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Telepan lunch -- a great chef coasts

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used to go to lunch at Judson Grill quite a bit. Complex dishes with multiple layers of intermixing flavor is a recipe for disaster in the hands of a subpar chef or staff, but with Bill Telepan at the helm, that sort of dish was nothing short of brilliant. The path to the washroom went by the kitchen and each time I passed I could see him supervising, watching every employee and inspecting every dish that came out of the kitchen. I was sad when the restaurant closed several years ago and excited to go to Telepan today. I'd been looking forward to it for years.

Lunch, served Wed through Fri, with brunch on week-ends, is a $28 three course prix fixe. The first course, smoked trout on a blini, was quite good, well presented, the blini made from scratch. So I eagerly awaited the second course. King salmon with pinenut crust, which is one of the stars of the dinner menu, and I expected great things. What came was a slab of pan-fried salmon on top of some potatoes, with a floret or two of cauliflower. Now if this dish had been well executed it would have been merely bland and boring, the sort of thing that might get a Top Chef contestant a quick trip home. But as it was served to me it was the sort of horror which would get the guy who cooked it on Survivor (where they are used to non-gourmet chow) voted off the island. Salmon dry and overcooked, ditto the potatoes and the wan sprigs of cauliflower, the crust was a dust that looked like sawdust and had as much flavor. As I ate it I couldn't help thinking of the bowl of noodles I could be eating at Supertaste down in Chinatown. Dessert, a peanut and mousse terrine like a gourmet Snickers bar, was a step up.

Now if the salmon had been prepared as intended, it wouldn't have been a bad lunch. For your average restaurant or average chef it would have been not bad at all. But none of the courses showed any sign of greatness, and it is greatness that I would expect from Bill Telepan.

I stopped by Murray's Sturgeon on Broadway and 90th before taking the subway home. I bought a filet of creamed herring so the day wasn't a total loss.

NOTE: This is based on one lunch on one day and I am hoping you will tell me it's an anomaly, just one bad day for an otherwise great restaurant. I really hope so!!!

Another possibility is that I just didn't get it. The NY Times' Frank Bruni loved the blinis and the salmon. Here's what Bruni said about the salmon: "a juicy fillet that tasted of salmon, not of the obliquely salmon-esque richness so prevalent these days. Its pinkness was thrust into relief by a bed of crushed blue potatoes, its lusciousness by nothing showier than a crust of breadcrumbs, lemon juice and lemon zest" So maybe I'm wrong. It's happened to me before. (I'm trying to remember when and I can't... but no matter) But in this case I hope I am.

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Telepan
72 W. 69th Street, New York, NY 10023

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  1. I'm curious, what were your options other than salmon? I live close to Telepan and have tried it a few times. A little out of my comfort price zone and just not worth the splurge. A great option if someone wants to buy me dinner. For the neighborhood splurge it's Ouest. Or Compass, but for me Ouest. As for salmon, I generally don't order it in restaurants. It's one of those foods I usually eat only if I kill it myself. Yesterday, braised goat meat casserole at SG. I previously hadn't gone much for casseroles, but I'd noticed you comment on them in the past. Very good.

    4 Replies
    1. re: fgf

      I've been twice...both times I left thinking..."nearly...but not quite"...and it hit the wallet big time...not sure I'd do a 3rd time...but maybe...for some reason I want them to hit it out the park...I like the menu/ambience...but so far it has come up short for me...

      1. re: Scotty100

        I have been to Telepan several times for dinner and only once for brunch. Trust me much better at dinner time. The first time I was there it was for brunch and I almost did not go back. Dinner is much much better. We had two different kinds of fishes for dinner last time we were there and both were wonderful. Great combo and contrast of ingredients. Sorry I don't remember what fish they were, just that they were not salmon.

        1. re: G3B

          I'm glad to hear dinner is better. But the 3 course lunch is the same price as the cheapest dinner entree. The 4 course dinner prix-fixe is $64 and the lunch is $28. You can see the lunch menu here: http://www.telepan-ny.com/lunch.html

          1. re: Brian S

            the lunch special seems like a steal considering the amount of choices from the regular menu.

            i liked telepan when i went...the blini and trout was great.

            i probably wouldve skipped the salmon for something meaty...like lamb...which bill does quite well.

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            Telepan
            72 W. 69th Street, New York, NY 10023

    2. I have been to Telepan about four times. Twice for brunch and twice for dinner. I have enjoyed excellent meals. I have been particularly impressed with the service.

      1. Been twice for lunch and once for dinner. Highlights were the smoked trout, fried artichokes, roasted trout, roasted quail wrapped in ham, lobster bolognese, pork, cheese plate, fig custard napolean, pecan chocolate cart and the cheese burger with fries and onion rings ( a top 5 burger contender). I like the place. Also that neighborhood is still a culinary desert.

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        Telepan
        72 W. 69th Street, New York, NY 10023

        4 Replies
        1. re: guttergourmet

          You have two things working against you for Brunch at Telepan:
          1) It's Brunch - the "B" team is always in the kitchen at brunch: this usually leads something going wrong back there.
          2) It's the UWS - when your place is filled blue hairs, strollers and people who order everything on the side it is difficult to maintain a high level of quality.

          but to reiterate what gutter said the burger is very good and the onion rings are off the charts. I don't think you can get the burger at dinner, can you?

          1. re: Cpalms

            Unfortunately not but I like the rest of the menu and the desserts are outrageous.

            1. re: guttergourmet

              been to telepan twice now, once for brunch(excellent) and today as part of restaurant week for lunch. the fried summer veges were awesome, the pork sliders perfect, and cheese crepe a perfect ending.

              my wife had the burger/onion rings that looked worthy too.

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              Telepan
              72 W. 69th Street, New York, NY 10023

              1. re: TBird

                I've been many times and have only had wonderful experiences there. It's my go-to place on the UWS.

        2. I've been to Telepan once for brunch and twice for dinner and I find it overrated for the price. The last time I was there for dinner I ordered a veal roast entree that had a thick vein of gristly running through it which, given the size, took up a large percentage of the portion. I should have sent it back but ate around. The decor is quite nice but the service is an odd mix of haughty and obsequious. Not a big fan.

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          Telepan
          72 W. 69th Street, New York, NY 10023