We were already fans of Bravo’s “Top Chef Season 4” and “All-Stars” contestant Dale Talde going in — a fact we tried hard not to convey when interviewing him about Talde, his new Asian-fusion eatery on Seventh Avenue and 11th Street in Park Slope.
Yet, while witty one-liners, a boyish smile, and the ability to whip up a winning dish using ingredients and supplies rummaged from a Target megastore proved to be a recipe for success onscreen — it doesn’t necessarily translate to good eats in real life.
So does the actual restaurant measure up to its reality television trappings? These are the reasons we’ll never tell Talde to pack his knives and go.
His name is on the door, but he refuses to be the star
When your business partners are John Bush and David Massoni from the highly respected Thistle Hill Tavern, you’re already ahead of the game. That’s why — even though he rules his kitchen with an iron whisk — Talde knows better than to meddle with front-of-house affairs.
“What I like so much about the partnership here is that it’s a very even split,” Talde said. “I take care of the back of house, David takes care of the front of house, John is in charge of the bar. We own our responsibilities and get them done.”
The food is top drawer, the space is sexy, the cocktails are slammin’ — but the restaurant still feels like your corner Cantonese place
Notoriety may draw the pretty people to Talde’s place at first, but he insists that’s not what it’s about.
“Something ‘Top Chef’ taught me is to not to get caught up in a concept or technique or how it looks on a plate,” Talde said. “The premium at this restaurant is that the food tastes good — not that we used tweezers to put herbs on the plate or hydrocolloids to hold the sauce together.”
He’s freeing fusion
The food here is a revelatory antidote to skanky sushi pizzas or gimmicky cheese steak-stuffed eggrolls.
From salty pretzel dough wrapped pork and chive dumplings with spicy mustard, to impossibly crisp-tender Korean fried chicken with grapes and mint, to Pad Thai dotted with briny fried oysters and fragrant thick-cut bacon, to flat-out fantastic black pepper brisket with pickled daikon over black pepper-butter toast — a hell of an ode to good old American ‘cue — Talde owns every cross-referencing bite.
“When people hear fusion, or a blend of foods together, they think there’s no authenticity to it,” said Talde. “My parents came from the Philippines, so I grew up eating fish head stew and chicken adobo, but I was born and raised in Chicago, with a distinctly American point of view. This new generation of Asian-Americans has created a brand new culture.”
He likes us. He really, really likes us:
“I love how honest the food is here — Brooklyn’s like, we’re just gonna do us,” said Talde. “No one’s hiring six foot models at the door that turn you away for wearing jeans and Jordans. Everyone here is somebody. When you walk in the door, they get you your favorite beer.”
“At some point, you just give yourself to the neighborhood,” he added. “I just want to give myself to them.”
Talde [369 Seventh Ave. at 11th Street in Park Slope, (347) 916-0031].