Talde: How did he get so far in Top Chef All-Stars?
Talde was my chance to be Top Chef judge for the night. Verdict: I would have sent Dale packing.
The hubs and I trekked over to Park Slope to meet some friends for dinner in their 'hood. After being being quoted ludicrous waits at a few restaurants (why is that, btw? Are they really that good or just one of very few trendy options in the area?), we took up residence at Brook Vin for two hours to try and get in at Talde at 10pm.
At 10, 10:30pm, Talde was still HOPPING. The four of us got a booth seat near the host stand. Service was fine, a little annoying in the "this dish is so great, the chef makes it so there's an explosion of flavors, blah, blah" kind of way. We order:
Perilla leaves: Didn't try this, but these are five tiny leaves with bits of toasted shrimp, coconut, bacon-tamarind caramel, and peanuts. Literally one-bites.
Pretzel pork and chive dumplings: Didn't try, but looked good in the standard dumpling way.
Lobster tom kha gai: Decent-sized noodle soup with sweet-creamy coconutty broth and sweet pieces of lobster. Would have been good if it weren't so overpoweringly salty - it was enough to make even the salt-loving hubs go, "whoa!" And just curious, anyone know what's with the pricing? Every other menu item is a straight whole-dollar amount, this one is $13.69.
Oyster and bacon pad thai: The fried oysters were great and not greasy at all, but the rest of the pad thai was very standard. The saucing was fine in a well-made normal Thai restaurant kind of way (not gloppy or too sweet), but the noodles were actually on the side of being overdone.
Short rib kare-kare: The waiter recommended we get a side of black pepper toast to mop up the kare-kare sauce, but thank god we didn't - we wanted nothing to do with the sauce. It had a strange blunt (I'm avoiding saying "bitter" since it wasn't sharp enough a flavor on its own, but it does come to mind) flavor, not very peanutty or anything else but SALTY. Hubs: "It was just bad."
The waiter told us that the kare-kare was based on a traditional Filipino recipe, but Dale's riff would send the country into a hypertensive shock. Again, oversalting was a problem, especially with the tiny dried shrimp that decorated the short rib. The meat itself was fine, fork-tender, but it's not a good sign when both of us are wiping the sauce OFF the meat to eat it.
Halo-halo: I loooooove halo-halo, and this was a unique take. Shaved ice, milk (not sure what kind, it didn't seem rich enough to be condensed milk... cream? whole milk?), little tapioca and jellies, dried mango (should have been cut smaller) and - get ready for it - Cap'n Crunch! I do love Cap'n Crunch, but at the end, the dessert started to taste like a watered-down bowl of cereal. The milk probably started to get watery from the melting ice and took on the Cap'n Crunch cereal flavor.
While we were walking out, Dale was sitting at the bar, and judging from the food, he might as well have been the whole night.
My take: definitely not worth a two-hour wait, and even if I lived in the neighborhood, I wouldn't be eager to return. Is it just that Park Slope has too few great dining options for a large population, so anything from decent to above is mobbed? Even Anthony's had a 30+ minute wait, and frankly, it looked mediocre at best. I read other Talde reviews on Chowhound, and it sounds like I'm in the minority here, but the hubs and I independently thought the meal was bleh.
On the plus side: free refills on soda.
369 7th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11215
Sorry to hear you weren't thrilled. I guess that happens when one treks on the subway and waits for two hours -- your expectations are probably higher. Mine would be, which is one of the reasons why I don't do those type of waits.
You're right about Park Slope's dining options. Kind of boring, and I'm thrilled to have Talde in the neighborhood. Try walking in many of the halfway decent restaurants without a reservation on a Saturday night and you'll encounter very long waits. I've learned to either make reservations or eat elsewhere. Talde doesn't take reservations unless you're a party of six (they say six or more, but judging from the set-up of the place, I think six is probably best unless you don't mind your group being separated). So even though I live in the hood I probably won't be going there very often.
About your meal -- too bad you didn't try the perilla leaf. I thought it was one of the best things out there. I've heard mediocre reports about the pad thai. Seems like it sounds better than it tastes. They must have screwed up on the kare kare because I didn't think it was salty at all. And I tend not to like overly salty things. And I agree with you about the halo halo -- needed more of a creamy element to balance it.
re: Miss Needle
I had written a review on Talde a while ago, and I was not thrilled. It surely didn't live up to the hype. I liked the menu, but the dishes did not have a good balance of flavors. Usually too something i.e. salty, sweet, bad mix of tastes etc. Kare kare should be salty from the alamang ( shrimp taste) but Talde had the wrong taste going on there. The halo halo is not like any I've had.
I had a good one recently at Pig and Khao, and of course at Tito Rad's. I said I'd give Talde another try, but i never went back. I choose to go to that Korean small dish place on Garfield ( forgot the name). I hate waiting on line.
We had a similarly disappointing experience on a Saturday night that was BANANAS in there. Although we did find enough promising dishes to go back.
We went back on a Sunday night, early (like, 5ish) and got seated immediately in the back with view of the kitchen. Dale was back there expediting. With revised expectations that were lower than last time, we actually really enjoyed our food - everything we ate. We avoided the Perilla leaf which last time we both thought was a joke, went with the Kale Salad which was awesome, the pad thai which as you mention was "good not great" but certainly good enough, and a few other dishes that we really did enjoy. Just good neighborhood food though, not Top Chef-super-fancy-culinary-masterpiece food (which we were expecting the first time). Will go back the next time we crave asian food.
We've had some mixed experiences at Talde in the past as well, but went last night (a Wednesday night) and the food seemed much better. Dale wasn't in the kitchen, but the woman expediting was tasting everything carefully and keeping a close eye on things. The kale salad was indeed awesome and everything else was solid.