BY CRAIG CAVALLO
Hours are Monday – Sunday 5pm – 12am
369 7th Ave.
Park Slope, Brooklyn
347-916-0031 / taldebrooklyn.com/
Two huge square windows lend a peek into the restaurant as you walk north on 7th Ave towards 11th Street in Park Slope. The name above the entrance is Talde. It is the new creation from
Top Chef alum Dale Talde and neighborhood veterans David Massoni and John Bush. Chef aside, the duo has earned a respectable name for themselves running their nearly two year old outpost down the street, ThistleHillTavern.
It is usually a gamble choosing to eat at a restaurant on opening night. The early opening with friends and family can only soften the blow so much. But, everything seemed in place walking into Talde at 8:15. That includes the beautiful, ornate, 150 year old dark wood that once sat in a Mamaroneck mansion upstate and now helps to welcome patrons out of the cold. The room was clean, the floors weren’t scratched and there was no gum under the tables.
The service, like the food, is fresh and enthusiastic. The algorithm between spicy food and water levels is thankfully understood at Talde.
The beverage options are not exceptional but there is something for everyone. There is sake, wine by the glass, including a white and red option from China, $10 cocktails, and a safe selection of both draft and bottled beers. The brief bottle list is efficient and offers wines mostly from Italy, France, and a handful of states, many of which are from artisanal producers practicing organic wine making methods.
The menu is simple, short and concise, economic, and riddled with influence from Dale Talde’s Philipino background. It is encouraged to share here and that is never a bad thing. The dishes seemed to have a mind of their own and came from the kitchen to our table following their own schedule. Only once did I raise a brow, when the side of black pepper toast ($3) hit the table after the apps and before any of the mains. Albeit delicious, and basically cinnamon toast for grown ups, it was odd having it arrive on its own.
Start with the PerillaLeaf ($7). It is covered with shrimp, peanuts, and a tamarind infused caramel that are all easily hoisted to the diner’s mouth using the leaf as the vehicle. It is a provocative combination of flavors that excites the palate and readies one for a full meal.
The Hawaiian Bread Buns ($11) come in three’s and offer three options, Filipino pork sausage, Long Island fluke, and a market vegetable, available in any combination. Maybe a bit over priced, but a fun snack and an easy share.
The Saigon crepes ($11) were like an Asian quesadilla and the first introduction to the Chinese bacon that makes frequent, and pleasurable, cameo’s throughout the menu. Chinese bacon is essentially pork belly and the way it is done here leaves the diner with a mild, lightly barbecued result. The crepe is a light, crispy shell that traps bean sprouts, smoked shrimp, Chinese bacon, and mint. A well thought out dish that is fresh and, ingredients considered, surprisingly light.
The iceberg wedge ($9) is remarkable and shows chef Talde’s ability to cross pollinate food from different cultures. It is served with “sri-rancha”. Sriracha is slow cooked in an Alto-Shaam until it dries out and turns into a powder and is then mixed with a homemade ranch. All of which rains over crisp chunks of iceberg lettuce. The Chinese bacon rears its pretty head and, in traditional style, wedges are finished with crumbles of blue cheese. Perfect.
Neighborhood noodle nooks ZuZuRamen and Naruto have a new contender with the wonton noodle soup ($12) at Talde. It is exactly what the heart and soul crave on a 16 degree winter night. The broth is rich and clean and hot. The pork wontons would have been just as good dressed in butter and sage and served at the likes of Ciano or Maialino. The broccoli rabe was vibrant green and al dente. It added to layers of flavor with its bitter crunch. The smoked pork was on the dry side but the six-minute egg sat softly in the broth, once broken, its yellow soul was the yin to the broths yang.
The BBQ pork shoulder ($18) was a thick slab of pork that almost pulled apart by looking at it. The pears it is served with were a step away from an afterthought but the smoked miso mustard was the perfect condiment to cut the fat marbled throughout the wonderfully smoked pork.
I left in a mild delirium. My stomach was full of well executed food and my mouth still carried the rich flavors they left behind. Park Slope does not have anywhere that offers these clean, modern, Asian flavors and I left Talde thinking I had to catch the F train at Delancey or 2nd Ave to head home. A second in the cold air brought me back to reality, I was home, and even better, I could walk home.