Shokugeki no Soma S3 Ep. 4: Fusion gone mad

I normally throw in quick thoughts on other shows, but this write-up ended up being longer than I expected, so I’ll just make this a Food Wars! only post. To kick things off, we have Kuga rubbing his success in Soma’s face. Ah, what a lovable scamp. The latter offers Kuga a black pepper bun, but it is quickly rejected. I find this a little odd. A legitimate chef would want to try everything. You can only become a good cook by tasting as much as you can and thus enlarge your palette. I get it. He disrespects Soma. He thinks Soma’s food is beneath him, he’s full of hubris, so on and so forth. But again, that just shows that he’s not a legitimate chef.

By the way, we get the same montage of cooks tossing woks and diners breathing fire for the past three weeks. I guess it’s a way to save money, but still…

When we last left off, Soma made the decision to challenge Kuga head-on. He, too, will whip up a version of mapo tofu. Kuga prides himself on authentic Sichuan cuisine, so it’s obvious that our hero can’t challenge him on that front. What he can do — and what he’s always done — is be insanely inventive. That’s the hope, anyway. Alright, show me your secret weapon. What exactly are you going to add to your mapo tofu that sets it apart from all the other mapo tofus?

Soma starts off by adding noodles to the dish. Uh, that’s interesting. But wait, there’s more! On top of the noodles sits a giant meatball. Wow, that’s a lot of damn protein. Tofu itself is full of protein. Then in addition to that, you have mincemeat thrown into the mix. Now you’re going to drop a gigantic meatball on top of everything and expect the customer to eat it in one sitting? But wait, there’s more! When you break into the meatball, you’ll find a golden ball of… curry. Of-fucking-course. It’s anime. It’s always gotta be curry.

You know, some curry spice added to mapo tofu does legitimately sound delicious. But that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re literally taking a glob of curry that has been suspended with a bit of gelatin, then allowed to pour out onto the mapo tofu. That’s really weird. And I honestly can’t even begin to imagine what this bizarre concoction will taste like. You’ve got mapo tofu, which is already aggressively spiced. Not only that, it’s pretty damn mushy. Now you’re throwing in a giant meatball and curry. Protein on top of protein on top of protein. Spice on top of spice. Mushy on top of mushy. And noodles aren’t exactly a huge texture contrast by themselves. Sorry, but this dish just sounds bizarre and a bit disgusting. But hey, I could be wrong. I could also buy some curry and some mapo tofu and mix them up myself, but that sounds expensive.

For just this episode, the logistical side of running a restaurant is actually more interesting to me. Kuga might have a wildly successful restaurant, but the line ends up being too long. In order to fit in more customers, he’s trying to flip the covers far too quickly. This yields a bad customer experience, which is a big no no in the business of hospitality. Besides, it’s fucking Chinese food. Chinese food is immensely portable. Why isn’t he offering takeout so customers can just fly through the doors? Is that against the rule or something? His obvious lack of business acumen eventually leads to hungry, angry customers, which, in turn, are lured away by the smell of Soma’s curry mapo tofu concoction. He slowly begins to stage his comeback. But how can two people pull this off when Kuga’s giant restaurant is struggling with the same amount of customers?

This is where friends from all over the place begin to pitch in. How heartwarming. I don’t really think Megumi could possibly handle the front of the house by herself, but it’s anime. I’m sure she can somehow seat the customers, take their orders, serve food to their tables without any mix-ups, bus the tables, do the dishes, and collect the money all by her lonesome.

As an aside, some restaurants will only do one set of covers. In other words, when you book a table, you have it for the rest of the night. This way, you can take your time to enjoy the meal. You can take breaks in the middle of courses, you can linger afterwards with a nice cup of coffee, so on and so forth. But restaurants that are willing to do this are also restaurants that probably serve an extensive tasting menu. You’re probably expected to pay hundreds of dollars a person. In other words, this model might fit Erina’s restaurant.

As I watch these the generic anime crowd enjoy their meal and walk away happy, I can’t help but wonder why nobody’s serving dessert. Y’know, tofu is surprisingly versatile, you could make a killer dessert with vanilla, coconut, etc. The soft, creamy texture of tofu would actually help to soothe the palette after all that spicy food.that washes away the heavy spiciness of both the mapo tofu and curry.

When it finally turns dark, Soma gets even more help. The RS Culture Club lends him a bunch of Chinese lanterns to pretty up the place. This somehow makes people want to order more food. Sure. Studies seem to support the idea that the color red affects your hunger. This is why fast food places lean so heavily on red, orange and yellow colors. Y’see, you can major in psychology to help people, but you can also use your education to manipulate them into throwing away money instead.

By the end of the day, Soma finds himself in first place, and he couldn’t have done it without the power of teamwork. Isn’t that nice? Does this mean we’ll see a counterattack from Kuga in next week’s episode, or can we finally move onto the formal, 1-on-1 food battle? In any case, I was moderately entertained by this week’s episode. We got right to the point, which is cooking and dining. And that’s all I really wanted out of this anime. I’m not expecting Food Wars! to blow me away with deep characterizations, intricate plotting, or thought-provoking themes. I just want delicious-looking food with a small dash of shounen-flavored hyperbole. We finally get an episode that largely delivers on this front, so I’m fine with it.

Final note: the curry dish with chocolate actually sounds tasty. There’s no need to 3D print the chocolate, though. You could’ve just folded ribbons of chocolate by hand. They won’t be uniform, but it’s fine. Also, I think rice is unnecessary here.

Please refrain from posting spoilers or using derogatory language. Basically, don't be an asshole.

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