Tag Archives: Food Wars!

Food Wars! S2: Episode 3

Screenshot 2016-07-21 14.02.28

Well, I was wrong: I called the previous quarterfinal match for Megumi, only it was Ryo’s name that got written down with the Giant Brush of Gastronomic Victory. I really felt like the show was telegraphing that Ryo’s strong flavors were too palette-fatiguing and Megumi’s dish was more inviting to actually eat, but I guess his seafood ramen was just that good, overbearing or not. Besides, it was a big deal for Megumi to make it to the quarterfinals in the first place, so even though she got knocked out of the contest, the fact that she earned the respect of her peers makes it a net victory for her.

The kids watching in the peanut gallery note that Heihachi did not go shirtless for Megumi’s dish the way he did for Ryo’s, meaning they should have predicted who was going to win. However, in a scene I’m not sure I fully understand, Heihachi excuses himself to the bathroom and thinks about what an amazing cook Megumi is becoming; he took his shirt off for her deep down in his heart, or something like that.

The main event for this episode is the match between Hisako, Erina’s uptight secretary who specializes in medicinal food, and Hayama, the dude who is all about spices. They’re facing off in Battle Hamburger, which is interesting because it doesn’t seem to play to either of their particular strengths. Come to think of it though, very little would really play to Hisako’s strengths in this competition; the person who cooks with health as their primary goal is always at a disadvantage when the contest is being judged solely on taste and texture. It’s not that healthy food can’t be tasty, but when your goal is to make something as tasty as humanly possible, that doesn’t lend itself to using ingredients that also aid digestion and such.

Screenshot 2016-07-21 13.47.39

Hey good luck Secretary-chan, hope you have a good recip OMG SHE CUT ITS HEAD OFF

In any case, Hisako’s first association when someone says “hamburger” must be “callously butcher a live turtle on the spot,” because that’s what she does. I thought I was totally on Hisako’s side in this bout, but I think I started rooting for her to lose once she cut the turtle’s head off. I mean…ok, I’m not a vegetarian, so I’m probably a hypocrite for expressing distaste at an animal being killed for food, but dammit, turtles are just so darned cute.

Is it so wrong that I’m okay with cows and lambs being killed for meat, but turtles are where I draw the line? Besides, not only does she kill it, she DRAINS ITS BLOOD, like some kind of sick Rachel Ray-inspired vampire, and uses the fresh blood to pump up the flavor of her hamburger patties. She also adds a bunch of medicinal herbs, so this Turtle Murder Burger probably cleans up congestion, gout and erectile dysfunction (not that I’m implying anything about Heihachi).

Screenshot 2016-07-21 13.52.01

Unusually for this show, Hisako’s burger doesn’t really look all that appetizing. It’s karma for Hisako’s shameless, turtle-slaughtering ways.

She also uses Asian-style soft steamed buns, which seems really weird, if not quite offensive to my western palette. I don’t have anything against steamed buns, it just seems like the doughiness would be a really strange combination with a meat patty. The judges appreciate the fact that her turtle-and-pork concoction gives them all a healthy glow (and brings out a lot of umami, seriously enough with the umami quotient already), and it seems like Hisako has met the challenge head-on.

We learn via flashback that Hisako is obsessed with Erina…well, we knew that already, but we learn just HOW obsessed Hisako is with Erina. Her goal in her cooking is to always stay just a few steps behind Erina, always in reach of her Glorious God Tongue…it’s like they were going for some lesbian subtext, then said “you know what? Fuck it,” and went with full-on lesbian text instead. Good for them, I think.

Screenshot 2016-07-21 14.00.28

Thank you, Food Wars! for giving us a helpful diagram illustrating what a hamburger is. It would be terribly inconvenient if anyone was confused.

But hark, Hayama the Cold-Hearted Spice Boy has yet to present his burger! Not only does he fill the whole auditorium with yellow fumes from his abundant spices (Team Instinct shout out?) he makes a gyro-inspired burger, using seasoned Turkish lamb meat and yogurt sauce and pita and…waitaminute. That’s not even a “gyro-inspired burger,” that’s a gyro, straight up. I guess the fact that the meat is in the form of a patty instead of strips kind of pushes it slightly over to burger territory, but seriously, the flavor profile is 100% gyro.

This would put me in an ethical quandry as a judge, because while gyros are absolutely delicious and one of my favorite things to eat, they are not hamburgers; we know this because when you go to a Greek or Turkish restaurant, “gyro” and “hamburger” are always listed as separate menu items. I mean, maybe you’ve gone to some weird hellhole that has a “Gyroburger” on the menu, but it’s not my problem if your local restaurants are terrible.

Speaking of which, I would like to go out to Greek restaurants way more often than I do, but all the ones in my neighborhood have a severe parking shortage. How am I supposed to stuff myself full of delicious donor meat, grape leaves and spanakopita if I have nowhere to park? Do you expect me to pay for a taxi, like some kind of fancy lady? But just think of a delicious gyro, that delectable, mouth-wateringly salty seasoned lamb meat, balanced by the refreshing tang of fresh yogurt sauce, accompanied by crisp, fresh greens and delicately sweet tomatoes, all offset by the contrasting textures of crunchy bread, the oven-baked pita imparting a subtle, earthy aroma along with a gentle heartiness…..

Screenshot 2016-07-21 16.13.56

What is this? DELICIOUS!

But it’s not a hamburger! NOT A HAMBURGER AT ALL!!!!!

ahem. Anyway, I really like gyros, but I think Hayama should have been disqualified for making the wrong food. Unfortunately, the judges are still on their insane umami-worshipping kick, and the pickling agent that Hayama used as a topping does more to enhance the (god-forsaken) umami of his burger than the ginger Hisako used, so he wins. Hayama tells Hisako that she can’t beat him while she keeps aiming for second place, and he’s probably right, but I still think he cheated and is pretty much a bad guy.

Speaking of bad guys, this episode also introduces Subaru, whose shtick is that he looks like a big punk, but he’s actually extremely detail-oriented. Clearly he’s the villain of this arc, because he insults Aldini’s little brother Isami and, err, spits out his gum on Aldini’s special knife. Err, who does that? Even in Food Wars!, who does that?

Screenshot 2016-07-21 13.43.35

This was the only screenshot featuring Subaru I could bring myself to take. Normally he has some dark stuff on his face that I think is supposed to mean he’s always in shadow, but it mostly looks like he just came out of a coal mine.

The last thing we learn is that the quarterfinal match between Aldini and Subaru has been declared a Shokugeki, or official food duel; I think we’re supposed to infer that Aldini was so pissed about the insult to his brother’s cooking skills that he upped the stakes, but personally, I think he’s more upset about Subaru messing with his prized knife.

Does the loser of a Shokugeki get expelled from the school? It’s been a while since I watched the first season and I don’t remember exactly how the rules for a Shokugeki differ from any other match, but if the loser gets kicked out of Totsuki, I have a feeling Aldini is about to be toast; they did not introduce Subaru with all this fanfare for him to lose in the quarterfinals.

Next episode: One character I really don’t like squares off against a character I don’t really care much for one way or the other. I’ll probably spend the whole recap talking about how much I like fried shrimp with tartar sauce or something.

Screenshot 2016-07-21 13.54.53

I probably should have put this screenshot up higher, but let’s be honest: it’s better without context.

Food Wars S2: Episode 2

Screenshot 2016-07-12 13.06.20

This episode features Battle Ramen, meaning the judges get to say “Umami!” about a million more times, just in case you didn’t get your fill of that during Battle Bento. Now I know umami is a cool flavor and all (and a point of national pride, since it was discovered by a Japanese scientist), but I almost wish the student chefs would start baking cupcakes or something just so everyone would stop going on about the damn umami quotient already.

Just my luck though, if they did hold Battle Cupcakes, someone would make Red Snapper Cupcakes and everyone would be losing their minds about the amount of ‘delicate umami flavor’ in the smoked eel frosting or something. Oh well.

Screenshot 2016-07-12 13.22.11

With the bandana-flourish, the flashbacks set Ryo up as a kind of Evil Soma…or at least Slightly Dickish Soma. I don’t care how good his stuffed chicken is, I would not eat at his trashy portside restaurant.

Continuing through the Autumn Elections contest, shy Megumi faces off against Ryo, a scary-looking dude who hails from some non-specified foreign country. Megumi’s storyline is fun, because unlike Soma, she could pretty much lose at any time, making her battles unpredictable. Plus, her very presence in the story is what keeps Soma from being an obnoxious-as-hell lead character; the fact that he recognizes and tries to nurture talent in people who would otherwise blend into the background makes you feel good rooting for him, instead of just shrugging through his constant victories.

In any case, we get some of Ryo’s backstory in this episode; apparently Alice Nakiri befriended him in unspecified-foreign-country during her “I will travel the world to learn the skills to defeat Erina!” phase. She thinks of Ryo as something of an underling, but now that Ryo is coming into his own– or perhaps, because Alice finally lost– he thinks he’s the better cook between the two of them. Interestingly, even after Ryo insults Alice’s cooking, she’s still talking up Ryo to the other cooks in the stands. I reckon that if she plans to get him back for his attitude at all, it will be done in private, and it will be vicious.

Ryo’s whole attitude is that Food is A Battlefield, and one must brandish strong flavors to destroy their opponents, and you know…I want to say that his philosophy is stupid, for obvious reasons, but look at the state of food television: Top Chef, Iron Chef America, Chopped, Cutthroat Kitchen, etc. A lot of food programming is based on using cooking as a stand-in for violence in competition, and of course Food Wars! itself is in that category. Also, as food television gets more ubiquitous, the amount that most people cook is actually going down, meaning that an increasing percentage of food culture is tied up in these competitions as opposed to traditional, cooperative cooking and baking. I really doubt that Ryo’s presence is supposed to make us question the ethics of food competition television, but it’s interesting that his philosophy would’ve made no sense 20 years ago, but you can’t dismiss it so easily today. Screenshot 2016-07-12 13.25.17Ryo reminds me of one of those contestants on Top Chef who says “I like to use big, bold flavors,” like they deserves some kind of award for it. May as well say “I have no subtlety whatsoever, so I’m going to try to spin that like it’s style thing.”

Ryo’s big trick is to grind up a bunch of shrimp and lobster parts, including the shells, and use the resulting powder to load every component in his dish with seafood flavor. I suppose that’s clever, but aren’t the shells of crustaceans somewhat, err, indigestible? I think Heihachi and pals will be spending a lot of time in the bathroom after Battle Ramen. Otherwise, Ryo makes a French-inspired seafood dish that earns praise for avoiding any hint of “fishiness.” Now, I could be wrong, but isn’t that fishy smell/taste something that happens to fish when it starts to age, meaning the very freshest fish will never have a fishy aura? You just know that Totsuki only allows students to use fish that were caught within the last 20 minutes or something, so I don’t know if Ryo can really take much credit for keeping fishiness at bay. Anyway, the judges are impressed with Ryo’s rich seafood ramen, even though everyone who eats it reacts as though they were just punched in the face.

Screenshot 2016-07-12 13.18.44

If the broth from your ramen doesn’t look like a shiny pool of angel’s tears, throw it out; you’re doing it wrong.

Megumi, who has grown a helluva lot of backbone, fights back with a light-broth ramen that leverages the umami punch (sigh) of dried vegetables and lesser seafood instead of shrimp and lobster. It sounds like Megumi’s ramen wouldn’t be able to compete with Ryo’s rich, luxurious broth, but the more subtle flavor of her dish has it’s own appeal. Soma says that Megumi’s trademark is bringing out the “subtle sweetness of vegetables,” but I think he’s wrong here; her special talent as a chef is her ability to take humble ingredients and make them delicious enough to compete with pricier fare.

Right before the ending credits, the show decides to pay homage to JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and the two ramens become Stands, or Personas, or whatever the hell those monster thingies from JoJo’s are called. It would be one thing if it were a really quick lesson, but they really go all in with it and it’s pretty adorable– especially Badass Jojo-Style Megumi.

Screenshot 2016-07-12 13.34.59

This would probably be funnier if I’d seen more than one episode of JJBA, but it’s still pretty funny. I like the fact that their “Stands” are actually their dishes personified.

Naturally we end on a cliffhanger, but I feel pretty sure Megumi’s got this; the problem with going for “strong flavors” all the time is that they can fatigue the palette, and it looks like the judges ate more of Megumi’s ramen than Ryo’s. I think Ryo is going to learn a Very Important Lesson about how trying to blow out everyone’s palette with dynamite is a kind of cheap way out, and then Alice will give him a really, really smug look, and then they’ll probably have sex, because I can’t imagine what else they see in each other. Or, Ryo could win just to throw us a curve ball and trigger more development for Megumi, but I’m pretty sure Ryo and Alice will still have angry sex either way.

Coming up, it looks like the next one in the Thunderdome is Erina’s mild-mannered secretary; I think her specialty is food with medicinal effects, something I find very interesting, so I’m definitely looking forward to that one.

 

Food Wars S2: Episode 1

Screenshot 2016-07-05 13.44.41Food porn is very important in my life, mostly because regular porn does nothing for me and I still need something to be deeply ashamed of. And when it comes to food porn, you can hardly do better than Food Wars!, everyone’s favorite anime where people are figuratively (and sometimes literally) assaulted by flavor. The only thing this anime is missing is an animated Anthony Bourdain to make snarky comments about overcooked veal…hmm, am I the only one who wants Anthony Bourdain: The Anime? I can’t be the only one.

Anyway, between this and the adorably delectable Sweetness and Lightning, I’m probably going to gain about 50 lbs. this season just from looking at all the animated food; I guess my perfect beach body is going to have to wait for next summer, once again.

In case you’re new to Food Wars, here’s the situation: Yukihira Soma is an upstart diner cook who lacks the fine-dining training of his fellow students at the prestigious Totsuki Academy. However, he does have the ability to make anyone who eats his food have extremely vivid hallucinations, and this capacity for mind rape, as well as an appreciation for the many charms of down-home cookin’, has gotten him pretty far in life. He’s probably going to end up marrying Nakiri Erina, known as The God Tongue for her ability to taste precisely which cave rock salt was mined in, and their kids are going to be able to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches like you wouldn’t believe. Soma is now in the finals of his school’s Autumn Elections (what it has to do with elections, I couldn’t tell you), and his first opponent is molecular gastronomy whiz kid Nakiri Alice, Erina’s half-sister.

Screenshot 2016-07-05 10.59.02This is what happens to people who eat Soma’s food; they are transported into The Sound of Music.

Now, I have nothing against molecular gastronomy on general principle; finding new ways to prepare and serve food is fun, and it can add a lot of creativity to cooking. However, if I’ve learned one thing from Top Chef, it’s that everyone who practices molecular gastronomy extensively becomes, for some strange reason, a complete unmitigated asshat. Everyone who uses these techniques acts like they’re the second coming of Paul Bocuse, and it’s like dude, you took lentil soup and made it into a cold gel instead of a warm liquid; that’s nice but you’re hardly curing cancer here. True to form, Alice is an insufferable snob, and based on her creepy red eyes, possibly some kind of succubus as well.

Screenshot 2016-07-05 10.21.01They kept this shot up for about three seconds too long and it was hella creepy. Molecular Gastronomy is for vampires.

I was surprised to see that Alice was going to be Soma’s opponent in the first round, since the first season built her up to be a pretty serious adversary; I figured he wouldn’t get to take her out until much later on. Nevertheless, the two are assigned bento as a theme, and the potential to load the box with gimmicks seems to play right into Alice’s pale hands. I think it’s cute that Soma was like “Oh cool, bento, something homey!” only to get smacked down by Erina for not realizing that bento is a Unique Food Culture and thus Serious Business. Everything is low-class chow until food snobs decide they like it, then it’s all “culture.” I’m just waiting for dunking chocolate chip cookies in apple juice to be declared cultural, because I need more encouragement.

Moving on, Alice makes a sushi bento box that looks pretty damned delicious, and makes me want some good sushi. My personal favorite kind of sushi is a shrimp tempura roll, something Alice would probably turn up her nose at, but hey, that’s why she’s the enemy. She uses more hi-tech equipment than NASA has these days, and reactions to her insanely over-thought dish are favorable. The show wants us to believe that all of these technical bells and whistles Alice uses actually enhance the flavor of food rather than just looking cool, but I have my doubts that this works in reality.

Screenshot 2016-07-05 10.33.35I may not like Alice, but I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t gobble this up. It’s been too long since I’ve had really good sushi. Why does it have to be so expensive?

Soma of course makes a down-home bento that has just enough sophistication to surprise the judges, but really succeeds on depth of flavor rather than flash. Interestingly, Alice pretty much says point blank “Is this the part where you’re going to tell me that food needs to have Heart?”, hanging a lampshade on where this story typically goes. However, Alice’s grandpa (who is also Heihachi Mishima of Tekken fame; there is no logic to this, he just is) points out that the issue isn’t heart, it’s understanding the essence of the dish. Soma’s bento was something that worked as a bento first and foremost, whereas Alice’s dish was just a box that happened to contain a bunch of tasty stuff. Which…kind of sounds like heart, actually. I do understand the distinction, where “heart” is a mushy feel-good concept that doesn’t really mean anything, but understanding the particular merits of a format is essential in cooking competitions. Still, Soma ends up winning because he celebrated the Soul of Bento, and Alice was too arrogant to fully embrace the format.

So…it’s all about heart, guys. Don’t listen to Heihachi when he says it isn’t. I just hope Soma finds more novel ways to defeat his opponents, because a whole bunch of episodes of “but only Soma truly CELEBRATED the form of the Turkey Pot Pie!” is going to get old. I honestly don’t remember how they dealt with this during the first season.

Next up, shy Tadakoro Megumi us up against…Goth Kid? Okay, I really don’t remember the first season all that well. I do remember Megumi butchering a giant fish that was bigger than she was, so I hope she does more of that; imagine they bring in a giant whale on a hook, and then people are like “you can’t cook a whale, they’re endangered!”, then Heihachi is like “LOL this is Japan you fools, if it’s in the ocean it goes in my face,” then Erina is like “Grandpa, put your pants back on,” and Soma is like “We used to serve whale sandwiches at my diner on Tuesdays,” and Soma’s dad is like “I’m going to let you in on a little secret, son: it was never really a diner. It was a haute cuisine restaurant in trashy diner clothing,” and Soma is like “Oh My God my whole life has been a lie.”

Ah…Food Wars! is back. It’s a good day.

Screenshot 2016-07-05 10.35.25

Here it is, the patented Food Wars! “assaulted by the FLAVA!” reaction shot! I missed this. Alice gets one too, and hers is topless…maybe I should have screencapped that one instead.