March 10, 2014 | BITE: My Journal

Telepan Local in Tribeca


Is the excellent lamb tartare a little skimpy for four hungry grownups to share?
Is the excellent lamb tartare a little skimpy for four hungry grownups to share?

          I can’t quite decide. Does Telepan Local in Tribeca feel more like Iowa or Brooklyn? It has a kind of gentrified farmhouse look -- beige and brown wood, but also bare brick and tile. Is that to magnify the buzz? Full up, the place is noisy, but you can still catch the sound of singer-songwriter music and alternative country. (Says my friend with the Shazam app on his phone.)

I’d say the farmyard look is deliberate, to go with the downhome prices.

          Never mind, barn or playschool, the four of us are moving small plates around the beige and brown paneled table, loving the pigs in blankets (double-dipping into the mustard), while waiting to attack the bone marrow arancini anchored to the plate with Parmesan aioli. “Let them sit a minute,” the waitress warns, “They’re very hot.” We moan a little over those too, and the sensuously esculent little Nantucket bay scallops, seared but nearly raw, topped with thin garlic coins in a swirl of black trumpet purée. We didn’t need her instruction to share -- yada yada yada, okay we know the drill, sharing is what we do.

Marrow is fatty and gives these rice balls an extra ooze. Give them time to cool.

          It’s been a challenge to narrow down our order. Shall it be two dishes each, or three or four?  We want all the snackers and crudos and, yes, all eight vegetables too. And we’re not bypassing the pork, are we? Well maybe the pork belly, but what about the corned tongue and the sweetbread gratiné with parsley, and yes, more garlic. With what seem to be entrées priced from just $12 to $17, multiples tempt.

Sensuous little Nantucket scallops topped with garlic thins line up on black trumpet purée.

          Chef Bill Telepan has said his downtown spot would be all about tapas – small plates – and the mostly small or smallish price tags makes this a concept to clone in any neighborhood. We’ve ordered eleven and are holding on to one menu in case we need more.
          Actually, Telepan Restaurant is my local. It’s right in my Upper West Side orbit. And I know Bill Telepan from his days at Ansonia and later at Judson Grill, where his three stars drew crowds. So of course I was eager to check out his new Telepan Local in Tribeca. (His loyalty to Citymeals-on-Wheels is noted for the record here.) I would have come sooner but Telepan Local was not taking reservations and that put me off. Considering the prices, maybe they shouldn’t -- but they are. And here we are.

A snip of pig in pastry blanket for each of us get us going followed by artful veggies.

          There’s no sign of the chef tonight. He’s off accepting an award for his devoted work with Wellness in the Schools. His partner Jimmy Nicholas appears (he’s on our Citymeals Board). I’ve kept my back to the open kitchen hoping to be anonymous, but chef de cuisine Joel Javier is grinning and sending out extras. He must have ESP. His fine broccoli rabe with white anchovy and an egg yolk is what we would have ordered next.

Everything – certainly this pizzette -- is meant to share, says our waitress. Yes, we know.

          It hits the table along with the sourdough pizzette we ordered -- piled with bacon, red onion and mozzarella with jalapeño. The greens alongside the excellent grilled octopus are drowned in acid -- vinegar I’m guessing -- but the tender curls of the creature quickly disappear along with thin slices of mushroom and sunchoke in a mushroom vinaigrette.

          By asking for serving spoons often enough, we finally get our server to bring them. That’s after the water bottle falls, inundating my tasting plate, because there’s an indentation in the middle of the table that we didn’t see. A weird design hiccup, I’d say. It splashed on the adorable foie gras jammers -- mini linzer tarts -- but I’d already tasted mine. I also specified what dishes I wanted first, but that was talking to the wind. The kitchen sends out what’s ready. I guess that’s how they afford to do this.

This corned tongue is typical – four slices of meat to share, here with cabbage.

          I’ve asked for the meat plates to be served to each of us -- and not be set in the middle -- so we can taste and pass and get the full impact of sauces. The bussers adjust. We were happy enough with the marvelous lamb tartare at the kitchen’s whim, and now at the end, with grilled beef short rib and spicy fermented cabbage, and beautifully-roasted pork shoulder in not-quite-cooked-long enough cranberry beans. (Modern chefs are reluctant to cook dried beans till they are done, rather than al dente.)

          We’re sharing the apple sundae and the chef’s dessert extra, marvelous coconut cake, forgiving the quirks, and wishing Telepan Local were more local to us. Small plates, inventively garnished memorable or not, at prices like these, are devoutly to be wished all over town.

329 Greenwich Street between Jay and Duane Streets. 212 966 9255. Lunch Monday through Friday 11:30 am to 3 pm. Brunch Saturday and Sunday 11 am to 3 pm. Every day, Snack menu 3-5pm. Dinner Sunday through Thursday 5:30 to 10 pm and Friday and Saturday till 11:30 pm.


Tiny's Is Cute

Start with an 1810 townhouse painted pink, spatter paint, economize on chairs. That’s Tiny’s.


          New York City with a car is a whole other town. I’m a subway-foot-and-taxi woman myself. Talk about two different cities. That’s why my friends -- PDB and Fred -- don’t mind the circuitous drive from their home to mine to Tiny’s in Saturday night traffic. Why are we going so far? I wonder. Their grownup son says it’s his favorite place. At one point she calls ahead to say we’re running late.

Not even two hundreds years of bar-flopping could produce a ceiling quite so shabby.

          Tiny’s and the Bar Upstairs is the official name. Fred drops us off in front of the pink-painted 1810 townhouse and drives off to find a parking space. “This is so cute,” she says as we enter. “If this were Paris, I’d say, ‘Why don’t we have places like this in New York?’”

          It’s cute like it’s a wreck. “Restored,” says the press release, “and overlayed (overlaid) with whimsical American finish detail. Whitewash, faux rot on the original tin ceiling, bare brick, salvaged wood paneling,” Faux cute.

The place starts cute. The staff is sweet. And I’m sure there’s music feeding the uproar.

          My friend is a certified Paris habitué-lover-maniac and can be unforgiving when a dish, a place, a chicken, a waiter just doesn’t measure up. So far, so good. She thinks Tiny’s of Tribeca could be in France. I grumble as we are led upstairs. At least there’s a banister. Maybe it’ll be quieter. No. It’s noisier. There’s Saturday night disinhibition at a bar a few feet from our rickety table. And these funny metal chairs dig into my back. I’m grumpy.

My Francophile pal PDB is thrilled with our waiter Jeff, French with an American name.

          But she’s happy. The waiter has a French accent. Oh, mon Dieu. She speaks to him in French. The kale salad with apples, currents, walnuts and a fluff of shredded Gouda will taste even better now. I take a stack of it on my fork. It tastes like kale to me, unchewable. She doesn’t notice. She loves it. Torrid spicy wings quickly disappear.

I can’t say I’ll perish if I never taste pastrami tartine again but it’s okay.

          And Fred’s roasted vegetable soup with winter veggies, Great Northern beans and butter croutons is, in fact, perfect for a blustery night, or even a less-than-arctic evening. None of us will take more than a taste of meatballs drowning in tomato sauce, but the pastrami “tartine” with frisée on a slice of bread is je ne sais quoi -- does that mean “not bad at all?”

Spicy, finger-licking wings, an evening special, seem Frencher delivered by our waiter.

          And it seems almost cheap, but it isn’t -- starters $11 to $16, mains $22 to $34. Still, if my chicken with oversized cuts of vegetables were as juicy as Fred’s duck duo or as good as PDB’s grilled hanger steak with crunchy roasted potatoes, I’d think about coming back. They promise the waiter they will return. I complain about how dry the chicken is. To my shock, Fred orders the waiter to take it back to the kitchen. I would have just complained -- I’m a complainer -- and eaten another bite of his duck confit. By the time a new chicken arrives, I can only taste. Yes, it’s better. I’ll take it home for lunch.

Fred’s duck duo – smoked breast and confit of leg -- with haricots verts is the evening’s best dish.

          I’d like dessert, maybe the chocolate mousse or even the blueberry cheesecake (blue whipped cream?). Anything but mint pot au crème. But PDB is still fighting to shed the three pounds she picked up in France two weeks ago. Funny, isn’t it, it’s always the certifiably svelte who make us feel guilty about the elasticized waistbands that let us eat dessert without noticing the effects. I plan to have two bites of Jacques Torres’ dark chocolate bark and thirty minutes of “The Big Bang Theory” when I get home.  I’m leaving Tiny’s to the locals who love it.

135 West Broadway between Thomas and Duane. 212 374 1135. Lunch, Monday through Friday, 11:30 am to 3:30 pm. Saturday and Sunday brunch 10:30 am to 3:30. Dinner Monday through Thursday 5:30 to 11 pm. Friday and Saturday, until midnight. Sunday till 10 pm. Bar Upstairs has later hours.

Photographs may not be used without permission from Gael Greene. Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

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