The hubby and I have been making the Top Chef rounds in NYC as of late. It’s not exactly that we had a plan to visit restaurants run by Top Chef contestant, judges and the like. It just ends up that often, these places are just what we’re looking for in a restaurant. Laid back…affordable…interesting…inventive…out of the box…
Of course, we’re not the only ones who feel this way and it shows. Reservations tend to be required well in advance and if they don’t accept them there’s always a line out the door and down the street. The latter describes Talde perfectly.
He may not have won the Bravo TV title of Top Chef but he’s been making a pretty good name for himself here in New York. Dale Talde, owner of the of so popular Park Slope restaurant Talde, has been having a pretty good run.
He’s just been named People’s Best New Chef, NYC by Food & Wine magazine. He’s got an awesome, cheap, dive-y yet delicious spot on 5th Ave adorably named Pork Slope, and another joint on 7th Ave, Thistle Hill Tavern. Being a Brooklyn resident, I’m happy he’s here.
Talde opens at 5pm and I recommend getting there not long after that. Living Park Slope adjacent we walk by Talde often and have seen the hordes waiting for a table as early as 5:45, so we decided to eat with the blue hairs that evening and showed up at the very unfashionable time of 5:30. The place was already ¾ of the way full but we were able to snag a nice table near the open kitchen. We love watching the chefs at work.
We ordered a few cocktails. I was feeling a little under the weather and told myself I wasn’t going to drink…but then I saw the hot toddy and that plan went straight out the window. If they’re still serving this get it before it’s gone. It was one of the better toddies I’ve had this past winter. They’ve got quite a nice cocktail menu and a very affordable beer list. Come to think of it, the bar at Talde would be a nice spot to have a drink even if you couldn’t get a seat for dinner (which is entirely possible).
The menu at Talde threw me for a bit of a loop the first time I saw it. Appetizers ranged from something common on every Chinese takeout menu, Shrimp Toast, to something seemingly un-Asian like Kale Salad. The noodle menu goes Pan-Asian with ramen, soba, chow fun, pad thai and more. The entrees seem a little more New American with things like ribeye (wok charred), Long Island Fluke and Whole Roasted Branzino, but then you see the Korean Fried Chicken and you’re back in the Pan-Asian game.
I won’t lie. It was damn tough to make a decision that evening. We could have ordered everything. But we decided to share one item from every category and I recommend you do the same.
Although I’ve heard tales of how addictive Talde’s chicken wings can be we decided to see how good this Top Chef contestant could make the lowly shrimp toast, so we chose that as our appetizer. From the noodle column we ordered the Crispy Oyster and Bacon Pad Thai because, hello, oysters and bacon! We couldn’t resist the Smoked Char Siu Pork Shoulder in the entrée section so we grabbed one of those and finished it all off with a rice side dish of tofu, coconut milk and other delights.
If you can believe it, I had never eaten shrimp toast ($12) before this evening. The hubby couldn’t understand how such a thing was possible so we had to order it. The toasts were topped with a lovely Chinese sausage gravy and a perfectly fried egg. The texture was crispy. The shrimp was front and center. I scraped the gravy off the plate with my fork when there was no more toast. Two thumbs up. ‘Nuff said.
After the appetizer all three remaining dishes came at once and although the table could barely contain all that food, it made for a very nice meal.
The pork ($19) was fantastic. I still can’t figure out how they got it to be as tender as they did without having it fall apart. Pork shoulder typically falls apart once it hits that perfectly tender mark but this still held together. It was coated with an addictive glaze and served with a side of pears sliced paper thin. I took some pear and wrapped it around a little nugget of pork…then my eyes rolled back in my head. The sweet, crisp pear around the rich pork made for a perfect bite.
The hubby and I disagreed a bit on the other dishes. I was head over heels in love with the rice. The dish came out in two parts. There was a clay pot with a spiced coconut milk, deliciously firm tofu and some green beans which they mixed with rice, tableside. The flavors were amazingly delicate. There was a wonderful mix of textures with the semi-crisp green beans, the chewy rice, the silky sauce and the almost impossibly firm tofu. I loved it. The hubby wasn’t as wow’d, but hey, more for me.
The pad thai was good. The oysters were the star of the plate, fried perfectly to golden brown perfection. The noodles were fine but nothing to write home about. I felt like the oysters weren’t really part of the dish but I enjoyed gobbling them up all the same. The hubby thought the bacon was a bit overpowering. I thought too much acid was the culprit. We might have both been right. We did, however, eat and enjoy the whole thing. It was a very filling dish, but for $16 I felt it could have been a bit better.
After visiting Talde I can see why he’s such a beloved chef. Anyone that can put a gourmet twist on shrimp toast and make something as simple as tofu and rice sing deserves all the publicity he’s receiving.
So make your way to Park Slope for Talde but go early. It’s worth dining before sunset for this food.