By Julianne Clancy
Nestled in a cozy neighborhood on the Upper West Side, Telepan is a Michelin starred New American restaurant with a focus on fresh ingredients served in creative combinations. From first walking into the restaurant, the focus on individual ingredients is clear: The walls are covered in photographs of various fruits and vegetables on white or black backgrounds, an homage to the beauty found in nature. A restaurant must be confident in the quality of their dishes if they have photographs of food on their walls. In this case, the confidence was not misplaced.
Restaurant Week is my favorite time of the year in New York, an opportunity to try restaurants that I normally would never be able to afford. Accordingly, I try to hit up at least two new spots every time the specials roll around. This year’s first stop was Telepan. My husband and I had once been here for brunch (they have a reasonably affordable brunch prix fixe on the weekends) but had never ventured to for dinner.
I should note here that my husband and I, being very competitive people, always have contest as to who “wins” the meal, judging each of our selections in a course against the other and debating which was better. My meals will be the ones listed first, with the first photo; his will be the second meals, with second photos. That being said, let the games begin!
Sunnyside Eggs over Fried Green Tomato
My salad is exactly what I wanted–summer vegetables in a light vinaigrette (I would have loved a touch more acid in the dressing), accented with herbs for a bit of flair. But the truly exceptional egg dish was the winner on this. Perfectly cooked with the tomato lightly fried (and not at all greasy), and wilted spinach to give the dish a bit of earthiness. Excellently balanced and surprising light for the ingredients. The yolk of the egg did take away some of the crispiness of the fry by the time we were taking our last bites, but I could forgive that because of the beauty of the presentation.
Zucchini and Egg Pasta with Lemon Ricotta, Basil, and Mint
Duck Ragu and Paccheri with Summer Beans and Toasted Garlic
This one was close. The duck was rich and crispy, and the sauce was acidic and meaty. If you’ve never understood what umami was, this sauce would make you understand—unctuous, decadent, and dark. However, the zucchini dish still won. The squash was cooked lightly enough to still have a snap to it, while the lemon, the herbs, and the creamy ricotta created a sinfully lush, sweet, tangy, salty sauce that I ended up sopping up with my bread. The pasta, which was the egg portion of the dish, was dense and flavorful—a perfect complement of richness to the sauce. So, a win for me—though barely.
Monkfish with Lobster Marinere, Local Wax Beans, and Butter Potatoes
Heritage Pork with Red Peas, Rice, and Collards
Another win for me on this one. The monkfish was moist and flaky, while still being crisply seared, served with a sauce that I want take a bath in. Tomatoes, garlic, lobster, and butter—what could be better? The sides were also incredible. The potatoes just melted away in your mouth. And the crisp-tender beans, with a slight char on their skin, were at once fresh and wildly flavorful. The pork was also very good and extremely creative. Instead of just one cut, we got a loin, pulled shoulder, and a homemade sausage, all cooked to perfection. The only problem was it was in need of something with a crunch or another textural component in the dish.
Strawberry Granita Parfait w/Almonds, Toasted Anise Cream
Telepan S’more with Graham Cracker Ice Cream, Marshmallow,
and Dark Chocolate Brownie
The jury was completely split on this course. I, for one, went nuts over the granita, which was bursting with fruit flavor, vibrantly tangy from the prosecco, and accented perfectly by the floral aroma of the anise and the earthy crunch of the almonds. My husband, on the other hand, was completely won over by how the “s’more” perfectly mimicked the flavor of the campfire treat and then elevated it with creamy ice cream, rich chocolate brownie, and lightly toasted marshmallow fluff.
Given that they were both amazing and we were both stuffed, we call this one a tie, and, rather than arguing further, finished our wine in contented harmony.
I won this battle, but just by a hair. Overall, though, neither of us lost. Telepan excels in taking fresh ingredients and letting them truly sing with presentations filled with creative combinations of herbs, acids, sauces, and textures. I ate until I was stuffed, took half of my entrée home, and then happily ate it again the next day.
This is one Michelin star that is well-deserved. While dinner may be out of my budget after Restaurant Week, the memory of this meal will definitely have me treating myself to brunch at Telepan in the very near future.