Talde: Pan-Asian in the Pan
Dale Talde sure knows how to write a menu. In perusing the bill of fare at his new Park Slope restaurant, Talde, I found not a single dish I didn't want to devour. Pretzel, pork, and chive dumplings? Yes, please. An iceberg wedge with Sri-rancha dressing, blue cheese, and Chinese sausage? Holler!
And as I discovered after trekking to Seventh Avenue, I wasn't alone in my desire for pan-Asian comfort food from the Top Chef alum. A no-reservations policy (for groups under six) and a relatively small space means you'll likely be cooling your heels predinner. One Wednesday evening, the host even quoted a two-hour wait—a significant chunk of time for the stroller-saturated nabe. In actuality, it ended up being only an hour and 15 minutes, enough time to plop onto a stool at the wooden bar and knock back some tropical tipples, such as the fine $10 Pacquiao Punch made with Kraken rum, Brooklyn Republic vodka, curaçao, vanilla, and citrus.
Once you're happily buzzed and finally seated (hopefully in one of the intimate booths toward the front), prepare to share. All the grub is served family-style on kitschy plastic plates adorned with Far Eastern motifs. Saigon crepes ($12)—a riff on the Vietnamese banh xeo—stuff smoked shrimp, bacon, and mint into crunchy, coconutty wafers: awesomely good. Then double up on shellfish with an order of the classic shrimp toast ($11).
Indeed, much of the menu reinvents and elevates beloved takeout standards. One of the best examples plays on tom kha gai, the spicy Thai coconut-milk-based soup brightened with galangal and lemongrass. Here, lobster chunks, corn kernels, and rice noodles up the ante, creating a bowl that's at once delicious, luxurious, and inexpensive at only $13.69. Beat that, seamless.com. Vegetarian ramen—usually a bust—reinvents the formula with slabs of smoked tofu, fingerling potatoes, and plump shiitake mushrooms ($12). And how can you ever go back to old pad Thai after shoveling down a version made with bacon and deep-fried oysters ($15)?
Zippy fried chicken ($23), full of spice, arrives from Buffalo by way of K-Town—although I would have dug it more with moister breast meat and an accompaniment beyond a sprinkling of halved grapes. Pork shoulder ($18), too, arrived with only a mere two slivers of apple. I don't totally fault the cooks—it's common these days to encounter entrées minus any sides. I just wish it weren't so.
You won't find much, sweets-wise, save for a play on the Filipino classic, halo-halo ($8). Talde professed his love of the dessert on Top Chef and even busted out a version topped with avocado, mango, kiwi, and nuts for the show. His new rendition is equally inventive: A mound of shaved ice dotted with candied palm seeds and mango cubes rests in a pool of kaffir lime-scented coconut milk, all crowned with a handful of Cap'n Crunch cereal. Unfortunately, this one is better in theory than in flavor, resembling something a five-year-old would create if given free rein in the kitchen.
Still, it was the only major hiccup encountered during my series of dinners at Talde. And if you're chowing down like my friends and I did, I'm willing to wager you've left little room for dessert in your now-bulging gut. Or maybe that's just your Park Slope pregnant belly beginning to show.
For more restaurant coverage, check out our food blog, Fork in the Road, at voicefoodblog.com. Follow us on Twitter @ForkintheRoadVV.
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