Offbeat New York

Upper Westside    

   Telepan Restaurant

72 West 69th St
New York, NY 10023
Phone: (212) 580-4300

t seems that everybody is jumping on the local, fresh-from-the-farm movement, and believe me, we’re all for it. Among the leaders of the New York City pack, Bill Telepan, chef-owner of Telepan, stands out.

While many chefs and restauranteurs give lip service to locally sourced and produced ingredients, Telepan has been quietly purchasing from area farms since opening his first restaurant, Judson Grill, over a decade ago.

Two understated brownstones on a residential upper west side block house the restaurant which is within easy walking distance of Lincoln Center, Central Park and the Museum of Natural History. The room, while definitely white-tablecloth, is comfortable and casual, with fruit and vegetable inspired paintings hung along the light green painted walls. The lively bar, just to the right of the entrance, makes for an even more casual and welcoming dining area.

Savvy diners are discovering that the economic downturn can offer previously unavailable dining opportunities. Like many fine dining establishments throughout the city, Telepan is offering special prix fixe menus without compromising quality or variety. One recent evening, we had the three course $39 tasting menu (the caveat - the order must be in the kitchen by 6:30 PM). Sure, the portions are a bit smaller but even big eaters will find them more than ample. This is not a pared down special menu either. Diners choose three courses from the regular menu which lists appetizer, mid-course, entree, and dessert. (A $59 tasting menu offers all four courses).

A recent meal began with an amuse bouche, an oval dish containing a shot glass of rich parsnip soup, a large spoonful of beet salad and a small wedge of pizza with house made sausage. First courses included a refreshing winter salad containing baby chicories, finely chopped root vegetables, fennel and small chunks of grapefruit. A yellowtail sashimi was accompanied by a very spicy chickpea salad and tabbouleh.

There were what Telepan calls mid-courses -- ricotta-black pepper dumplings served with cauliflower, Brussel sprouts and a sheep’s milk ricotta and a fallen polenta souffle served over a bed of crushed shell beans and on the side, a large mound of beautifully flavored wild mushrooms. A heritage pork casserole main course consisted of house made sausage, pork loin, a dry cured fresh ham and pork belly with white runner beans and a frisee salad on the side. A glisteningly fresh wild striped bass was accompanied by shiitake cabbage and a potato puree.

Yes, the food is serious but the atmosphere totally comfortable and friendly. This is a place that wants you to be happy, and you will be.

Telepan serves lunch Wednesday to Friday (two courses - $22; 3 courses $28) and a Saturday and Sunday brunch. It’s a good idea to make reservations.

Jan Greenberg lives in New York City. She writes about food and travel for magazines including National Culinary Review, Food Arts, Gastronomica and Time Out NY.

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