Telepan Retains Its Luster -- and Then Some
CIA grad Bill Telepan had worked at Le Cirque, Gotham, and Ansonia -- the first really ambitious restaurant on the Upper West Side -- when he was propelled to fame by a three-star Times review of Judson Grill. After the untimely demise of that establishment, the chef opened the restaurant that currently bears his name on the Upper West Side in 2005. Even though the place is named after him, he observed in an interview, "It's not about me, even though the name is Telepan."
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In fact, he was early to hop on the locavoric bandwagon, and his repertoire has always featured farmers' market produce infused with French technique, from his earliest days. In some ways, he's our Alice Waters, only low-key and self-effacing in a manner that prevents him from seeking celebrity chefdom, though he does make occasional enthusiastic appearances on TV and has taken a leading role in the mainly doomed good-food-in-the-schools movement.
I hadn't been to Telepan since soon after it opened, but a glowing report from someone I trust who lives nearby led me and friend to make a return visit. Next to a Chinese restaurant on a side street not far from the park, the entrance is shielded by greenery and not immediately evident when you step up. Inside, find a greeter's podium on the left, and a bar on the right, the two terminuses of a horseshoe-shaped dining room. Table choices are found not only in the main body of the room but also in little crannies at various points. Colorful super-graphic murals of produce fill one wall. It's really one of the most creative uses of a double storefront in restaurantdom.
We took our chances and arrived around 6:30 on a Friday evening without a reservation -- still somewhat difficult to snare unless you plan ahead -- and found ample walk-in seating in the bar, where we grabbed a nice window table with a view of townhouses opposite. The amuse was four tiny gougeres, which nearly spurted molten Gruyere as we bit into them.
Organized into three courses plus dessert, the menu is a la carte, but also offers a couple of prix fixe deals. One was a five-course seasonal squash menu, which we rejected as a little too much of a good thing. Instead, we both chose the $69 option, which includes three courses plus dessert. It's a nice amount of food that will satisfy you but not leave you feeling bloated. It also allowed us to cover about one-third of the menu by each ordering different things.
Next: More food. More pix.