Zagat voted Telepan's brunch the best in the city in 2010, which was all I needed to hear to check it out myself. Indeed, it's a reliable bet with a wide range of options for repeat visitors, but is it really the best in the city?
The menu is structured as a mandatory 2-course prix fixe for $28, and with the exception of an expertly-crafted lobster omelette, there aren't any supplements. Each table is greeted by a generous bread and pastry basket, filled with carrot and coffee cakes, jam thumbprint biscuits, and cheddar chive bread, with at least one piece of each per person. All of those offerings are hard to resist, and indulging them fully makes it hard to fathom two courses to follow. Thankfully, the staff times the meal well, letting you linger and digest between courses and fostering a convivial ambiance that makes Telepan great for long, laughter-filled catch up sessions.
The home smoked brook trout, which appears as a first course, is one of the chef's signature dishes; sweeter options include light semolina crepes filled with sauteed butternut squash and brown sugar sauce, as well as one of the city's best blintzes. The Jewish staple—surprisingly hard to find even in this most Jewish of neighborhoods—gets a refined twist here, stuffed with sheep's ricotta and topped with honey and a figgy fruit compote. Chunks of dried fruit—apricot, cherries and figs—add texture to an otherwise soft dish, and are restrained enough to keep the dish from becoming too sweet.
As a main course, it's the Upper West Sider (pictured at top) that continues the theme. By no means is Telepan a restaurant with a focus on Jewish fare, but its brunch sure sings the tune of the 'hood. This platter bears three kinds of smoked fish—nova, gravlax, and trout salad—to be mixed and matched with cream cheese, bagels, and the usual accoutrements. A side of scrambled eggs bears the mark of expert technique: they're rich and decadent without any additions to taint their fresh flavor. Sweet and spicy pickles and a sprinkling of olives round out the plate, whose only real downfall is too-hard bagels that pale against perfectly silky, melt-on-the-tongue nova and gravlax.
Best brunch in the city? It may be too bold a claim. But a darn good meal it sure is, and well worth its price tag to boot.