Talde is really a restaurant for all seasons. The last time I visited, it was summer. Folks were sitting outside on Erie and Bay streets. The place was packed, and the hubbub of the nearby pedestrian mall gave the whole scene a lively, light, summer-evening feel.
My second visit was in late January. It was early on a Monday night. The restaurant had not yet begun to fill up. Though it’s a huge space, it has a warm, loft-like feel, with lots of distressed wood, lanterns, hanging lights, brick walls, and a polished concrete floor. Bright red chairs offer a colorful accent. You get a general feeling of relief to be inside a toasty and welcoming place on a chilly night.
Huge windows look out on the corner of Erie and Bay. Across the street is Very Clothes & Goods, a vintage shop, offering a charming contrast to Talde’s modern façade.
Ironically, the pedestrian mall was again jammed with people—this time for a protest against the president’s immigration order. Our fellow reporter, Al Sullivan, was covering it, so it was like the gang’s all here. In both cases, the downtown Jersey City vibe was electric.
A long table offers family-style seating. You also have your choice of tables and booths. On each table is a tin can of chopsticks and various condiments.
Talde bills itself as a “casual Asian-American restaurant and bar, brought to you by Chef Dale Talde, David Massoni, and John Bush.”
Dale Talde is an American chef best known for competing on two seasons of the Bravo reality cooking competition Top Chef.
Talde helped open the famed Morimoto in New York City. A Filipino-American, his cuisine features Filipino, Japanese, Thai, and Vietnamese flavors.
Many Asian touches enhance the décor, especially a large grouping of “highly-regarded” porcelain Chinese emperors that reign from on high. Our thanks to Diego, one of Talde’s excellent servers, for enlightening us. Speaking of which, the staff is helpful but not hovering. Matt was the manager that night, Michelle was the bar manager, and Angela did a great job of serving us.
A word about the bar; it is truly ginormous, running the full length of the restaurant, with a shiny wood surface. Lots of patrons like sitting at the bar, where they can enjoy a drink and order dinner. The menu’s appetizers, in particular, make handy, easy-to-eat bar food.
We ordered the Mc Bao appetizer, described as “char siu boneless ribs with pickles.” The ribs were incredibly tender, with a wonderful sweet sauce. Bao is steamed Chinese bread made in-house.
Other appetizers include kale salad, squash salad, shiitake mushroom robata, shrimp shumai, edamame falafel bao, kung po chicken wings, and yuzu guacamole.
The beer selection goes from a gentle San Miguel, which I ordered, to a host of interesting choices, such as Ommegang Abbey and Captain Lawrence Kolsch on draft and bottles of Hiachino, Duvel, and a brisk Sixpoint Crisp in a slender can. Departed Soles Seasonal Selection, in both draft and bottles, is brewed by local brewer Departed Soles, nearby on Bay Street. We did a feature on the brewery in our Fall/Winter 2016/17 issue.
By the way, our cover girl for that issue was striptease artist Lillian Bustle, who hosts her Speakeasy Burlesque at Talde the first Tuesday of every month, 8 p.m., $10 at the door. Behind the bar, a nondescript door hidden in plain sight opens onto a winding industrial staircase that leads to a little bar and performance area known as Miss Wong’s Lounge, where the shows are staged.
OK, back to the food. Noodle dishes include wonton ramen, chow fun, lobster tom kha, crispy oyster and bacon pad thai, and beef short rib kare kare.
Executive Chef Ruby Felix-Curtis did us the great honor of personally delivering our food.
If you’ve never ordered a whole fish, complete with head and tail, you need to man up. And Talde might be the place to take your maiden voyage.
We dove right into the whole roasted branzino, resting in a bed of banana leaves, with dill, mint, and cilantro. Under the lightly roasted skin is a delicate fish, bathed in a spicy turmeric and tomato sauce. The sauce is a little hot, but the fish, along with moo shu pancakes, neutralized the heat. The pancakes are a Chinese-style flour tortilla, traditionally used for peking duck dishes.
And last, we ordered an enormous mound of blue crab fried rice with tobiko and jalapeno aioli. Tobiko is apparently flying fish roe, and it’s what gives the dish its red-orange accents.
Really tasty and way too much, even for two, the crab fried rice was the one thing we took home.
It was hard to go back into the cold. On the street, things were sill lively, and Talde is in the middle of the action.—Kate Rounds
8 Erie St.