Chef Dale Talde has a good problem: His dishes are too popular. “There are like eight dishes that people are coming in for all the time,” he says of his flagship restaurant, Talde, in Brooklyn. “But the success of a dish can get boring to you as a chef. I wish I could change the menu more often.” So this fall he’s taking his Asian-American concept on the road and opening a new restaurant—with a fresh, new menu—in the Thompson Miami Beach hotel.
This week Talde is also releasing his first cookbook, Asian-American: Proudly Inauthentic Recipes from the Philippines to Brooklyn. In addition to Talde Brooklyn, he and his partners, David Massoni and John Bush, own Carrino Provisions and a second Talde in Jersey City, New Jersey, plus Thistle Hill Tavern and Pork Slope in Brooklyn. We talked to Talde about the appeal of Miami, the importance of staying open late and crazy things he’s bought in Japan.
What can people expect from Talde Miami?
We’ll take cues from the neighborhood like we do in Brooklyn and Jersey City. I tend to have a heavy hand with salt and fat, but I think you have to be conscious of the clientele. It’s really warm there and eating a fatty app and a rich entree and a rich noodle dish…that wears on people. So we’re going to lighten up the menu. We’ll stay true to who we are, but you’ll see raw fish dishes. We’ll definitely have a sashimi program.
Miami has a real luxurious feel to it. It’s like sultry. I opened a restaurant down there with one of my previous bosses. I was there for a month straight and really fell in love. When you get outside of the party-party scene and you get into some neighborhoods and you start to know the people and the culture, you see how beautiful the city is. Besides the glitz and glamor.
Is it hard to break into the dining community there?
It’s hard for any outsider to break into a community that they’re not familiar with or they’re not from. Miami seems to be very open because they’re a tourist-savvy town. We’re on Collins Avenue. So inevitably we’re going to get a lot of tourists. But we really want to push that we’ll also be something that the locals that can rely on. We’re going to stay open very late, until like 2 A.M. We’ll have dishes that are only available after 11 P.M. So it’ll be only for the late-night crowd. We’ll do a late-night burger, but will only have like 25 of them. So if guys are partying and want to make this a stop, make it a stop. Or get the burger and then continue your night, or keep partying here.
That’s also when the industry crowd comes in. Why is it important to appeal to that crowd?
Because it’s the crowd that comes into our restaurants now. My business partner David always says that the people who are super V.I.P. to us are people in the industry. We know how hard you work. We’re right here with you. A lot of times chefs are emotional eaters, so if you’ve had a shitty day, come in and have a bourbon and a burger or a beer and a rum. Take a load off man. A lot of times you feel like service industry people are getting punished for the job that they have because there aren’t any options. Come eat with us. We’d love to take care of you.
It’s a way to say to the restaurant industry, thank you for doing what you do. Because most of the time the people coming in to eat that late are the guys who work at the Edition, the chef who works at the Soho Beach House and the sous chef who works at the Fontainebleau. It’s those guys who are like, I don’t want to be in my restaurant right now and I wish I could just go get something really good to eat. I want someone to take care of me for a change. But it’s also for the person who flew in late and doesn’t want to order room service. So hey, don’t lose out on a day. Come party with us.
How have your Brooklyn and New Jersey restaurants evolved since you opened?
Brooklyn has really kind of turned into its own little entity. I fiddled with the menu so much and now I feel like the menu’s at a place where… It’s tough. Fifty percent of the tables order the chicken wings. Eighty percent get the pad Thai and then the crab rice. There are like eight dishes that people are coming to your restaurant for all the time. The success of a dish can also get boring to you as a chef. I wish I could change the menu more often. In the beginning I used to change shit all the time. And now people are like, why’d you pull the wonton ramen off? People get salty over it. But it’s a good problem to have.
But you don’t want you and your chefs to be bored. Is that why you’re expanding?
Yes. It’s a way for me to change the menu and keep it fresh.
What can people expect from your new cookbook?
It’s unique because of who I am. I’m an Asian American. I was born in America, raised by Filipino parents in a Filipino household, went to school in Chicago. I’d come home to Filipino meals but then going off to school and eating square pizza and tater tots for lunch. My book’s perspective is from that. We wanted to make a cookbook that obviously people would like and want to cook out of, but we also wanted to make a cookbook that wasn’t just so damn cheesy. I grew up in the early ’90s reading Source magazine and Vibe and I wanted it to look like that. I wanted my book to look like if Hype Williams made a cookbook: mink coats and bikini models.
Have you seen peoples’ perception of Filipino food change since you opened Talde?
A little. People still have no idea what Filipino food is. They have this weird idea that Filipino food is super exotic and totally not from here. But if you look at it, it’s a real fusion of Asia and Spain. If you listen to the language and the dialect, it’s very Spanish. It’s that running joke, oh my best friend is Filipino, I dated a Filipino girl, the nurses in the hospital are Filipino… That’s how close people get to the culture.
What’s your favorite city to eat in?
Tokyo. It has this energy to it. Japan is late night every night. There is this obsessive compulsiveness about everything that they do. They don’t care about the labor or the cost that goes into it and neither do their guests. When you’re buying $75 mangos, you’re throwing cost right out the fucking window. For real we found a mango in a box and it’s like gift wrapped. We asked what’s the story on this mango? Well this mango was chosen on the tree to be the only mango to survive. Every other mango was cut off. So the tree put all its energy into making this one mango the best. They put a cage around it. They wouldn’t let flies or anything go near it. Then they plucked it and they put it in this box. I was like, that is one hell of a story. I have to try it.
How’d it taste?
Unbelievable. Maybe the best mango I’ve ever eaten. But was it worth 100 bucks? No. To be honest with you, going there is like going to Midtown (New York City) because of the amount of Japanese businessmen who are chilling there and the amount of ramen places going in now.
Alyson Sheppard writes about restaurants and bars for Playboy.com. Follow her on Twitter: @amshep