So here's my Chowhound story about Judson Grill and how we met Bill Telepan, the executive chef.
My wife and I and another couple dined a week or two ago at The Grocery on Smith Street in Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn, and we loved it. Had a premier experience, with wonderful, memorable food and great service. I enjoyed it so much I wrote a very favorable review on the Outer Boroughs board on Chowhound.
So Maureen and I decided to return, which we did this past Monday. And the chef/owner (Charlie) recognized us from our previous visit and immediately guessed that I was the author of the Chowhound piece. So we had the same terrific experience, but now as "honored guests" instead of anonymous diners. (Don't care, it's still a great place!)
Well, during the conversation, Charlie told us that he had roomed with Bill Telepan during their days at the Culinary Institute and that they are still great friends. He told us we should definitely try Judson Grill and in particular praised Telepan's foie gras terrine.
As events would have it, we found ourselves on 53rd and 6th last evening, so we decided to see if we could get a table at Judson Grill, and we did. In fact we got quite a nice table. After we were seated and had ordered a bottle of red (a terrific 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa), the sommelier chatted with us as she opened the wine. On an impulse, I said, "Tell Bill Telepan that Charlie from The Grocery says hello." She smiled and said, "I will, but I also know you're not Charlie." So I said, "You're right, but we had dinner last night at The Grocery and Charlie told us to get on over to Judson Grill ASAP and tell Bill that Charlie sent us." She laughed and delivered the message.
Shortly thereafter Bill Telepan came by our table and we had a very nice chat about their (his and Charlie's) careers, food in general, and restaurants in New York. It was obvious that he and Charlie and Sharon, Charlie's wife, are great friends of long standing.
We ordered the tasting menu (there are two, one is a five-course meal, but we ordered the four-course option, which is a great bargain, IMHO). The meal was well-spaced and the food was excellent. Charlie was right: the terrine of foie gras was the best I've ever had. Some of the other appetizers we had included lobster tail, marinated sardines, and quail, all of which were excellent. For my main, I had the veal and Maureen had the vegetable plate.
We finished up with two first-rank desserts: a panna cotta custard with ice cream and a cherry and dark chocolote arrangement, neither of which we were able to finish.
We liked Judson Grill a lot (the meal was not inexpensive, but it was worth the price). This was Maureen's first visit, but I've been there before (anonymously), perhaps a half dozen times, on business meals, all of which I really enjoyed. I've liked Judson Grill since the days of John Villa.
On balance, I think Judson Grill is the more complete restaurant in a lot of ways (better air conditioning on a very hot night, dramatic and attractive space, very impressive overall), but I think I'd rate The Grocery slightly higher for two reasons: I think Charlie and his wife Sharon have the edge slightly in their cooking, and, although small and tight, The Grocery gives you a nice feeling of neighborhood friendliness.
So, there's my Chowhound story...