Bravo's Best New Restaurant has hit its stride. In the first episode, a lot of the rules weren't explained.
This week, it felt like host, judge, and executive producer Tom Colicchio took his own advice, because the episode was tighter, with more structure and better editing.
Like the first episode, two restaurants were highlighted. Miami's the Federal Food Drink & Provisions went up against Austin's Swift's Attic, with each culinary team competing for a feature in Bon Appétit, a $100,000 spot at a Las Vegas food festival, and the title of "Best New Restaurant."
Tom Colicchio introduced us to the Federal and tried their most popular dishes, including the pig wings and biscuit. The award-winning chef loved both and basically called the Federal "the American dream" after telling the story of how work and life partners Cesar Zapata and Aniece Meinhold used all of their savings to open the cozy restaurant in a strip mall on Biscayne Boulevard.
Next was the pressure test, where 30 diners swarmed the restaurant at the same time. With two hours to serve them, things went well, until Cesar began micromanaging the plates coming from the kitchen. Diners started complaining that they were waiting too long, but Aniece got the house in order, comping some dishes and making good.
The food, however, was met with nothing but praise, with judges Maggie Nemser of BlackboardEats and Jeffrey Zurofsky, Colicchio's partner and cofounder of 'Wichcraft, loving the food, especially the "biskits."
Though the Federal got through the pressure test, Tom sat down the partners to watch a secret-shopper video. Aniece visibly cringed while watching her server roll her eyes at the diner. Tom's advice to the couple was to tighten up the staff but "don't lose what makes you great."
In Austin, we were introduced to Swift's Attic and the "dream team" of partner CK Chin, chef Mat Clouser, and pastry chef Callie Speer, who explained the restaurant is an amalgam of what they like to eat.
During the pressure test, some of the diners (and the judges) called the food underseasoned. Nemser sent back her edamame because they were undercooked. The next batch was both tender and well seasoned. Desserts, however, were "flawless," and CK's service was spot-on.
In the head-to-head competition, both restaurant teams met in New York City, where they would cook for the judges and a group of VIP diners. Each restaurant presented two dishes to round out the meal. The judges called the Federal's foie gras and cranberry dish "Thanksgiving," and Tom put a few extra biskits in his pocket for later. Zapata's country-fried sweetbreads were "cooked perfectly," according to Nemser.
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Nemser also liked Swift's Attic's antelope. Unfortunately, Tom called the meat "mealy," but the restaurant's tres leches cake was a hit.
In the end, the Federal and its "biskits" won the judges over and, once again, a Miami restaurant advances. No Miami restaurants will compete next week, finally giving another city a shot at moving to the next level.