369 7th ave, Park slope
4 out of 5 L's
When a restaurant bills itself as an Asian Fusion joint, it usually goes one of two ways: either it’s a Chinese restaurant that serves questionable sushi and sub-par Pad Thai, or it’s Ruby Foo’s, Time Square’s purveyor of peking duck nachos and south-of-the-border sushi (a shrimp-tuna roll topped with pico de gallo). At best, the classification implies that a restaurant is inauthentic, and at worst, it says that the place is just plain cheesy. But if one restaurant could polish the tarnish off the term “Asian Fusion,” it would be Park Slope’s Talde. Here, Top Chef alum Dale Talde fuses the New York pretzel with a dumpling for indisputably tasty results. Juicy pork and chive filling is wrapped in a pretzel-like skin, drizzled with butter, dusted with sea salt and served with spicy mustard ($8). And Pad Thai gets a New American twist with the genius inclusion of crisp fried oysters and bacon ($15). Unlike standard Thai takeout, with its bland scattering of chicken, beef or mock duck, the deep, smoky bacon flavor infuses each noodle.
On mismatched plates, all decorated in bright Chinatown florals, Chef Talde successfully serves cuisine that crosses country lines. His Korean fried chicken ($23 for a big, sharable portion) promises a thick, spicy, crispy crust casing succulent breast meat. It comes with a spicy kimchee-yogurt sauce, fresh mint and an unexpectedly perfect pairing of sweet green grapes to balance the heat. And though the must-try Saigon crepes ($12) nod to Vietnam, they conjure that balance of tart, spicy, fishy, salty, sour and sweet flavors similar to the Crispy Chinese Watercress Salad at Sriprapa—many a food nerd’s favorite dish at the beloved Queens Thai restaurant. The “crepes” are actually a light, salty, crispy batter folded over smoked shrimp, Chinese bacon and mint. Another appetizer simply called the Perilla leaf ($5) manages to bring Talde’s unfailing balance of bold flavors into a single bite. The plate is lined with leaves of shiso, a delicately flavored member of the mint family, and each holds a bit of toasted shrimp, coconut, peanuts and some magical condiment called bacon-tamarind caramel. It doesn’t matter if this is authentic to a particular culture or a fusion of several—it’s drop-dead delicious.
The only caveat to dining at Talde is that they don’t take reservations for parties smaller than 6, but there’s plenty of room near the front bar, which is overseen by a tall mahoghany shelf of blue enamel guardian lion statues and lucky cat figurines. So round up five friends or grab one of their well-selected drafts (including Brooklyn Brewery’s Sorachi Ace, a saison featuring Japanese-developed hops, $6) to help bide some time. It’s worth the wait.