You know Logan Square has blossomed into full gentrified flower when it can support the kind of towering wine markups drinkers in more lakeward zip codes surrendered to long ago. I have no doubt of the future success of this wine bar from the owners of Lincoln Park's enduring Webster's and Bucktown's the Bluebird. Square-dwellers of today surely have adopted the kind of willful stubbornness necessary to overlook listed wine prices that are, in some cases, more than double their retail cost. It doesn't help that the pours by the glass feel mean, even if it's only due to the optical effect of the sharply angled bowls on the stemware.
But even so, the selection from sommelier Jeremy Quinn is thoughtful, occasionally fascinating, and pretty varied for a strictly Old World list, ranging from a barnyardy, rich Andrea Calek red from southern France to the Lopez de Heredia Spanish rosé with its sherrylike nose to a sweet herbal Averna-like barolo digestivo. The bottle list is split between newer and older vintages, including a sparky rosé from the Loire for $40 at the bottom end and a $360 magnum of 1994 Bordeaux at the top.
What makes those prices easier to swallow is the interesting, spare menu from former Avec sous chef John Anderes, beginning with four tartines. A melty ham and sheep's-milk cheese with coriander mustard and pickled chard stems stands out among these open-faced sandwiches, as does a pair of squash blossoms atop a shit-on-a-shingle-style runny (but tasty) cannellini bean puree.
There's a ballsy percentage of fairly adventurous dishes for such a small menu, including a bowl of bucatini tossed with crisp sweetbread nuggets delicately dressed with a sweet-and-sour rhubarb sauce, a plate of dainty cinnamon-scented seared frog legs that hits your nose before it hits the table, and meaty medium-rare slices of lamb saddle paired with plump, tiny, sweet warm oysters in a light ginger sauce.
But things goes wildly off course with an unappealingly funky tartine with sardine and hard-boiled egg and, worse, a "pillbox" omelet, a thin rectangular ribbon of egg topped with thick slices of seared rare albacore tuna, both components slickened with a thin tomato broth murked up by the addition of tiny dried shrimp.
It's really Anderes's simplest plates that win me over. A salmon fillet with black-rice pilaf and a piece of sturgeon with roasted beets and some superfluous bacon jerky are among the best dishes on the menu. Anderes's grilled chicken is bursting with juices, topped with deep-fried lemon wedges and bitter rapini, and sauced with a fruity glaze that reminds me in the best way of the oven-barbecued chicken of my youth.
In contrast to the wine prices, the food at Telegraph is a value. There are some service issues I can't get behind: a cheese course served too cold, a Beaujolais too warm. And I don't think I can be convinced that sparkling wine is better served in a coupe than a flute. But I don't think either those or the markups are going to prevent this restaurant on the Square from getting very busy, very often.