Talde, Park Slope’s newest Asian-American restaurant, is named for chef and owner Dale Talde and opened on the corner of Seventh Avenue and 11th Street this past Sunday.
If the name seems familiar, it might be from Talde’s tenure on "Top Chef" Chicago. That would be the season where Stephanie became the first woman to win the title and Richard thought he was Ferran Adria with the molecular gastronomy tricks. Dale was the chef who swore a lot and really didn’t like Lisa.
He also rocked that awesome green sweatband.
Talde’s co-owners are also familiar—Dave Massoni and John Bush—respectively manager and bartender right down the block at .
But the Asian-American restaurant is tackling a new food-venture.
“The idea of heritage as a restaurant concept—Italian-American, German-American—it’s been used forever to describe food," Massoni explained. "But Asian-American, other than the David Chang thing, hasn’t really been done.”
Talde, who is Filipino-American, grew up seamlessly loving Popeye’s chicken and halo-halo, the traditional Filipino sweet he whipped up in a "Top Chef" dessert challenge.
There’s a trickiness to defining Asian-American food because often it’s fallen into two camps: authentic or food court.
The best example of the breed is Ming Tsai (Chinese-American) of Blue Ginger who does east-meets-west cooking as high culture art. His signature foie gras and morel shu mai (a steamed soup dumpling with foie gras inside) is a mission statement on a plate—a creative melding of cultures that borrows from the best of both.
The David Chang (Korean-American) Momofuku “thing” introduced bacon to dashi (ramen soup base) in a similarly genius mongrel move but added a bit more stoner-irreverence to the idea of Asian-American food.
Unfortunately, the stoner-Asian trend lead to vaguely racist concept restaurants like the short-lived Xiao Ye with Cheetos-fried chicken and menu items with mockingly misspelled "L" and "R" sounds. It wasn’t cute and New Yorkers had little patience.
Knowing that the path they’ve chosen is relatively untested and susceptible to caricature, the owners of Talde have exercised restraint. Twice the size of Thistle Hill Tavern, the corner restaurant still has the same cozy feel.
Lacquered mahogany dominates the bar and dining room with engraved Asian motifs. Some jade, and a few well placed Chinoiserie vases against whitewashed walls make it feel more like a tasteful home of a well traveled owner than a themed restaurant.
Like Momofuku—there’s also an open kitchen with backless stool seating to watch the action. Be warned though, it is not for show; seats by the kitchen are hot, as in temperature.
The menu is well curated—just a single page of family-style items with meat, fish and veggie options. But, I found some of the dishes are misleadingly described and the staff is new.
The pretzel pork and chive dumplings are an ABC’s (American Born Chinese) dream—homemade, juicy, and crunchy on the outside—but the “pretzel” apparently referred to the outside texture, which while crispy and delicious, was more gyoza than Utz.
Another appetizer, the Hawaiian bread buns, could either have been like Chinese char sui bao (pork buns with meat inside) or Hawaiian sweet buns. Spoiler: they’re sliders on brioche-type buns. Well cooked and tangy with vinegar, but let’s call a burger a burger.
Ditto for the Tuk Tuk (a Thai taxi) that gets you an elaborately-named rum and coke. The drinks were exciting. The plum wine bellini takes the sweet oiliness of Japanese umeboshi wine and cuts it with dry champagne, no fruit, no fuss.
They also serve Hitachino Red Rice Ale, an interesting mix of sake and malt, which perfectly compliments spicy food.
For entrees, we ordered like carnivores since Dale prided himself season four on perfectly prepared meats. Remember the BBQ episode? I do. At Talde you get a Fette Sau-type platter loaded with addictively smoky candied Chinese bacon, tender slow-cooked pork shoulder and some forgettable shrimp and brisket that were dying for sauce. There’s Sriracha and vinegar on the table but that’ll only get you so far.
If this is Filipino BBQ, where’s the banana catsup? In an attempt maybe to echo Fette Sau’s potato rolls, the platter was served with Texas Toast, which we’d gladly have traded for some pickled veggies.
The Korean chicken also could have used a dipping companion, but the spicy, crispy pieces with yogurt-kimchee sauce is what Buffalo chicken dreams it could be. Large portions and moist, this could be a neighborhood favorite.
Dessert stays on the safe side, and is definitely western. The shaved ice sundae is a nod to halo-halo with sweet milk and Cap’n Crunch cereal, but not nearly as exciting as the avocado and mango version that put Talde on the judge’s radar.
He said at the time it was the most Filipino he’d cooked that season and was excited to take it mainstream. That risk made him a contender on the show, so hopefully the desserts will evolve over time.
Author Jennifer 8. Lee, describes American Chinese food as, “It’s Chinese. It just happened to be born in America. Or maybe the truth was closer to this: It’s American. It just looks Chinese.”
At Talde, the food is multicultural, familiar and fun—it’s American.