Asian fusion isn’t a category that has given me a consistent experience in the past, not least because each chef is entitled to an individual interpretation of the genre. So trepidation was the order of the day as I stepped into Talde, attached to the Confidante Hotel in the heart of Miami Beach.
This is the third outpost of Filipino-American David Talde’s casual fusion concept, following New York City and nearby Jersey City, and the corridor to the Miami location’s dining room hints at New York, with street graffiti on the walls. To take the sharp turn at the bottom is to enter a different world — low ceilings, Edison bulbs, and extensive use of unfinished wood evoke an opium den via Brooklyn.
The one-page menu is a mixture of “Asianized” Western standbys and popular Asian dishes recast through Talde’s vision. The former is typified by a New York Strip, sauced with yuzu kosho brown butter, garlic, and pearl onions; the latter by samosas stuffed with sweet peas and kaffir, served on lime yogurt with golden raisin chutney. These are dishes designed for sharing.
We started with a pair of popular appetizers. Benton’s bacon dumplings are four small dumplings of shrimp, kale, and wood-ear mushrooms splattered with soy-chili vinegar. Small enough to be eaten whole, their flavors galvanized the taste buds for what was to come. Tuna poke was a nod to the current craze for this Hawaiian raw fish salad. Talde’s take, with crisp wafers, provided an interesting contrast of textures.
From the noodles section of the menu we chose the Asian standard chow fun (braised pork shank and pickled onion greens), which proved to be a real hit. This is a substantial dish, ideal for anglers tired from wrestling tarpon for half a day. It was good to see that the chefs took as much care with their noodles as a favorite Cantonese dive.
When it came to entrées, we sidestepped the geographically incongruous pork adobo tamale and opted for jerk Peking duck, invidiously comparing it with the example from Beijing Brothers that we had eaten to celebrate Chinese New Year the previous week. Loading up the supplied pancakes with hoisin sauce, cucumber, and scallions and then slices of the crispy duck produced a succulent, indulgent mess in the mouth that demanded to be repeated. It’s a credible take on this Beijing classic.
Cocktails are a big focus, with the apple old fashioned recommended. There is also a combination of New York and local craft beers (such as Brooklyn Brewing and Wynwood) and roughly a dozen wines, all available by the glass.
Talde seems to be a magnet for millennials (some of them quite dressed up), with a lively atmosphere and bubbly, friendly waitstaff. I concede that it has succeeded in producing an innovative take on Asian fusion food.