If you’ve never heard me rave about Bill Telepan or his namesake restaurant, Telepan, you obviously haven’t been reading this blog for long enough. It was Mr. Telepan’s approach to food that drew me to his restaurant–his commitment to local food, sustainability and frequent trips to the NYC greenmarkets inspired me–but it was the menu he created, impeccable wine pairings and reasonably priced luxury that kept me there. At that time a much younger young professional, I was excited to be able to celebrate with great company and a wonderful meal without breaking the bank. You can imagine my excitement when I learned last summer he would be opening a second location. Telepan Local promised to share the same farm to table values but in a more casual, small plates type setting. It was first promised to open in late Fall, then right around Christmas, and finally January. Those 6 months of anticipation where absolute torture.
I first met Bill Telepan when he participated in a roundtable about the importance of local food at the Brooklyn Food Coalition’s Conference a few years back along with Peter Hoffman of Back Forty, John Tucker of Rosewater, Dan Barber of Blue Hill and David Shea of Applewood. Who am I kidding. I was one of a few hundred audience members tucked near the back of the auditorium; I never uttered a word to any of those inspiring chefs. I had only begun to understand the importance of my place in the world and the food I ate, but hearing how passionate these chefs were about their craft had me thinking more. I had recently become involved with the Bay Ridge Food Co-op, which would then lead to membership in the Park Slope Food Coop, CSA membership and weekly trips to whatever Greenmarket was closest at the time.
The second time I actually interacted with Mr. Telepan was at a Greenmarket inspired dinner at Telepan. I highly doubt he remembers our conversation, but I like to think we bonded over our love for Ronnybrook yogurt. I had started my morning with some maple Ronnybrook yogurt and was excited to find it would also be part of my last meal of the day in the form of a delicate panna cotta. There has yet to be a meal had at Telepan that wasn’t memorable.
Whereas the original Telepan is the perfect place to celebrate a great event with a larger group, Telepan Local is the best suited for a more intimate meal. Plates are served small, appetizer size. When my husband and I headed there for Valentine’s Day we were surprised that our waitress suggested 3-4 plates per person. Generally at a tapas place we might end up with 5 dishes of varying size, but these plates were consistently petite, reducing any fear that there might be too little of this and too much of that.
We were a bit concerned about the small size of our table being able to accommodate the 7 dishes we ordered, but plates came out of the kitchen on a rolling basis. They were almost perfectly timed, as we finished one, the next would arrive. Within minutes of us ordering, a Grilled Cheese Pan Con Tomato arrived in front of us. I imagined it to be mini bits of grilled cheese with a shot of tomato soup, but this was even better. The tomato was slathered on top of the grilled cheese–no dipping required!–and sliced into 4 perfect bite sized bits. Gone within seconds. Maybe for you a grilled cheese isn’t so special, but there’s something wonderful about someone else serving it to you. It feels warm and homey, almost like I went back to my childhood and my mom was serving me a perfect grilled cheese on damp afternoon. Though this upgrade was filled with premium cheddar, not the old Kraft stuff.
My favorite dish (which of course I don’t have a photo of) was the Brussels Sprouts and Fingerling salad complete with a coddled egg. So simple, I can’t believe it hasn’t been a staple in my diet since forever. A simple warm salad with halved Brussels sprouts and diced fingerlings, still with plenty of crunch, tossed with light acidity and topped with a barely soft boiled egg. While a bit on the salty side, the salad itself would have been fantastic alone but but letting the yolk of the egg run over the dish helped soak up the extra salt and add a bit of creaminess.
Our “healthy” dish was a not so healthy Cauliflower Gratin smothered in cheddar and breadcrumbs. Light as a feather and melt in your mouth buttery. Worth every calorie. We finished our main courses with Grilled Beef Short Ribs and Spicy Fermented Cabbage. I love short ribs but they’ve always been slow-cooked, braised to perfection, never grilled. I just couldn’t stay away. The short ribs were deeply charred and worked well with the acid from the fermented cabbage. The dish wasn’t as spicy as I anticipated, a plus for me but a slight disappointment for my husband who needs everything to be uber spicy.
Our waitress did not lead us astray. Seven dishes was perfect for the two of us, leaving us fully satisfied but still enough room in our bellies to squeeze in the pecan crusted carrot cake and peanut butter chocolate pretzel sundae she dangled in front of us. Both were delicious but the sundae was on a whole other level. Every bite revealed crunchy pretzel bits or brittle, smooth peanut butter and rich chocolate. If you’re not dining on an empty stomach I advise sticking to three plates per person to assure there is ample room for a sundae or two.
A little off the beaten path and a bit geographically challenged (for a Brooklynite), located deep in Tribeca, what I love most about Telepan Local is its accessibility for an easy meal. Whether it’s a quick weekday meal or a Friday night out, it’s perfect for date night. And while at the moment, the new sibling can never take the place of the original Telepan, as it grows and matures, that sentiment might change.