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Sorry Haters, ’Ugly Delicious’ Is Maddeningly Good

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TV recommendations for this weekend, plus a roundup of the week’s entertainment news

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David Chang and David Choe

This post originally appeared on February 23, 2018, in “Eat, Drink, Watch” — the weekly newsletter for people who want to order takeout and watch TV. Browse the archives and subscribe now.

Welcome to the last weekend in February. I hope that you are not battling some ghastly cold or flu, and that you’ve got open time on your calendar this weekend to dig into some TV, because there is a lot of good stuff to watch — approximately 10 and a half hours’ worth, by our most recent estimates — not to mention some pretty big news about where to go discuss said shows once you’re all done (see below). But without any further ado, here are some recommendations:

Ugly Delicious raises the bar for food/travel shows

Gillian Jacobs and David Chang

David Chang has a knack for seeing how things fit together. These talents are on full display at the Momofuku restaurants, where Chang and his crew take familiar dishes — ramen! pork buns! cacio e pepe! — and amplify the things you like about them, edit out the things you don’t, and then replace them with fresh new elements. The chef’s Netflix series with director/producer Morgan Neville, Ugly Delicious, keeps up this tradition by taking one of TV’s most predictable formats, the food-focused travel show, and giving it the proper Chang-style treatment.

Every episode of this eight part series is full of cravable delicacies from around the world, cooked by the people who know these dishes the best. But gone are the dry history lessons, ponderous observations, tiresome montages, and shameless mugging for the camera that sometimes clutter up even the best travel shows. Instead, Ugly Delicious fills the screen with an array of talented people — writers, chefs, comedians, actors, and artists — telling their stories and asking big questions.

After watching the taco episode, you may be inclined to pick up Gustavo Arellano’s book Taco USA to learn more about how this dish absorbed so many influences over the years and became a staple of the American diet. After watching the “fried rice” episode, which features Eater NY’s editor Serena Dai, you may never look at American junk food or sprawling Chinese restaurant menus the same way again. And after watching the “shrimp & crawfish” episode, you may want to book a week-long trip to New Orleans and Houston, to eat at the many mom-and-pop restaurants that serve Cajun, Vietnamese, and Viet-Cajun shellfish.

There’s no filler in Ugly Delicious, per se, but the show could benefit from a bit more editing. It’s hard to watch the brief scenes with Chang and longtime pal Aziz Ansari and not think about the sexual misconduct allegations that were recently lodged against the actor/comedian. And close followers of the Chang/Momofuku universe might sigh upon seeing repeated cameos from the same cool dude chefs that he collaborates with over and over again. But for most of its run, Ugly Delicious is devoted to telling meaningful stories from a fresh point of view.

Check out Eater’s complete coverage of Ugly Delicious for individual episode guides and clips from the show.

~Huge announcement~


If you love food TV and movies and want to share your own recommendations or chat with me and the rest of the Eater Pop Culture team about what’s new and good, please join the brand-new Eat, Drink, Watch Facebook group. It’s a private group for food TV and movie lovers, so hit us up for an invite, and if we can confirm that you’re a real person and not a bot with a crush on Guy Fieri, we’ll let you in the food TV cabana. This weekend, we’re going to be discussing Ugly Delicious.

Streaming selections du jour

Netflix/Comedians in Cars

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, “Tina Fey”

Watch it on: Netflix

The gist: Jerry Seinfeld is starting to tease a few details from the forthcoming season of his hit interview series — we know Ellen is going to appear in one episode, plus the late Jerry Lewis — but he still hasn’t offered up a release date or full guest list yet. To help pass the time until the big reveal, consider dipping back into this great episode from 2014 wherein Jerry and Tina Fey drink cereal milkshakes at a Cuban restaurant and then visit Dominique Ansel, then in the early days of Cronut Mania. He floods their table with specialties from his Manhattan bakery, including early hits like the “magic souffle” and the chocolate pine cone. As Fey tries her first Cronut, the two ponder whether or not Ansel will someday expand his bakery chain all around the world. This episode is a good reminder of how much the food world can change in the span of three and a half years…

Mystic Pizza

Watch it on: Hulu

The gist: If the tagline “A romantic comedy, with the works” doesn’t sell this movie on its own, perhaps you may be interested to know that this scrappy little 1988 picture helped propel Julia Roberts on her path to stardom. She plays Daisy, the less ambitious of two sisters who work at a popular pizzeria in Mystic, Connecticut. Everyone in the film is looking for love, inspiration, and a little opportunity. Their fates are changed, somewhat, by the arrival of a big-deal critic who tries the pies. This fluffy, but fun rom-com was recently added to the Hulu library, and it’s a fine choice for something to watch if you want to let your mind wind down a bit this weekend. Keep your eyes out for the first-ever screen appearance by future Oscar winner/problematic bro Matt Damon.

And in other news…

Have a great weekend, and if you are under the weather or just want something nourishing, consider making this recipe for chicken pho from Andrea Nguyen, which, remarkably, only takes about 45 minutes.