Note: Click here for a more recent review of Telepan.
My friend and I had dinner at Telepan on Saturday evening. The restaurant is named for Bill Telepan, who was formerly the chef at Judson Grill, which has since closed. Telepan has received favorable buzz, including a two-star review from Bruni (and some thought it was a contender for three). Certainly the addition of another serious restaurant near Lincoln Center is a welcome development. But we were underwhelmed.
The menu seems designed to bump up the final bill, with savory courses in three categories (appetizers, “mid-courses” and entrees), instead of the usual two. If you order à la carte, the appetizers are $9.50–$16.00, the mid-courses are $15.50–$26.00, and the entrees are $23.00–$36.00. Desserts are $9.00–12.00, cheese plates $12.50–14.00.
We were naturally enticed to choose the four-course prix fixe at $55, which allowed us to choose one savory course from each heading, plus a dessert. Wine pairings would have been another $32 apiece, which seemed a little dear, so we went for a single bottle at $48. For the record, there’s also a five-course prix fixe at $65, or $105 with wine pairings, which adds a cheese course to the mix.
The website tells you very little, except that Bill Telepan is “so excited about the opening of…my new restaurant.” There’s no menu posted, though fortunately it is on menupages, and I was able to refresh my memory as to the details. However, I cannot tell you the amuses bouches, except that there were three of them, described by an incomprehensible server with halting English. One of them was a gougère, the second a small piece of melba toast that you dipped in something or other, the third a small cup of soup with mystery ingredients.
After that, I had with Marinated Quail with Apple-duck Sausage, while my friend had the Foie Gras Terrine. Both of these were pretty good, if not outstanding. Ordered on their own, these two dishes would have been $13.50 and $19.00 respectively.
For the second course, I had something called “Eggs in a Hole,” which was a single fried egg (not eggs, as the caption implied) on top of a small piece of soggy toast, with an even smaller strip of smoked salmon and herb-caper sauce on the side. Telepan gets an A for Dufresne-like creativity, but what was the point? My friend’s mid-course was even more peculiar: Roasted Cauliflower, with herb oil, crushed heirloom shell beans and winter greens. It was over-cooked. Ordered on their own, the cauliflower dish would have been $15.50, the egg/salmon mix $16.00.
My entree was Seared Duck Breast and Foie Gras Custard, but for the life of me I could taste no foie gras on the plate, and the portion was awfully meager for a main course. My friend ordered the Roasted Sirloin, which came with oxtail glaze, gold nugget potatoes, roasted vegetables and horseradish. Those vegetables were, again, over-cooked. Ordered separately, our main courses would have been $29.50 and $36.00 respectively.
For dessert, we both chose the Banana Cake Sundae, with bananas foster, banana ice cream and sugared walnuts ($9 on its own). It was both unexceptionable and unmemorable.
We found the decor rather dull, and the artwork bordered on tasteless—the kind of ugly stuff you’d buy at a suburban shopping mall. However, tables were amply spaced, and service was in line with what you expect at an upscale restaurant. We sense the possibility that Telepan could be excellent someday. All of the dishes show a considerable amount of thought, but the execution leaves much to be desired. Many of the portions are both too small and too expensive.
Telepan (72 W 69th St between Columbus Ave & Central Park West, Upper West Side)