Former Top Chef contestant Dale Talde puts a new spin on a traditional staple

Is it possible to think of those ubiquitous plastic packages of soy sauce stashed away in your kitchen drawer as a delicacy?

Dale Talde thinks so. 

Dale Talde

Dale at his Park Slope restaurant, Talde

If his name sounds familiar, Talde twice donned the Top Chef coat and placed sixth in the fourth season, set in his hometown of Chicago. But he wasn’t just an overnight success. The renegade chef/proprietor of his namesake Talde, Pork Slope and Thistle Hill Tavern, all in Park Slope, honed his culinary chops in the kitchens of such Windy City restaurants as Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Thai-inspired French restaurant, Vong-Chicago; Chef Shawn McClain’s New-American restaurant, Spring; Le Anne, a Vietnamese bistro; and eventually became chef de cuisine at the modern Chinese restaurant Opera.

He came to New York in 2005 to open Masaharu Morimoto’s eponymous Morimoto and moved on to Buddakan as co-executive chef before owning his trio of Brooklyn restaurants. At Talde, he plays with Asian cuisine fortified by his own Filipino background, focusing on elements of sweet, sour, bitter and salty. Which brings us back to his special soy sauce.

Talde Restaurant

The antique mahogany dining room includes playful accents and intricate wood carvings depicting a myriad of Asian symbols.

Talde, Brooklyn

Talde’s barrel-aged soy sauce punctuates a delicate hamachi with salted plum vinaigrette.

Talde, Brooklyn

Talde kitchen staff ready for action.

Talde's Brooklyn

The decor echoes Talde’s menu of Asian American cuisine with a modern spin.

Soy sauce is a key ingredient for most Asian chefs and that holds true at Talde, but the chef had never thought to manipulate it until he heard of a company that was barrel-aging fish sauce. Why not do it on his own? Keeping it local, he received bourbon barrels from Kings County Distillery, New York City’s oldest whiskey distiller dating back to pre-prohibition days. Talde put the soy sauce in the barrels for six months moving it in and out of temperatures to cause the wood to expand and contract, a process that causes the sauce to be pulled in and out of the barrel. It took some time to get any results, but eventually he wound up with a superior product.

“The barrel aging mellowed it out,” explains Talde. “It has a deeper, more caramel-y flavor and the barrels add a little smoke for a charred taste.” Though he says, “it takes a lot of patience,” we are sure his career and the shelf life of his barrel-aged soy sauce will stretch far longer than any 15-minutes of fame.

Hamachi with Barrel Aged Soy Sauce

Talde, 369 7th Avenue, Park Slope, Brooklyn