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Wednesday, January 22, 2014


I know I just wrote about a Top Chef restaurant, but I'm doing it again just a week later.  I probably shouldn't be surprised when a restaurant by a Top Chef alum is actually good.  They made it onto the show by being at the top of their game, but after 11 seasons of the show, it has begun to feel less authentic.  I have begun assuming that all hype surrounding a restaurant venture by a former Top Chef contestant is related more to the glitz and glamour of the show rather than the food itself.  Tsk tsk for being so cynical because at Talde the raves are about the food, not the fantasy.

Dale Talde does whatever he wants.  Based on the menu, he has kind of a "screw it" attitude and cooks the food he wants to eat, while playing the music he wants to hear.  There's no Beethoven in the dining room, but you will hear some hard rock playing softly.  The more energetic music matches the food, which is packed with flavor and a bit rebellious.  Want a selection of desserts?  Tough luck.  Talde prepares just one dessert and if you like it, great.  If not, grab a candy bar from the bodega around the corner.  Incidentally, the dessert - caramelized apples in a hot pot with pickled raisins, a crème anglaise, and a spun rice cake crust - was lovely.

The food is heavily influenced by two things: Asian cuisine and marijuana.  Talde has mentioned his recreational use of weed and I'm pretty sure that some of the more inventive flavor combinations on the menu are his refined take on stoner food.  Most were probably inspired by his own late night escapades in the kitchen while under the influence.  Take, for instance, the Hawaiian bread buns.  They're a new take on sliders, reminiscent of steamed pork buns but use Hawaiian bread instead of rice cakes.  The same Hawaiian bread my mom bought in plastic bags at the grocery store and that I would love to devour drunk.  Here, they're filled with pork sausage, fried fish, or mushroom.

We pretty much tried everything on the menu so I'll just run through the list: The pretzel pork and chive dumplings were perfectly crisped and quite meaty.  The yuzu guacamole was tart and spicy with crispy rice stack to satisfy the need for crunch usually achieved with a tortilla chip.  Both noodle dishes we chose were superb.  The Southerner in me loved the fried oysters and thick cut bacon that were in the pad thai.  The short rib fell apart into a pull of peanut noodles that was far more nuanced than the sesame noodles of my usual takeout order (which is pretty much spaghetti with peanut butter).  We had a fried fish that seemed intimidating by the look of the head and tail but once we chipped away at the flesh, we were rewarded with a nice, slightly salty treat.  No complaints on the Filipino beef skewers but they were not as exciting as the Korean fried chicken.  A good crunch into the skin leads you to juicy meat.  The kimchi yogurt sauce is spicy but then cooled by the sweet pop of grapes.  For the sides we got the sticky rice, which is a great equalizer in the meal.  Finally, we got the market vegetable.  If you're lucky, it will still be in season when you're there because - bold statement alert - they may have been the best Brussels sprouts I've had.  I love love love a good roasted Brussels sprout with bacon.  And thankfully, they have become very popular so I can find them on the menus of most restaurants nowadays.  I have not yet come close to sprout fatigue, but it was so refreshing to see them prepared differently.  This time, with kafir lime.

If you don't live in Park Slope you'll probably say you'll pass because it's a little too far.  But don't do that.  It would make you stupid.  And I don't like stupid people.    

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