It's a funny thing, this Top Chef business. This insanely popular show has undoubtedly played a role in our country's constantly growing appetite for food television programming. It's made stars out of Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons, gave us the Indian Queen of Food and Sexy, Padma Lakshmi, and has forced the Food Network and others into spending huge amounts of money trying to develop a successful amateur competition franchise of their own. It's also made more than a few chef contestants into household names, catapulting them from their spot on the restaurant kitchen line into millions of American households and then off to fend for themselves with some money and a sh*tload of Glad sandwich bags. To us, that's where things get interesting.
A Top Chef contestant, flush with funding and some television fame that has a very short half-life, must very much be to the food industry what an American Idol contestant is to the music business. Especially when those contestants open up a restaurant in New York City, amongst the most talented professionals in their field. Many musicians look down on their "peers" from American Idol because they are perceived to have taken a shortcut, where so many spent years slugging it out in the trenches before they got any sort of break. Fair or not, it's harder to earn respect inside the music community if you had to sing cover songs and pretend to like Randy Jackson to get noticed. Do chefs in this town think the same way about a guy who is opening a restaurant because he happened to be particularly good at cooking while tied to another chef? I have to guess the answer is yes.
So in some ways, when Dale Talde, a very popular contestant from not one, but two seasons of the show opened up his restaurant Talde a few months ago, the chips where stacked both for him and against him. The restaurant opened to immediate crowds, and waits can now be up to two hours on some nights. But Dale has to prove himself again, even though he's already accomplished a lot. Expectations will be high, and we get the feeling that the real food critics will be looking for every opportunity to write about the restaurant's flaws. As for us, we have always rooted for Dale, and can report back that our experience at his restaurant was generally excellent, with only a few drawbacks. Service at Talde can be a little clumsy, especially when it's crazy busy. We also found a few things to be less exciting than the menu description had promised. But overall, the good things were incredible, and it's a meal worth having. See the Food Rundown for details, and note the winning tip of the day - grab five friends so you can make a reservation for six or more. You do not want to wait two hours to eat here, especially this deep in Park Slope.
Food RundownPretzel Pork & Chive Dumplings
These dumplings are the topic of much discussion at Talde. They've also been called the best in the city by one publication that shall remain unnamed. We'd like to ask everyone to simmer down on that please. They're good, but not quite as pretzely as you might hope, and they seem to be lifted directly from the script of a Quickfire challenge. Order them with tempered expectations.Everything Bagel Spring Rolls
Speaking of a Quickfire challenge, check out these spring rolls from the night's specials. They're basically stuffed with smoked salmon and cream cheese, and topped with the stuff that goes on an everything bagel, which we believe to be an equal mix of poppy seeds and angel dust.Shrimp Toast
This shrimp toast, like much of the menu, is a bit of a sloppy mess, yet pretty satisfying. That said, this one don't hold a candle to the best shrimp toast on the planet, at Son of a Gun in LA.Hawaiian Bread Buns
In keeping with the pork bun trend, Talde serves up a few varieties under the title of "Hawaiian bread buns." You can get them with Filipino pork sausage, fluke, or vegetables inside. We recommend the fluke. It's like a little McDonald's Filet-O-Fish but without the carcinogens. The pork version is decent too, but you'd rather have pork bun from Momofuku or Ippudo.Lobster Thom Kha Gai
This might be the best thing we had at Talde. We were unsure when we ordered it, mostly because it's not easy to share amongst friends when you only have one bowl and six spoons. But once they actually gave us side bowls things got easier. It's a perfect combination of coconut milk, rice noodles, lobster, corn, and delicious Asian flavors. We ordered one up front and one for dessert.Short Ribs Kare-Kare
It's tough to hate a short rib, and these ones with crushed peanuts and pickled chiles won't disappoint. This should be on your table.Whole Market Fish
A nice clean piece of fish is a smart entree order here, because you will have probably eaten some heavy stuff at the beginning of your meal. This is a light option that's still full of flavor.Crispy Oyster and Bacon Pad Thai
One of the baddest things we've ever eaten at a restaurant. I don't know what led Dale to put bacon and oysters in pad thai, but it's probably the reason he was put on this earth. Order this or get your restaurant recommendations elsewhere.Korean Fried Chicken
An incredible sliced fried chicken served with spicy kimchee yogurt and sliced grapes. It's perfectly crunchy and really, really good.Halo-Halo
Back in his Top Chef days, Dale claimed to only know one dessert, this Southeast Asian creation called Halo-Halo. True to form, it's now the only dessert available at his restaurant. All you need to know is that this is one giant silver bowl of stoner heaven, and it's pretty amazing. One order of Halo-Halo will feed the whole table, and is a concoction of shaved ice, two kinds of tapioca, grilled pineapple, jackfruit, and f*cking Captain Crunch. I don't even know what else to say, except good luck getting high and eating things after you've had this. You're gonna be ruined for all snacks forever.