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He made his name as a fierce cheftestant on Top Chef, but Dale Talde is much more than a television badass. His Brooklyn restaurant, Talde, has been getting plenty of buzz (including a review by former Village Voice critic Lauren Shockey) and his forthcoming restaurant Pork Slope seems to be following in the same footsteps. We took a few minutes out of the chef’s busy prep schedule to talk brunch and banh mi. And we tried to get the toque to nail down an opening date on his new project.
What’s new at Talde?
Singapore chili softshell-crab banh mi. We do a tempura batter, with rice flour, and make a very traditional Singapore chili sauce and we slightly toss the two in a wok after it’s been fried. We get bread from Paris Baguette in Chinatown, toast it, and then do pickled daikon and carrots, cilantro. And that’s it. It’s like a seafood-style French dip because we sauce the bottom of the plate and then we cut the banh mi into thirds and then we stand it up inside the sauce so people kind of get the cue to dip. It’s pretty good.
And you’re also starting brunch soon? What should we expect?
We don’t want to stray away from who we are, and I feel like offering pancakes and egg sandwiches is kind of not us. You can kind of get that anywhere, and we realize that Park Slope in general just wants really good Asian food, so we’re doing more of a dim-sum-style brunch. Unfortunately, we wanted to get carts, but the physical space doesn’t allow us. It gets really packed in here. We’re kind of doing it, like, smaller pieces and you just order. The food’s going to come out as it gets prepared.
We’re going to do spring and English pea cheong fun, which are those kind of slippery rice noodles. We’re going to do the pretzel dumplings. We’re going to do the everything-bagel smoked-salmon spring rolls — we actually put that on the menu permanently. We’re doing a sausage, egg, and cheese fried rice. We’re doing the pad thai that we’re doing for dinner except we’re doing it with a fried egg on top. A hot and sour soup. A breakfast ramen.
You don’t take reservations at Talde, what is your personal reasoning?
In the beginning we really just wanted to be a neighborhood restaurant. We really thought that this restaurant was going to be a neighborhood joint. People would just pop in for a bowl of soup or a bowl of noodles and beer, and it’s definitely turned into something different. It has turned into a complete dining destination. So when we put it out there that we weren’t taking reservations it really became about sticking to our guns and saying we don’t take reservations and letting the neighborhood kind of own it as much as they could. We still want it to be a neighborhood restaurant. The fact that people are turning this into a destination restaurant is fantastic, but at the heart of what we are and what we’ll always be is a neighborhood joint. That’s always what I’ve wanted.
You’re opening a second restaurant, Pork Slope, on Fifth Avenue between Carroll and Garfield streets in Park Slope. How did you come up with the name?
It was just one of those moments where everything came together. I said, “if I had a barbecue place here, I’d call it Pork Slope.” And then everyone stopped and looked at each other and said, “What?” and I was like, “If I had a barbecue place, that’s what I’d call it.” And it sort of morphed into what it is now: a Brooklyn roadhouse. … I’m as critical of myself as anybody. People are like, “What’s with the name?” but you know what? It’s one of those things that just happened and the whole idea came from that. Everything that we’ve wanted with the space came from the name. How is the menu evolving there? What will it be like?
The menu is definitely some things that we all love to eat. I’ve been working in restaurants for my entire career and I’ve moonlighted or taken secondary jobs at places that are Mediterranean or more French in influence but always Asian. I’ve made wontons and dumplings for 13 years, and when I’m done with my shift the last thing I want is to see any kind of fried rice or noodles. I’ve always wanted sandwiches and Southern-style fried chicken and biscuits and bread. Burgers and hot dogs and french fries. That’s what I want. That’s what I crave.
And that’s what the menu is. It’s a great burger. It’s a lot of smoked meats. We’re not really calling it barbecue because everybody has their idea of what barbecue is. So we’re calling them smoked meats. Barbecue style ribs, brisket, pork shoulder, all in sandwich or plate form. My girlfriend’s family lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and they have hot chicken. It’s awesome. For me, the best fried chicken. So we’re coming up with recipes in the same style as that. We’re doing plates of tater tots. You know the chili queso dip? At every family function that you saw in that enamel piece? We’re serving it like that. You would always have a bag of chips. It’s a chili con carne that we’re going to top with Chihuahua cheese.
When do you think that Pork Slope will open?
We’re not giving a dates. We hope that it will open early summer. Mid to early summer.