Monday, August 11, 2014


Telepan Local isn't particularly local to me.  I mean, not in terms of stringent New York neighborhood territorialism, but Chef Bill Telepan is worth the meager trek.  Plus, it's slightly local-er than his original on the upper west side: the elegant fine dining establishment where he really made a name for himself.  Telepan Local, located just down the street from Locanda Verde (Andrew Carmellini), shares a similar aesthetic although here with a rustic American bent.  The room is striking: an angled geometric mirror ceils the entryway, creating a brightly illuminated welcome.  The dining room channels the chicest barn ever: shiny-slick white tiles are framed with sandy-colored, striated wood paneling, inset mirrors reflecting metal milk jugs filled with sturdy sunflowers.   Each element of decor is as carefully thought out as the menu, well reflecting the refined, farm-to-table motif that Telepan Local is all about.

A chalkboard above the pass recognizes their purveyors, all laudable local farms, from which much of their flora & fauna is sourced.  The menu is primarily small-plate style, but take guidance from your waiter to ascertain a reasonable quantity of dishes.  The prices are somewhat indicative of size, but not entirely.  Ordering precisely does require a bit of concentration, but nothing we tried wasn't good enough to want to take home any potential excess, so if you're able, over-order instead of the alternative.  Too, on this evening, the dining room wasn't so busy, so our waiter assured as if we decided to add on at any point, this wouldn't be an issue.  As it turned out, under-ordering was certainly NOT our problem.

Snacks are potent little flavor-bombs, better suited in my opinion to munch as bar food rather than commence a meal.  The grilled cheese 'pan con tomate' could literally serve as a meal in itself- or a reasonable starter divided amongst four.  Buttery, crusty slabs of homey country bread are rubbed with  pulpy tomato and stuffed with gooey, stretchy melted cheese.  Come earlier in the day and this would make a very affordable, filling lunch at just seven dollars.  The greatest number of options come from the Vegetables section, which not only makes sense from a bucolic perspective, also makes me very, very happy.  Fried watercress is a mountainous platter of crispy, battered greens, feather-light as the best tempura, its cressy bite rendered
 mild.  For myself, I might have preferred this more as a garnish or smaller side, but with multiple diners, it can go down as easy as Lays- and like the chips, you can't eat just one.   A special of fried shishitos wasn't the best rendition of this ubiquitous dish: the peppers themselves had some bitter ones amongst
them, some were a tad on the raw side- these nightshades lend themselves better to incineration than the alternative- but the pickly bits of radish were a nice complement.  Tender nubs of broccoli raab are anointed with a sunny crumble of egg yolk, a sprinkle of parmesan and toasty croutons, giving it an interesting multiplicity for such a small dish.  The menu even includes an anchovy component, but neither
 of us being huge fans of the fishy fish, they swiftly omitted it upon request.  Frankly, I can't imagine how this sumptuous little dish would need any more flavor from them than it already had, but perhaps anchovionados might disagree.  Roasted mushrooms were a wild melange, perfectly cooked to a toothsome chew at the edges
while  retaining a delicate tenderness within.  A dusting of pungent Manchego and shreds of balsamic-infused radicchio bumped up the umami, mild pignoli contributing nuttiness and texture.  You get a lot of bang for your buck with vegetables in terms of flavor, each concoction a lovely little study of novel flavors.

There are a handful of pizzettes, which, like the grilled cheese, could qualify as a simple meal on their own....  or else divided and conquered.  Instead, we went for two Seafood options- the Scallops Bravas were sliced into thick, bronzed coins with a zesty aioli and a crispy dice of potatoes.  And it was legitimately tapas-sized.   The Snapper, however, at the same price ($16), could've served as a modest entree.  Four butterflied medallions atop a bed of jagged wild spinach and randy garlic scapes, wilted gently and drizzled in brown butter- a delectable dish.

At this point, happily sated, and with just enough appetite in reserve to sample a dessert, here arrived the roasted half-chicken we completely forgot we ordered.  Our server was palpably disappointed that we looked at it without ravenous eyes, but also apologetic for the excess (we were sort of relying on him to guide our ordering).  We both vowed one bite while it was hot from the stove, and he promised to wrap it up and that it would hold up impeccably salvaged for lunch tomorrow (which was true).  But that one bite became two and three- this delicious moist bird paired all the gusto of prime fowl with impeccable technique, surrounded by burstingly juicy cherry tomatoes and softened spring onions teamed up with crisp kernels of corn, all nestling in the warm juices pooling beneath.  By far the biggest of the plates we encountered, and by no means could it have been consumed in its entirety with any hope to venture into the desserts (or much of anything else, frankly.  This is either a shareable portion if ordering multiple dishes, or a meal-in-one for a very hungry individual, not a tapa by any stretch of the imagination) (Unless you're Paul Bunyan).

And with two impressive old fashioned layer cakes hovering above us for the duration of the meal, there really was no way to forget about having dessert.  The cakes themselves (a fresh strawberry cream and a coconut-pecan one, both swathed in buttercream) seemed a little ponderous after all we had already consumed, but a fresh blueberry sundae was just right: a scoop of cheesecake ice cream layered over another of blueberry sorbet, doused with more berries and syrup and impaled with a graham shortbread cookie.  Divided, it was just enough sweet to satisfy that tooth without completely upending the table.

Bill wasn't in that night, but the kitchen was left to the capable oven mitt of Joel Javier who had continued from the original Telepan with Bill to open up Local.  It wasn't too busy that night, and he was able to pop out and say hello, do a little reconnaissance on our meal (thumbs up) and chat a bit.  His enthusiasm and amiable table-side manner are attributes shared with Bill, and that really translate into the food.  It's lovely but not uptight, classy but convivial.  The kind of place that makes you feel like a local... even if you're not.

Telepan Local
329 Greenwich St. New York, NY, 10013
Phone: 212-966-9255

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