A Johnny Depp lookalike, a Tourism Wanaka ambassador and ‘Paleo’ Pete Evans walk into a Great Gatsby-themed dining room in suburban Auckland.
From Tash and Hera’s place in Rotorua we go to Auckland for the second of six instant restaurants: the curiously-named ‘Manhatten 667’. Manhatten seemingly a misspelling of the New York City borough Manhattan; 667 one digit higher than 666, the number of the beast. The name’s meaning is never addressed.
Proprietors Jaryd and Ben are MKRNZ’s ‘childhood buddies’, who met when they were five and have played soccer together ever since. Now, decades later, they have knocked together a Prohibition-era New York-themed restaurant in one of their parents’ houses, with black-and-white striped upholstery, fancy feather things and bejewelled table settings. It is here they will host celebrity chef judges Pete Evans and Manu Feildel, along with ten of their TV cooking competition peers.
Pete and Manu arrive in a sports utility vehicle and walk right past the carefully-displayed vintage cars that have been taken out of the garage especially. The judges have at least scrubbed up nicely for the occasion – Manu wearing a lavender paisley tie and Pete a deep purple suit with a black shirt. “Dapper dudes,” remarks Maddie, maybe sarcastically, maybe not; it’s hard to tell with millennials.
What’s for tea?
Jaryd and Ben’s entree of beetroot-cured salmon with pickled cucumber and herbs gets the foodie seal of approval from Pete. “Pickled cucumber is very on-trend at the moment,” he states, meaning pickled cucumber has probably just now become extremely passé. The buddies’ attempt to cure the salmon within the allocated MKR timeframe results in a “too salty” flavour, so Jaryd makes the decision to wash each piece of fish under the tap before plating up.
This successfully dodges the salt bullet but the three slivers of fish and pile of pickled cucumber still receive mixed reviews, ranging from Charlotte’s glowing “I’d probably order this every night” to Heather’s desperate plea for a Quickeze sponsorship: “It’s giving me some kind of reflux,” she quips to Mitch. The judges both find the dish a little lacking – Manu wants “something crunchy” (a bag of chippies) while Pete wants “more herbs” (addicted to marijuana?).
The main – fillet of beef with a cherry salsa and seasonal veg – poses fewer problems in the kitchen, but it receives similar feedback. The meat is well-cooked, say the judges, but Pete wants more seasoning. He is surprised to find he “actually quite enjoyed” the cherry salsa, but Manu is disappointed and takes the lads to task for not treating the veg with the same respect they afforded the meat. “They haven’t peeled the parsnips,” gasps an appalled Heather, before Teal breaks a long silence to offer the most devastating feedback of the night: “A bit clumsy on the plate,” he sniffs. The unfailingly polite Chris and Bex offer half-hearted praise.
Like Tash and Hera before them, Jaryd and Ben’s dessert is a kitchen nightmare. Ballsing up the ice cream component of their chocolate fudge brownie with homemade coconut ice cream and tempered chocolate means Jaryd has to pop to the supermarket for more ingredients. He revises the recipe to a vanilla bean ice cream with coconut flavouring, a last-minute simplification that doesn’t escape the notice of Heather, who sounds like she’s going to have them up under the consumer guarantees act. The tempered chocolate is also unsuccessful and falls victim to Manu’s mantra ‘if it’s not perfect, it’s not on the plate.’ General consensus seems to be that the ice cream is yummy but the brownie is a bit much. “Too dense, too intense,” rhymes Pete, who by now seems like he would quite like to go home.
Ice-hearted villains Heather and Mitch seem to be being walked back from the out-and-out evil they were portrayed as in episode one. Their main contribution to this episode is an excruciating comedy bit about Chris and Bex, in which Heather asks Mitch “did you know they are from Wanaka?” and Mitch replies “No I didn’t know they are from Wanaka.” The joke here is that Chris and Bex are always talking about how they are from Wanaka. “They just annoy the shit out of me” admits Heather.
The coolest MKR chef remains “international man of mystery” Teal, who it is revealed everyone is scared of because he looks a lot like Johnny Depp and almost never talks. When he does, it is invariably a devastating burn (see above) or some kind of Lynchian riddle. “What do you think about this, that they’re all scared of you?” asks Manu during the main course. Teal replies “The only thing I can add to that is: there was a man who was dancing in the shiny shoes.” Eat ya heart out, new Twin Peaks.
They may talk a big talk about getting tough on foodie crims, but Heather and Mitch are among the more generous of Jaryd and Ben’s peer judges this week. They, along with Charlotte and Maddie and Sophie and Teal, score the Manhatten 667 menu a 6. Chris and Bex can only find it in their hearts to give the lads a 4 while Tash and Hera emerge as contenders for the series’ most savage critics with a cold 3.
Pete and Manu give the three courses fives across the board, with the sole exception being Pete’s 6 for the main. “It wasn’t a disaster, but it didn’t wow me,” he says of the entree, a verdict which pretty much sums up the whole meal. Jaryd and Ben scrape a pass with 56 out of a possible 110 points, well below Tash and Hera’s 67.
Next week: Could be the episode of the season as we visit Teal and Sophie in Wellington. The previews show the pair cavorting in carnival masks and Teal with his glasses off.
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