Each week in our Off Duty series, we'll talk to some of our favorite chefs and industry folk around the country to find out their secret late-night spots where they like to grab a bite and a pint when their kitchens are finally closed. Next up: Dale Talde,
Top Chef alum and chef/owner of nouveau Asian spot, Talde, and gourmet whiskey dive bar Pork Slope. He was also recently named chef of Park Slope's Thistle Hill Tavern.
What's your favorite late night spot?
I love an old izakaya in the East Village called Yakitori Taisho
. I don't know if it's more sentimental because I used to go there all the time so I don't know if the food's that great. I first discovered it when I came to New York City in '05. The sous chefs I was working with at Morimoto were like, "Hey, come out to this place, it's banging." We'd get out of work at 12 and if you go out with the sushi guys, they don't want anything cold or raw. They want to get hot food and they want to drink. This was one of the places where we were like, "Here's some skewers of grilled meat." It's a sketchy joint. You're usually there way too late but it's cheap and that's what we were looking for -- someplace cheap and someplace to drink.
What's their specialty?
Cheap beer. Really cheap beer. Their other specialty is that it's open really late -- til 4 or 5 in the morning.What's your favorite thing to get there?
Cheap beer...It's hard to resist those ice cold cheap beers.
As for food, it's like, "Uh, I'm not gonna go for the roasted quail egg skewers...I'm pretty sure those aren't going to be good." They do a stir-fry kimchi and squid dish and a grilled squid that I really like. They have their chicken kara age, which is a fried chicken and is pretty good. They have this weird dish -- it's really weird but I love it -- that's a fish cake with cheese. It reminds me of a mozzarella stick -- it's so bizarre. It's a breaded fish cake with some kind of mozarella-y cheese in the middle. It's called "chikuwa with cheese" and when I first heard of it, I was like, "What the fuck is this, dude?" [My colleague] was like, "Try it, you'll like it." When it came out, I was like, "Is that mayonnaise on the side with it?" And it was Japanese mayonnaise -- kewpie -- and I ate it and was like, "This is so bomb!" But it's gross. I really feel it in the morning.
What's the overall vibe of the restaurant?
It's tiny and down some stairs. It also doesn't open until 6 or 7 pm and it's open until 4 or 5 am. I think what makes the food so good is that you're eating it at 2 or 3 in the morning with pitchers of Kirin or Sapporo. It's nothing crazy but it kinda epitomizes New York City: I'm in an izakaya on St. Marks and we're all doing too much -- too much booze, too much beer. Overindulging. You're commiserating with the staff, which you probably shouldn't be doing anyways. People are sleeping together. It's not what you should be doing but it's so good to do it. Do you have any funny memories or stories from nights there?
There was always stupid [stuff]. You'd take the staff out and the servers would come out and there was always just mad hook-ups.
One of my line cooks was this Brazilian guy who lived here named Renato. Really great guy. A Brazilian Jew. Spoke Portuguese and was the epitome of that fiery Brazilian. He was a trained boxer at one time and also did Brazilian ju-jutisu before that shit got cool. You could tell he was a boxer because his nose was broken in a couple of places and he was a big stocky dude. We got on this tangent like every stupid drunk conversation gets on and someone called him a pussy and I was like, "You can't hit hard," and next thing you know, it was 4:30 in the morning on St. Marks and I'm like, "Go ahead, hit me as hard as you can." He wailed on my chest and I collapsed on the ground. The next morning, I woke up with a bruise on my chest and it hurt to breathe. It was awful. I could tell that as hard as he hit me, he held back. He hit me exactly where he knew it wouldn't do massive damage. I crumpled like a leaf.