret diner for one of those four. They reported back and little had changed for any of the restaurants as best I understood the reports. On that basis, Ramsay picked the best two restaurants from the preliminary round, Casa Mia and Fino, for the face off.

This first involved an on-site unannounced visit by Ramsay, Angela Hartnett (a world-class chef  mentored by Ramsay) and Simon Davis. However, there was also a secret diner, Ramsay's personal assistant Jennifer with her companion, to see if the average diner was getting the same food and attention as Ramsay's entourage did.

Casa Mia went with an avant garge version of a 4 course feast:
Salmon sous vide , Cauliflower Puree and Lemon Emulsion
Risotto with Barley substituted for rice and yogurt for parmesan cheese
Lamb Sous Vide
Tiramisu

The results for the 3 celebrities were that the first and last dish were fine but the risotto was weird and the lamb came across as a boiled lamb  stew. However, the personal assistant found all her food and service exceptional. Ramsay's verdict on this experience was that the brothers were aiming their dishes toward what celebrity chefs would enjoy and not what a typical punter wanted to eat. They needed to tone down their menu. Also, the parents needed to exert some authority, demonstrating their willingness to direct their sons.

The same entourage turned up unannounced at Fino for lunch with the mandate that it be completed in one hour. The menu ordered included:
Chipriones - baby squid fried and coated with salt
Pork Belly

The problems identified by Ramsay were one of the pork bellies was cold, the chipriones were overseasoned and the service was marginal. The personal assistant thought that the welcome by the waiter should have been better, the courgettes (zucchini) were very good, but the overall service was not. Ramsay was not able to place a dessert order because the main course had not arrived until 40 minutes into the hour.

Based on that feedback, I have to say that it will be difficult for Casa Mia to lose. The final test happens when Ramsay invites the staff of both restaurants to North Islington, London where a vacant space awaits. he gives them 12 hours to create a pop-up restaurant with any menu (telling them to not be bound by what they do in their restaurant). Each team has 2000 pounds for food and decor. The FOH staff goes to buy plates, silverware, tables, chairs, tablecloths etc. while the chefs go with Ramsay to a local market. At the butcher, the brothers considered fine beef but ended up with pork belly and pork loin while Nieves chose pork bellies. At the fish monger, Nieves picks mackerel and wild sea bass while the brother pick wild sea bass. So the ingredients will be somewhat similar for each team but how will they do with them?

The 12 hour mandate (from 7am to 7pm when the restaurant opens for 3 hours only) keeps the FOH teams hopping, but they are pros and both come up with a decent setting in time. Ramsay acts like it is going to be decided in the kitchen when I believe that the verdict is already in unless Casa Mia has a huge quality drop.

50 hungry diners arrived at 7pm. I wondered if they included any of the 30 earlier diners but it is impossible to tell. I don't spot duplications. The menu for Casa Mia is:
Fresh Tomato jam salad w/ mozzarella and parmesan dusting
Carrot Mushroom Soup
Pork belly with prime cut pork filet and Italian garnishes
Sea bass with cannelloni beans
Cake with Apple Crumble and cheese custard

The menu for Fino is:
Mackerel with garlic and apple salad
Pork Belly with red wine sauce
Sea Bass
Santiago tart with cheese

The food from both kitchens is extraordinary as expected despite the extreme challenges involved. Both chefs and FOH staff stretched to make their pop-up restaurants work. Ramsay found that the brothers had reined in their avant garde tastes and listened to his feedback to develop a menu with broader appeal. also, their mother had been tough with them when necessary to convey the needs of diners. Nieves had responded with speed to a difficult special request to add potatoes to one meal.
'
with what I will call a tie in the final challenge, the decision reverted to the prior status where I felt Casa Mia had a substantial edge. The win went to Casa Mia, who move on the the finale in 2 episodes while next episode will be the other semifinal.







Offline apskip

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Re: Ramsay's Best Restaurant
« Reply #17 on: February 09, 2011, 02:17:41 PM »
It's time for the second semifinal showdown between Prashad, a very small Indian restaurant with husband (FOH), wife (head chef) and mother/owner (sous chef) competing against the Milestone, a larger British restaurant owned and managed by Matt and Mark as Front of House with head chef Simon and sous chef James . That occured because in a sudden death decision by Ramsay, he eliminated the North African restaurant Azou and the French restaurant Wittingham Fields due to feedback from a secret diner (Simon Davis, Rob Allison, or Michelle Fowler) sent in to specifically check on whether each of the 4 restaurants had implemented his recommendations from the preliminary round. Azou and Wittingham fields were eliminated as a result. However, Prashad suffered in reputation because its service excellence built on Bobby's presence was undercut by his absence during the visit of the secret diner.

The entourage of Ramsay, Simon Davis and Angela Hartnett dropped in unannounced but obviously expected at Prashad. However, the key would be whether the secret diners (Angela's mother and a companion) would get the same treatment as the celebrity chefs and critic. The short answer is that they did. Angela's mother rated both the food and the service as exceptional. Ramsay's own reflections were that the food was phenomenal and that this visit was "about redemption."

The same entourage went to the Milestone and dined on a menu featuring mackerel, Black Pudding, Consomme with pea shoots and mushrooms wrapped in pork as appetizers and barbetto beef with red wine jus and vegetable cannelloni as entrees plus 2 desserts and a cheese table.
Ramsay's feedback was "I've tasted the greatness" but it wasn't fully present at this meal. The secret diners were Angela's sister and companion and they liked neither the bread nor the too-heavy black pudding. Ramsay stated "tonight it was a big disappointment." I must say that it looked like nothing was going to stop Prashad from being the winner of this semifinal at that point.

Both restaurants were invited to North London where they each inherited for 12 hours the upper or lower floor of empty space to turn into a pop-up restaurant which would operate for one night only starting at 7pm. Both restaurants had decor issues unpleasing to Ramsay. He considered them both to be second-rate and uninspired, so Ramsay asked Booby's mother to leave the kitchen and help finish the decor in time. Bobby prevented that from happening but did get his restaurant ready to open until less-than-ideal conditions. The decor for the Milestone pop-up was deemed by Ramsay to also be less than adequate. This would be decided by the kitchen staffs redeeming the performance of the FOHs. The chefs had bought "the highest quality vegetables" (Prashad) or meat at the butcher plus some veggies (Milestone).

Prashad's menu included:
Paneer curry between two rounds of yams
Baked yams and potatoes with toasted peanut filling
Baby aubergines

Milestone's menu included:
Silver Mullet w/ shrimp and skate scampi
Braised Oxtail
Mushrooms
Pork cooked 3 ways

One of the issues was whether each kitchen could fill orders quick enough to allow each table to be turned once, making space of 25 diners able to handle 50 total with the second seating. Prashad got off to an excellent start by taking orders quickly while Milestone screwed around and did not have them flowing to the kitchen for 25 minutes. However, it was Bobby who had problems in getting the second seating in. He just barely got all of them served before Ramsay ended the competition.

So it was time for Ramsay to announce his verdict on what was a major stretch for the staff of both restaurants. He cited FOH and kitchen issues for both restaurants. Prashad had served undercooked yams on both sides of the paneer. It looked like about equal performance on the pop-up to me, which meant that Prashad would win the semifinal. that was an accurate prediction and Prashad moved on to face Casamia in the finale next episode.


Offline scuzneck

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Re: Ramsay's Best Restaurant
« Reply #18 on: February 11, 2011, 11:07:23 AM »
TexasLady,

I know where these videos can be found, but unfortunately they are not accessible by anyone in the United States. This is the same sort of discrimination our brethren in Asia suffer on Elimination Station and similar CBS Amazing Race-related restrictions.

If you plug in the show's name on youtube, it looks as though all of the episodes (in parts) show up. The uploader is kitchennightmaresus.

I find youtube is pretty good at finding shows from the British Isles.

Offline IloveJesus

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Re: Ramsay's Best Restaurant
« Reply #19 on: February 11, 2011, 11:41:02 AM »
I loved Kitchen Nightmares and Hell's Kitchen. I don't think Ramsay could make a bad show. I have not heard about this show. I live in the States and don't have BBC America. I definitely go check this out on youtube. I have been wanting to see a show where he wasn't trying to fix people or restaurants but actually appreciates the good restaurants and food out there. I know a buckhead restaurant that he shoudl come try. Thank you for the find!
« Last Edit: February 22, 2011, 10:44:56 AM by IloveJesus »

Offline Prophet

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Re: Ramsay's Best Restaurant
« Reply #20 on: February 11, 2011, 11:56:09 AM »
Welcome to RFF Jesus ILJC! (name change)
Physics alone is not enough.

Those who forget history are sure to repeat it.

Offline scuzneck

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Re: Ramsay's Best Restaurant
« Reply #21 on: February 11, 2011, 01:06:13 PM »
Just finished the first episode of Britain's Best Restaurant and I must saw that it is indeed a nice, refreshing change to see Gordon working with restaurant's that are good, rather than crap like he does on Kitchen Nightmares.

As always, with not being able to sample the delectables served at the restaurant, it is really hard to fully judge whether or not Gordon made the right choice. (Bullocks, he'd have my privates in a sling if he knew I said that.) For me, I think that Menulla should have won based on what I saw as quality of food. I have never had anything gastromoleculary cook so I cannot comment really upon the taste of food produced that way. Some of it looks very appeasing and interesting and some of it looks downright scary looking.

However, with that said, I think that ultimately in this show it is about the whole experience from the time you walk through the door. Casamia definitely was better in that regard. I have had times when I decide to order another meal after tasting the one I first ordered. It happens very rarely but when it does the restaurants I have been to have not charged me for the first plate in which a bite may have been taken out of. That meal is usually taken off the ticket and replaced by the new one. The FOH at Menulla made grave mistakes throughout and that is what ultimately cost them a shot at the semi finals.

Episode 2 is in the queue.

Offline scuzneck

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Re: Ramsay's Best Restaurant
« Reply #22 on: February 11, 2011, 02:22:57 PM »
There is something to be said about little Mom and Pop type restaurants around the world. Never judge a restaurant by their store front or the strip mall they are located in. There are two restaurants in west Fort Worth, Texas that I immediately think of when I think about that statement. One is an Italian place called Margie's. Simply Italian cooking with a flair that only can be found in a restaurant with passion. The restaurant itself is in a dilapidated, out dated building that one would think is unoccupied except for the steady stream of customers from 4:30 in the afternoon on through dinner service. The other is located in a shopping center where there sign reads "West Side Cafe Home Cooking Tattoos." The reason being is that behind their building is a tattoo parlor. The sign makes you think you can get a tattoo while you eat a chicken fried state the size of a small child. Home cooking at its finest. Have never had a bad meal there.

I bring these two examples up because of the Indian Restaurant battle on episode two of Ramsey's Best Restaurant. Prashad's is that Mom and Pop restaurant that normally one would walk right past to get to the big name chain restaurant down the street. Thankfully, it seems, many people have not passed it by as it looks easily to be a fantastic dining experience from the start.

They were up against Brilliant, an Indian restaurant open for 37 years with 3 generations of patrons with nothing bad to say about it. At first glance this seems like a NCAA College Basketball Tournament first round match-up between a 2 seed and a 15 seed. For all intensive purposes this game was over before it began. Brilliant should have its way with Prashad's. But, that's why they play the game.

And, in fact, this game was over quickly with Prashad's taking a stranglehold of a lead and never really backing down.

Now, I couldn't tell you the difference between a tandoori (I couldn't even spell it correctly. Thank you spell check!)  or a curry, - Here in Texas you don't find too many Indian restaurants - but I do know quality food and service when I see it. If I am ever in England, Prashad's could be one of those restaurants I flock to go and try.

Offline apskip

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Re: Ramsay's Best Restaurant
« Reply #23 on: February 12, 2011, 10:19:41 PM »
TexasLady,

I know where these videos can be found, but unfortunately they are not accessible by anyone in the United States. This is the same sort of discrimination our brethren in Asia suffer on Elimination Station and similar CBS Amazing Race-related restrictions.

If you plug in the show's name on youtube, it looks as though all of the episodes (in parts) show up. The uploader is kitchennightmaresus.

I find youtube is pretty good at finding shows from the British Isles.
Scuzneck,
Thanks for this information. I missed the British restaurant battle between Milestone and the West House. I have gone back, watched it and recapped it in post #9 above (originally Jan. 5 and modified Feb. 13) before the finale shows on Tuesday night between Casamia and Prashad.
« Last Edit: February 13, 2011, 04:06:04 PM by apskip »

Offline apskip

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Re: Ramsay's Best Restaurant
« Reply #24 on: February 23, 2011, 04:31:49 PM »
Finale
 
The finale of Best U.K. Restaurant was Casamia (Italian) vs. Prashad (Indian). This competition was held at Ramsay's flagship restaurant Petrus like all the semifinals cookoffs. However, it was a 3 course menu with no apparent time pressure, the wait staff was from the restaurant competing, there were 30 diners selected by Ramsay, there was a chef's table of Angela Hartnett, Simon Davis and Sarah Durdin-Robertson and the diners included the head chef from Italian restaurant Menulla and the Front of House from Indian restaurant Brilliant. So although the parents owning Casamia and running FOH and Bobby and his assistant could prevent their restaurant from winning if they screwed up, this competition would almost certainly be decided by thee menu choices and skill of the chefs, JonRay and Peter vs. Minal and Kaushy.
 
The base for the Prashad appetizer was tamarind, dates and jaggery (unrefined brown sugar made from palm sap). To that was added boiled potatoes, boiled chick peas, noodles from flour and sunflower oil, garlic, chili powder, salt, deep-fried pastry and lemon. This was a highly complex recipe and it got excellent reviews from the Chef's table and from Ramsay himself.
 
Casamia went with risotto with rosemary oil. However, they had a huge twist by substituting potatoes cut to look like rice for arborio rice. Othe ingredients were shallots, olive oil, garlic and butter.
 
The only problems in the appetizer course was a mixup by Bobby in dishes going to 2 tables (his wife bailed him out so it did not affect the diners) and JonRay and Peter not working together well enough.
 
The main courses had Prashad attempting a much simpler dish. It had tomatoes, coriander, fried okra, onions, turmeric, chili powderwith all ingredients blended into dal (lentil soup). It was served with a pyramid of rice and a mix of jaggery and coriander.
 
The main course for Casamia had turbot (10 minutes cooked sous vide) and chicken wings (cooked 12 hours sous vide) with salsify sous vide and a sauce based on parsley.
 
Both mains got rave reviews from the chef's table and from Ramsay, so I believe Casamia and Prashad were essentially in a tie going into the dessert course.
 
Prashad went with traditional sweet Indian desserts based on a mix of ghee, flour and sugar. One type added jaggery, sesame seeds and almonds shaped in balls. Another was with jaggery and sesame seeds and cut square. To wash it down was a chai sweet ginger mint tea. Simon Davis thought the sweetness was too strong (but of course that is true of traditional Indian desserts) and the others really liked it. Casamia went with a pannacotta which set up way too thick, so they started over with a lot of lemon juice to thin the texture. The lemon pannacotta was served with a lemon sorbet with lemon zest. Ramsay termed it "cutting edge."   
 
I could not make the call based on what I saw. Somehow, Ramsay chose Casamia without explaining why. The biggest drawback of this otherwise interesting series is that Ramsay asks you to accept his judgments on faith as they are highly subjective. I would prefer more objective standards. Ramsay chose Casamia as the best UK restaurant.


 

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