Telepan Bacon Cheeseburger with Fries & Onion Ring “Volcano”: Amazing First Courses Save an Overhyped Burger

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After reading Time Out New York’s article on the Top 10 Burgers of 2008, I knew it was time for NYC Food Guy to see if these burgers were worth the fuss. First stop: Telepan. The opportunity to eat this mini burger is only available as part of the 3 ($28) or 2 ($22) course lunch prix fixe or the weekend only 2-course brunch prix fixe ($28), which I indulged in.

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The burger is served with crisp bacon, melted white cheddar, housemade pickles, lettuce, tomato, crispy shoestring french fries, and an onion ring “volcano”. At brunch, you also get a complimentary housemade bread basket with some delicious cakes including a damn tasty cinnamon muffin. As far as the burger goes, harmony of flavor was lacking. My overall thought was “charred and salty.” My first course, the Semolina Cream Crepes with sauteed butternut squash and brown sugar sauce, were delicious enough to save the meal.

Read on the find out what defines a fancypants burger and how something so well crafted fell flat…

Telepan Burger Breakdown…

Flame-broiled burger – packed tight, well-charred on the outside, and overly salted, my first reaction was surprise at the size of this patty. Once I sliced it in half and saw the glistening fat, I realized it was all for the sake of meat to bun ratio. And what it lacked in diameter it made up for in girth (Cue requisite “that’s what she said” jokes)…

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… It was cooked to order and had a decent amount of fat in it making for a smooth, not overly beefy flavor. The thickness, however, resulted in the charred-beef flavor dominating each bite, the bacon and cheddar barely detectable. You couldn’t really taste any fire though, just char, and after the meal was done, the lingering flavor was the onion rings.

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White Cheddar – well-melted and draped all over the patty, the cheese dripped over the sides and on to the plate and didn’t really make much flavor impact. It was fairly mild but did a nice job keeping the bacon attached to the burger.

Bacon – fresh and cooked through, slightly crispy but not well done. Flavorful but not an overbearing flavor, the charred beef really took over each bite.

Bun – Unimpressive. Comparable to a light Kaiser roll minus the graininess of the crust. The dough was airy but still managed to support the weight and juice of the burger patty.

Fries – Great fries, shoestring, crispy, and wafer like in consistency. The only drawback is that they weren’t great for dipping. The short length of each fry prevented a clean dip which is fine if you don’t mind ketchup on your thumbs and NYC Food Guy definitely does not.

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Onion Ring “Volcano” – Named for it’s presentation, the rings were light, crispy, and delicious. They didn’t fall apart with each bite despite the near-tempura like delicacy of the batter. The onion also remained encased within the ring even when breaking it in half…

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… I put a little bit of onion ring on the burger at one point but it was too bulky and crisp to really mesh with the small, firm patty. Believe it or not my initial reaction to the batter’s consistency was that it reminded me of a gourmet version of Munchos potato chips, it was that airy and light.

Where the burger went wrong…

In the end it came down to the dissonance of flavor that hurt the Telepan burger most. On their own each component of the burger was high quality and delicious but balance was lacking. The char flavor dominated and as good as everything else was, if the patty’s not kicking butt, the burger falls flat.

Everything else was excellent…

My first course was a very ornate and small pair of Semolina Cream Crepes covered in sauteed butternut squash, brown sugar sauce, and confectioner’s sugar. It saved the meal…

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… The delicacy of the crepes combined with the richness of the semolina cream was in perfect harmony with the brown sugar sauce. The butternut squash was sweet and diced into such fine cubes they melted on my tongue and provided a nice textural quality. The brown sugar sauce was the champion of this dish, however, sweet but not painfully so, and possessing a slightly smoky flavor, I had to refrain from licking my plate clean. This is one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten. It’s only served on Saturday and Sunday’s brunch menu from 11:30am to 2:30pm.

My friend Chris ordered the Apple Sausage with poached egg, watercress, and duck proscuitto

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… I only had a little taste of the apple sausage and I was pleasantly surprised. I’ve never tasted any apple-flavored meat that possessed such a strong apple flavor, most likely Granny Smith. This sausage was crumbly, porky, and delicious and the tart flavor of the apple was undeniable. I didn’t taste the proscuitto but Chris raved about this dish and agreed that his first course also made the meal. I would still go with the Semolina Cream Crepes.

Mark Lewis ordered the Salad of Baby Lettuce with dry Monterey jack dressing and garlic-herb croutons. I regrettably didn’t taste it though it looked great. Mark called it “tremendous.”

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Unfortunately, the most intriguing first course, Sheep’s Milk Ricotta Blintzes with dried fruit and honey compote, was unavailable. We were all pretty disappointed about that and after tasting the Semolina Cream Crepes, I’m sure the blintzes would also be spectacular.

Dessert was good but not nearly as great as the first courses…

For brunch, dessert is not included in the prix fixe. At this point in our meal we weren’t bothered. A sweet finish was necessary after the salty burger and fries.

First dessert was Cinnamon & Sugar dusted Apple Fritters with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce ($11). Very tasty but not a great dessert to share. Trying to slice into it and get a good ratio of ice cream in each bite, while leaving some for the others, was tough. All difficulty aside, this was damn tasty. Thin, sugary slices of apple were encased within the warm doughy fritters and the natural-tasting vanilla ice cream blended well, a little dip in the caramel sauce was necessary but turned this from a nice looking dessert to a mess almost immediately. But in the end, when is a clean dessert fun?

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Our 2nd dessert was the Brandy Bread Pudding with brandied cherry ice cream and brandy sauce ($11). This was recommended to us by our waitress over the Crunchy Peanut Butter and Milk Chocolate Gianduja with peanut brittle ice cream and huckleberry gelee. Looking back, maybe we should have gone with our instincts and enjoyed some delicious milk chocolate Gianduja (made from chocolate and hazlenut paste) or ordered another Apple Fritter…

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… The Brandy Bread Pudding was, despite its attractive presentation, tasty but nothing special. The brandy flavor was weak although the ice cream was quite delicious. The bread pudding arrived steaming hot but cooled down pretty quickly leaving us with a soggy lump of sweet mush in a pool of brandy sauce. I don’t think we even finished this dish.

————–

Telepan was one of the first upscale and trendy restaurants NYC Food Guy splurged on. The three of us each ended up spending around $50. I was fully prepared for this but can’t eat in that price range regularly. For those who can, Telepan would be a great place to take a special date or go to for a special occasion. The atmosphere is clean and crisp. I liked Telepan for the seriousness and attentiveness of the wait staff and the thoughtfulness of the dishes. Bill Telepan obviously has a great grasp of flavors, unfortunately this didn’t manifest with the burger. But from disappointment, surprise was born. The first courses were amazing and if I return to Telepan I will skip the burger all together and exploit the chef’s real culinary talent: strong, vibrant flavors hidden in delicate and carefully prepared receptacles.

Telepan

72 West 69th Street nr. Columbus Ave.
New York, NY 10023
(212) 580-4300
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5 Responses to “Telepan Bacon Cheeseburger with Fries & Onion Ring “Volcano”: Amazing First Courses Save an Overhyped Burger”

  1. Danny Says:

    Great writeup! I thought Ed Levine really loves this joint for its burgers or maybe it was just the fries? Either way, I have walked by and gazed at the dinner menu… foie gras donut is on there. From what you say, he seems good with the fried stuff.

  2. The NYC Food Guy Says:

    Danny-

    You said it and you caught me on the one thing I should have mentioned for intrigue’s sake: the foie gras donuts.

    Ed does love this burger, as he writes here:
    http://edlevineeats.seriouseats.com/2007/07/another_answer_to_the_brunch_question.html

    I initially was going to use his classification of this burger as “fancy pants” for my lead in but then decided to go with what intially motivated me to write about it, the TONY articel. My two friends who I ate with both disagree with me however and think I was a bit harsh but while I agree I was punctilious in my review, isn’t it up to us a food bloggers to reveal everything?

  3. Chris Says:

    NYCFG…Too harsh on the burger. It was a bit salty, but cooked perfectly as ordered and I thought it was tasty. One of the best, if not THE best on the UWS. You were right about the opening course plates though. Makes the meal and really separates Telepan. Next time, just ask for a bite of the prosciutto. – C

  4. The NYC Food Guy Says:

    Chris-

    I respect the opinion. You and Lewis both said I was a little harsh but I had to be, I had great expectations for this burger and while I wasn’t disappointed, I wasn’t floored. Cooked perfectly and tasty are requirements for any burger place, I would expect no less at Telepan, a place that prides themselves on being a “real” restaurant (not some Burger Joint). That being said, I didn’t find Telepan’s burger to be as extraordinary as the first courses were. A burger is a burger, we can’t change that, but we’re the eaters, not the chefs, I can’t figure out how to make it better. Less salt, less char. That would be my remedy.

    Thanks for the feedback. Next time I’ll definitely ask.

  5. NYC Food Guy Recommends… French Fries « NYC Food Guy Says:

    […] NYC Food Guy Review 72 W. 69th St., New York, NY 10023 nr. Columbus Ave. (212) 580-4300 […]

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