Entries in Bill Telepan (3)


Telepan Local

Note: Telepan Local closed in November 2014 after tepid reviews and multiple attempts to change the concept.


Today, chefs with even modest success barely wait fifteen minutes before opening a second restaurant, and then a third. Michael White will probably open another half-dozen before you’ve finished reading this post.

Hats off to Bill Telepan, who waited almost nine years after the eponymous Telepan on the Upper West Side, to open his second place, Telepan Local, in Tribeca in the old Industria Argentina space. I have no window into the chef’s thinking, but the original restaurant didn’t arrive fully-formed, and that could be why he was in no hurry to open another: my first visit (in 2006) was so disappointing that I waited five years to try it again, this time with far better results. In the most recent Michelin Guide, Telepan received a star for the first time.

Telepan Local is Telepan’s dressed-down little brother. The design by the Brooklyn studio firm Home isn’t the most original idea, a barn-like structure with exposed wood and subway tile. It’s not a quiet place. Servers wear checked shirts that might’ve been imported from the wilds of Bushwick.

The chef refers to the concept as “American tapas,” a phrase that doesn’t fill me with delight, but I can hardly blame him for copying a format that has been so wildly successful all over town. The menu, which will change frequently, consists of around 25 small plates ($7–17 each), a format that often promotes over-ordering. Sure enough, the server recommended “3–4 dishes per person.” We ordered six for the two of us, and couldn’t finish the sixth.

But it’s possible to dine quite inexpensively here. The two-page wine list offers many bottles under $60. A 2008 Rioja was $54, and with six small plates the bill came to $118 before tax and tip. There aren’t enough good restaurants where you can do that any more.

Telepan’s press interviews promise “seasonal and local” cuisine, which would sound like a broken record, except he was doing it before everyone did it, and he is better at it than most.


Foie Gras Jammers ($12; above left) are a cross between a cookie and a slider. The dough is warm, but the foie seemed a bit over-chilled. Arancini ($7; above right) are lovely, made with bone marrow and parmigiano aioli.


Pigs in a Blanket ($7; above left) rest in a honey mustard dip; the luscious franks (in soft dough) are many grades better than Hebrew National. I couldn’t at all grasp the point of Mushrooms in Parchment ($12; above right), which came across as mushrooms on soggy bread.


I could dine all day on fatty, pink Corned Tongue ($12; above left) with grilled cabbage and russian dressing. Pork Shoulder ($14; above right) with wilted greens and white beans was terrific, and portioned generously (I snapped the photo after we’d already taken more than half of it).

The service model is clearly intended not to feel too dressed up: coats aren’t checked, and there is no bread service, but there are higher-end grace notes: reservations are accepted (I wouldn’t have come otherwise); wine is served at the right temperature, in the right glassware, and a choice of flat or sparkling water is offered without charge.

Plates were delivered and cleared quickly, and although we never had the sense of being pushed out the door, that was the effect whether intended or not, as we were finished in well under 90 minutes. The restaurant was full on a Wednesday evening, and the staff seemed on top of their game.

I’m not a huge fan of the tapas format, but Bill Telepan makes it compelling. The location isn’t convenient for me to be a frequent guest, but if I lived or worked nearby, I’d be in all the time.

Telepan Local (329 Greenwich Street between Duane and Jay Streets, Tribeca)

Food: A seasonal and locally-sourced menu of American tapas
Service: Perhaps too rushed, but certainly better than it has to be
Ambiance: That barnyard look you’ve seen before




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)




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)

Food: *½
Service: **
Ambiance: *½
Overall: *½