Monday, September 27, 2010

Telepan: You Are What You Eat

We're all familiar with the saying, "you are what you eat." But how often have you really taken the time to ponder the true meaning of this phrase? If you're like most Americans, the answer is probably not often. But chef Bill Telepan is hardly like most Americans, and since 2005, has been determined to change that mentality at his eponymous restaurant on the Upper West Side. Having earned his chops under the tutelage of such culinary greats like: Alain Chapel, Daniel Boulud and Alfred Portale, Telepan has been featured several times in the Edible Manhattan magazine, championed by Martha Stewart and is crusading for healthier school lunches. By combining his world-class pedigree with the freshest ingredients available, Telepan has successfully won over many New Yorkers to his style of locally driven cuisine, including myself after having enjoyed a recent dinner there.

The restaurant was much larger than I had imagined, containing multiple rooms once you passed the small bar area in the front. The walls, painted a light green were minimally decorated, save a mirror and a few paintings. Long curtains covered the windows and cloth-covered hanging lamps emitted soft lighting, giving the restaurant a rather "homey" feel. Service was spotty at best, leaving us largely unattended for long portions of the meal, but was otherwise unremarkable.

The ever-changing menu at Telepan is seasonally focused, capitalizing on the very best product available. We began with two glasses of Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene ‘Jeio’ Bisol Brut (NV) Veneto, Italy. Our amuse bouche arrived, consisting of: Cheese Gourges, a Radish Salad with Capers and a Melon Gazpacho. The warm cheesiness of the gourges, the brininess of the capers and the refreshing gazpacho were a nice mixture of flavors, textures and temperatures to start our meal.

Bread Service included a choice between a Ciabatta Roll, a Semolina Raisin Roll and a Five Grain Roll with soft butter.

For her appetizer, MW selected the Summer Salad. A mix of Greens, Vegetables and a Lemon Vinaigrette, this dish exemplified Telepan's seasonal emphasis. The dish's cryptic description kept you guessing which ingredients were identifiable and overall, the varied colors and textures were far as salads go.

My appetizer, a House-Smoked Brook Trout with a Corn Blini and Green Onion Sour Cream, is a signature of the restaurant, and for good reason, it was absolutely delicious. The trout had a wonderfully smokey flavor, that when combined with the sweet corn blini and tangy sour cream, was vaguely familiar of lox and bagels.

MW's Lobster Bolognese, Spaghetti, Light Herbs and a Shallot-Garlic-Tomato Broth, was the biggest disappointment. Undone by severely overcooked pasta and an underdeveloped sauce, the lobster meat was the only successful component of the dish.

More impressive was my Zucchini, Milanese-Style, Stuffed Blossoms and White Beans. The stuffed flowers and pieces of deftly fried medallions of zucchini played off the creaminess of the white beans for a satisfying mid-course.

Moving into our final course, MW ordered a glass of Bourgogne Rouge ‘Cuvee Gerard’ Nicolas Potel 2007 (Burgundy, France) while I chose a Pinot Noir ‘Janus’ Brooks 2007 (Willamette).

The Heritage Pork with Spicy Carrots, Organic Grits and Black Kale, MW's entree, was good. The loin and belly were served with creamy grits and vegetables. The loin, cooked to a perfect medium, remained juicy and was the perfect partner with the spiced carrots and black kale, while the belly was decadently fatty.

My entree, Wild Sockeye Salmon with Lobster Succotash, Bacon and Potato Puree was even better than MW's pork. The salmon skin was cooked until crisp while the meat remained moist and flaked apart beautifully, and the accompanying succotash, studded with pieces of lobster and smokey bacon was noteworthy as were the pillows of smooth potato puree.

For dessert, MW chose the Tres Leches Cake with Tres Leches Ice Cream, Peaches and Summer Berries. The cake was rich and intensely sweet, which contrasted nicely with tart fruit.

The Strawberry Granita Parfait with Almonds and Verbena Cream was finished table side as a server poured a shot of Prosecco over the dessert. The aroma of strawberries lingered for a few seconds before the prosecco found its way to the bottom of the glass. The verbena cream lent the dish an added element of richness and the almonds provided some texture.

As a final parting gift, we were given two individually-wrapped Coconut Macaroons which accompanied our check and tasted incredible the following day.

My recent meal was very reflective of the product-driven philosophy extolled by Telepan who, along with Michael Anthony from Gramercy Tavern and Dan Barber from Blue Hill represent the vanguard leading this movement. But in a city like New York, gimmicks don't last long and at the end of the day a restaurant is only as good as its last plate of food. Fortunately for Telepan, his food speaks for himself and will ensure that future generations will question what they are eating for years to come.

72 W 69th St
New York, NY 10023
(212) 580-4300

To see all our pics click the flickr link.

Telepan on Urbanspoon

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