Oh, to be Pete Wells. The first time he went into Dale Talde’s eponymous restaurant in Park Slope in order to write today’s review, he went unrecognized (and had an excellent meal). The second time, still unrecognized six months later, he had a rather subpar dinner, replete with bad service, long waits, and fried oysters served a “listless shade of beige.” This was enough to make him wonder if Talde was, like many other hyped restaurants before it, suffering from “first impressions” fatigue.
But the third time he went, something happened: he was recognized.
The same Talde that had showed so much promise last winter… did reappear on a final visit, when the staff by the door immediately jumped into action, buzzing with that nervous energy produced by the sight of a restaurant critic.
From a table right in front of the open kitchen, it was clear that Mr. Talde was not on the line that night. And then, after about 15 minutes, he walked in and took his place at the pass. There he stayed until the last plate had been brought to our table. Then he retreated to a spot by the bar with Mr. Massoni, who had materialized in the dining room at around the same time.
…After the table was cleared, we ordered the pad Thai. Our server walked to Mr. Talde, and Mr. Talde walked from the bar to the kitchen pass. Once the pad Thai had been delivered to our table, Mr. Talde left the kitchen again.
The bacon still felt like overkill. But the sauce on the noodles was lively, and the fried crust on the oysters was truly crisp.
Wells surmised that the stellar dinner he had that night was due to the fact that Talde stepped up his game in Wells’s presence. “Maybe Mr. Talde saw that meal as another competition to be won,” he mused. “Or maybe the presence of a critic had recreated the atmosphere of Talde’s opening weeks.”
Whatever it may say about Talde’s cooking skills, we have one piece of advice for Mr. Wells: get better costumes. Dress up like a lady, if you must, as Sam Sifton
once totally never, ever did.
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