Yesterday, we spoke to chef Dale Talde about the plans for his new Park Slope restaurant, Pork Slope, and the new brunch he’s launching at Talde. Today, we delve into his thoughts on the neighborhood where he’s chosen to build his mini-empire, Asian-American food, and which kitchen tool he just can’t live without.
Why choose Park Slope for your restaurants? Do you live in the neighborhood?
I live in Downtown Brooklyn. The first time I came, I drove through Park Slope, it really reminded me of my hometown, Chicago. And I feel like there’s a need here. Location, location, location. I mean, you could locate in Manhattan, but tell me that First and 1st needs another restaurant? Or Second Avenue and 4th Street needs another restaurant? They don’t. None of those neighborhoods do.
And their neighborhoods by classification, but they don’t feel like neighborhoods. You don’t know your neighbors, per se. You don’t know the guy at the bodega. I know all the guys in the bodega; we know all of the business owners in this [Park Slope] area. I see the same faces. Every Wednesday at 5 o’ clock the same family, they have a beautiful young boy, they come in for date night. That to me is the highest compliment, when they choose your space to have date night and you know you can get them the same beer, and you can either turn them on to something new, or you can say, “Same thing as last week? Fried rice and red Hitachino ale?”
Which do you prefer: ramen or soba? And where do you go to get your fix?
I love both. To me ramen and soba are too different. Ramen is always, for me, good when it’s cold outside. I like soba when it’s ice cold, it’s blazing hot outside (funny because we’re putting a fresh soba dish on the menu at Talde in about a week — it’s going to be one of our vegetarian options: kimchi, ramps, smoked tofu, house-made black sesame sauce).
For ramen, I always go to Chuko on Vanderbilt and Dean. They’re buddies of mine. And soba … I don’t really go out for soba very much. I have memories from when I first came to New York City and they were trying to do fresh soba at Morimoto, and Makoto, the head sushi chef, was religious about it. He would make a bowl of soba and we would all slurp noodles at family meal. To me it was like, “This is why I came to New York City, to experience a different culture.”
How do you feel about the sudden spurt of Asian-American restaurants?
I’ve been to RedFarm, and I think they do a great job there. I feel like it’s our generation [Asian-American food]. It’s really just more of a time issue. It’s like, we are all thirtysomethings in our profession, and if you think about it, if you are a cook, in general, skip race, you’re a cook and you started cooking at around 19, 20, 21 — you are just coming into your own. You learn your craft, you become good at your craft, you start to make a name for yourself, then you decide to do your own thing. That’s me, and I’m 33. So, you start to see a lot of this.
For example, Paul Qui from Top Chef [Texas], we’re both Asian American. He was born in the Philippines and raised here, and I was born here but I’m first-generation Filipino. He’s just starting to become his own chef with his own style and his stamp on flavor and food. Now he’s able to express that. And that’s kind of where we are, as Asian Americans, especially the first generation. We are just now kind of becoming our own classification.
Are there other chefs in New York, regardless of culture, that you would put into that same category — that 30- to 35-year-old box — that are really coming into their own right now?
Harold Dieterle. If you eat at Kin Shop, you’d think that the guy has a 21-letter all-vowel last name. You think he’s Thai. His food is so — it’s so real. You don’t know that he’s not Asian. I think he’s just an amazing chef.
Amazing, Robbie Cook at Morimoto. The head sushi chef at Morimoto. He’s white as rice, he’s from, like, Iowa. And he bangs out the best sushi and in my opinion, for my money, best experience. Robbie Cook at Morimoto does the best sushi. Get omakase, sit in front of him, have him give you the best, and it’s really one of those experiences. … I had the Jiro Dreams of Sushi [a documentary about a Japanese sushi master] moment, even before that movie came out, and I went to his restaurant, working at Morimoto with Robbie.
What kitchen tool can you not live without?
My knives. I am so attached to my knives. It’s ridiculous.
Besides Pork Slope, anything new in Dale Talde world?
Not really. I’m just trying to get better every day. That’s the goal. What’s new is the same thing I was telling myself 10 years ago. It doesn’t matter what happened yesterday; it’s about getting better every day.