If you know me at all then you’d know that while I don’t watch TV or listen to the radio, I am wired enough to recall the names of random shows and celebrities. So I can tell you that the chef at Talde was in Top Chef, though I can’t tell you what Top Chef is exactly, other than it’s a popular contest show about cooking. Plus Dale Talde is Filipino, so that immediately put Talde on the map for me as a restaurant I needed to try. The Filipino presence in Brooklyn is extremely lacking, so any attempt is worth my attention. Talde called itself an Asian-American Restaurant & Bar, and I hoped it wouldn’t be fusion-y. I hate that!
Fortunately the chef (recently named by Food & Wine as New York’s Best New Chef) did his homework enough to maintain an authentic Asian feel to his dishes without transforming it into the fusion-like mess that I hate, when a dish that is commonly served family style in large undecorated quantities suddenly becomes miniscule, pretty, but lost. I like my Asian food Asian, not French.
I love my longganisa and so we had to order the Hawaiian bread with it and also the one with fish. The bread was so soft that it got a kiss from me. The fillings were even better.
Now these wings are what will keep me coming back here. The perfect blend of heat and sweet as only an Asian guy is brave enough to attempt. My friend actually accidentally swallowed an entire pepper in this dish, and she caught fire. :p The server was calm enough to hand us a Hawaiian bread to help tame the flames. Plus ranch dressing? Who’d have thought? Sorry Bonnie’s Grill wings, but maybe you finally have competition.
A great twist on dumplings is to make it worthy of hot mustard, i.e. make it a pretzel! How come no one ever thought of that? A drizzle of vinegar and it becomes Filipino. Blows your mind.
We had Koreans in our crew so naturally we had to sample the Korean friend chicken, garnished with unlikely friends yogurt, grapes and mint. Yes I said grapes. If anything I know that the chef has found the secret to countering heat – it is in sweetness and creaminess, which blends the heat and delivers it coated into your mouth for that final punch.
With this pad thai, good becomes even better. Fried oysters what? They were of good quality too, a close second to my favorite ones that are also partnered with bacon. The noodles were moist (don’t you hate dry pad thai? I mean, how hard can it be?) and tasty.
One of the best parts of our meal was the chef stopping by and checking to see what we ordered. He nodded and said we got the best of everything. I always enjoy that kind of acknowledgment despite my attention phobia. It’s not like I want special treatment, but it’s nice when the chef cares about his guests enough to say hello. Sadly, this has happened only two other times in my dining at over 100 restaurants for this blog. Once when the chef was also Filipino, and the other when the chef wanted to put a face to which two people were ordering all of the specials in addition to four dozen oysters!
And if this fish didn’t just jump out from an Southeast Asian hut, I don’t know where else it came from. Love this presentation and the shameless retention of the head. This is how you know chefs are brave, when they force the ewwing Americans to deal with fish heads!
The vegetarian mapo tofu was made with butternut squash, and we enjoyed it a lot because it was a good break from all the heat. Wait, aren’t those more peppers in there?
Of course I’m all over the calamansi, the Philippine lime whose flavor simply cannot be duplicated by our local citruses. The acid cut through the salt and oil of the brussels sprouts. I could have eaten this for days.
Alas, nobody is perfect and if I had the chance I’d ask Mr. Talde what his inspiration was for his “halo-halo” dessert. Apparently, the chef does not do dessert. Curiously, we still ordered it and were just flabbergasted at the Cap’n Crunch cereal over shaved ice, and as a group of Asians, we just had to laugh. What gives? The ice might be the only thing halo-halo about it. Add some stewed bananas or something! I’m hoping to see better desserts here, even just a simple flan with a fried banana maybe, some pimped out turon with mint or mango/jackfruit ice cream. I thought the halo-halo was out of character for the rest of the amazing menu. But I’m not big on dessert myself so I won’t take that against him. Either way, I’ll be back!
369 7th Ave (& 11th street)
Brooklyn, NY 11215