When Sheldon Simeon announced his dining concept for Top Chef‘s Restaurant Wars, I held my breath. With the help of Stefan Richter and Josh Valentine, Simeon was going to open URBANo, a homage to his father and Filipino cooking. Neither Stefan nor Josh were familiar with the cuisine—but who is? As I mentioned at weeklystandard.com, it’s rare to come across Filipino restaurants (unlike Thai or Vietnamese). My friend and former Washington Post restaurant critic Phyllis Richman said she visited a few in the D.C. area and they were awful (mostly attached to karaoke bars). And the ones with which I’m familiar in New Jersey are connected to grocery stores. Ex-Top Chef contestant Chrissy Camba wondered if the food needed to be modernized or refined.
URBANo was decidedly interpretive—the balut (a delicacy involving a fertilized chicken egg—go to Google Images if you dare!) consisted of duck confit and foie gras (whew!). His hal0-halo dessert was deconstructed and looked fine, if typical for deconstructed dishes. But his adobo (chicken or pork marinated in soy sauce-vinegar) had the judges raving. Danny Meyer said he couldn’t get enough of it and Tom Colicchio wondered if the cuisine was waiting to be elevated by a chef like Sheldon, who took the top prize.
Rather disappointingly, Kristen Kish was sent home, taking responsibility for the work of Josie Smith-Malave. She could’ve spoken up, she told me on the phone yesterday, but would have regretted it. “Bite my tongue” was all the Boston chef could muster. But her acceptance of responsibility will only add to Kristen’s reputation as a standup chef. It also helps that she’ll soon be appearing on the cover a Boston magazine. So how much money did she pick along the way? $45,000.