December 10, 2012 | BITE: My Journal
Talde: I Can’t Believe I Ate the Whole Thing.
Perilla leaf aka shiso with toasted shrimp and coconut in sticky caramel with an afterkick.
It sounded like fun. A caboodle of movers and shakers and appreciators organized by a new friend, converging for dinner at Talde in Brooklyn. The savvy chef whisperer Lauren had urged me months ago to check out the sizzle at this joint with a Top Chef alum at the pass. But in classic Brooklyn mode, the place didn’t take reservations, except for six or more. It disappeared from my list.
The mahogany flea market choinoserie carvings came from an upstate mansion.
But now we are a muster, reservation accepted. Indeed we are nine, stuffed into a tall wooden booth, four to a side, instantly more intimate than sugar snap peas, with the last to arrive in the default seat, a bump in the aisle of full bustle. I’m facing an assortment of flea market swag, Asian gewgaws on dark wooden chinoiserie shelves. Fun. The wooden mahogany curlicues seem to be a theme.
“Have you ever been here before?” the waitress begins, prelude to the big no-surprise: “All our dishes are meant to share.”
“Meant for nine?”
Vegetable samosas get dipped in sweet and sour tamarind molasses.
It’s not that difficult to choose. The menu is just one page long with big print: savvy variations on Asian classics by an American-born Filipino who loves bacon as much as we do. Banana leaf sticky rice with Chinese bacon. Smoked char suit pork shoulder with peanuts and autumn pears. Wonton noodle soup with smoked pork, bitter greens and a six-minute egg. Obviously we’re not going to be passing plates.
The poets among us zone out to walk with Einstein on the beach. The entrepreneur on my left is swift and practical. “We’ll just order one of everything,” he declares.
“Except for the soup,” I suggest. “It will be difficult to divide into nine bowls.”
What a deal! A dozen Kung Pao chicken wings to dip in buttermilk ranch for just $16.
Dieter is assigned to choose a red. Why Dieter? Why not? We like his accent and he’s closest to our server. The feisty Enanzo tempranillo he chooses drinks surprisingly well with this eclectic lineup. Yes, with pretzel pork and chive dumplings, with the sweet and sticky kung pao chicken wings and their house-made buttermilk ranch dip, even with the calamansi pickled chilis on the Szechuan sea bream. Hmm. I think I passed on that sea bream.
The chef calls these Hawaiian Bread buns. Ours are stuffed with Filipino pork sausage.
This was clearly more of a marathon feed than a dining experience. I went with the drill for the first 15 or 16 dishes. I could only fitfully appreciate the last five or six. The attention never faltered. Smiles never faded.
I don’t understand the passion for kale, not even as a vehicle for hazelnut ponzu.
From the first round of plastic oval tasting dishes, nothing we asked was too much. Clean plates. New silver. Another round of Hawaiian bread buns stuffed with Filipino pork sausage. Seconds on the pretty little shiso leaves with the delayed after-kick, each dotted with a tiny toasted shrimp in bacon-tamarind caramel.
Shrimp foo yung fried rice is a cunning Talde twist on the classic.
It was fun. Some of what I ate was really good. I’m not going to suggest it’s worth recruiting five pals to make a long detour to Park Slope. But if you turn the wrong way and find yourself on a bridge or if you are a Top Chef fan and friends blindfold you and, guess what!
The whole roasted branzino is wrapped in banana leaf with tumeric and tomato.
Here’s what to look for: The very elegant green mango salad. An unusual coil of chow fun noodle dough with braised pork shank and pickled mustard greens. Korean fried chicken with spicy kimchee yogurt and grapes. Shrimp egg fu yung fried rice is a wonderful side.
The popular pad thai took a while to get to me. At this time, I’m too full to focus.
I think I liked the shrimp toast with a fried egg and Chinese sausage sauce. One ninth was such a tiny piece I wouldn’t sign an affidavit. Vegetable samosas were a tad clumsy, not as successful as the pretzel dumplings. I can live without kale for the rest of my life. But kale partisans at the table thought Talde’s was a great vehicle for hazelnut ponzu.
But I’m not too full to appreciate the juicy nubbins of ribeye in this wok toss.
Long Island fluke afloat in rich black bean brown butter was a hit. And my appetite revived when I spied the black angus ribeye stir fry with wilted Thai basil and rice paper crisps. No one else was still eating so I had three luscious black-pepper-caramel glazed chunks. #369 signifies the market vegetable of the day served with green sambal. No shock -- it was Brussels spouts, my personal favorite. If Talde were to open on Amsterdam, I’d be there.
It’s called #369 on the menu, the vegetable of the day, wok-fired Brussels sprouts.
Someone was apparently lively enough to order dessert. Probably they did it for me while I was meditating. The chef’s riff on Halo Halo, his favorite Filipino dessert -- shaved ice with fruit and coconut and Cap’n Crunch in a big mixing bowl -- was pretty much ignored. And rightly so.
The Filipino dessert Halo Halo gets shaved ice with coconut and Cap'n Crunch.
The evening’s toppings on homemade chocolate pudding made with 67% chocolate were Campari-candied grapefruit rind, Szechuan spiced peanuts and brûléed marshmallows. Worth a try.
Chocolate pudding with Szechuan-spiced peanuts seems superfluous tonight.
Maybe you’re a Top Chef fan, and like me, you need a good reason to cross that bridge and stew in a bar waiting for a table. I should warn you that you probably won’t see Dale Talde. We didn’t. He’s moved on to open Pork Slope, “a nod to every dive bar me and my partners have ever dreamed of opening.” And recently he joined his partners, John Bush and David Massoni, as executive chef in their Thistle Hill Tavern, not far away at 441 Seventh Avenue. You might catch a blur of him there.
Chef Talde made his mark with ferocious zeal on Top Chef.
369 Seventh Avenue on the corner of 11th Street Park Slope, Brooklyn, 347 916 0031. Dinner Seven days, 5 pm to midnight. Brunch Saturday and Sunday. 11 am till 3 pm.
Photographs may not be used without permission of Gael Greene. Copyright 2012 All rights reserved.
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