Note: Telepan closed in May 2016, leaving the chef, Bill Telepan, without a restuarant. (Telepan Local, his Tribeca restaurant that was supposed to be a casual version of Telepan, failed miserably in 2014.)
Telepan had a respectable ten-year run, but as we noted in the review below, he had to scale back the original concept to stay aligned with what the neighborhood would pay, and even so, the restaurant wasn’t consistently full. He told The Times that, eventually, he reached the point where he couldn’t raise prices enough to keep pace with escalating costs.
In a sense, Telepan fell between two genres. Its Michelin star signaled a level of quality that the chef clearly wanted to maintain, but that doesn’t come cheap. It was too expensive to be an every-day restaurant, but didn’t attract enough guests to be a special-occasion place either.
I hated my first visit to Telepan, more than five years ago. For some odd reason, I nevertheless gave it 1½ stars. As I now see them, a star (even just one) is supposed to be a compliment, and there was very little about the meal that I liked.
Nevertheless, other reviews were generally good, and friends continued to recommend it, so Telepan was on my list of restaurants deserving a second chance, which it finally got last week.
The four-course prix fixe, which was $55 in 2006, has risen by just four dollars, to $59. If you order à la carte, the prices seem not to have changed at all: an over-priced restaurant has become a fairly-priced one.
The menu is still divided into three parts—starters ($10.50–15), mid-courses ($21–26), and entrées ($29–35—a format I dislike, but that has become more common, though still by no means prevalent. The use of fifty-cent price increments on some items feels a bit cheesy.
Of course, when prices are basically unchanged after five years, something is usually lost. What was once a flight of three amuses bouches is now one (above left), a plate of pickled radishes in a dipping sauce. But the bread service (three kinds) is excellent.
We weren’t that hungry, so we ordered entrées only. Wild Striped Bass ($33; above left) and Roasted Trout ($29.50; above right) were both presented simply, and very good for what they were.
Perhaps because of the overwhelming trend in favor of more casual dining over the last five years, Telepan’s décor, which once seemed dull, now seems upscale, bordering on elegant (though not quite there). The service is more polished than it was, then. The twenty-five page wine list offers a wide selection and price range, but the lower end (in the mid-$50s) is reasonable for this type of restaurant. If you want to spend three thousand bucks on a 1999 Screaming Eagle, you can.
The restaurant was not crowded on a Wednesday evening, but we dined early—6:00 p.m. for a 7:30 Lincoln Center curtain. When prices are virtually unchanged five years later, one can safely conclude that Telepan isn’t a runaway hit. However, it has hung on and improved, and we are better off for that.
Telepan (72 W. 69th St. btwn Central Park West & Columbus Ave., Upper West Side)