Thursday, November 04, 2010

Lincoln Review

Lincoln is a new restaurant that opened at Lincoln Center about a month ago in a glass-encased structure among other recent glass-building additions to the arts complex. The restaurant is the product of chef Jonathan Benno, who left his job as chef of Per Se to strike out on his own. There seemed to be much anticipation for its opening, so I was surprised to land a prime-time reservation after calling just a couple of days beforehand.

As you are led into the dining room, you pass a glass wall that affords a clear view into an orderly kitchen.

The space is lovely, with wood-paneled, sloping ceilings and glass walls. The chairs smartly swivel out to greet you and swing you back into place at the table.

The meal started off with bread sticks seasoned with oregano and chili; flat rectangular crackers coated in pork fat and Parmesan, and square crackers with olive oil, white sesame and parsley. They were nice snacks to munch on as we tried to figure out just what to order, which turned out to be harder than expected.
We turned to our waitress with some questions about the dishes, primarily about portion sizes. Unfortunately, she shied away from recommending anything in particular and provided a very diplomatic, though unhelpful answer about the size of the pasta dishes. What we did get out of her was that early diners complained that the pasta dishes were too small, especially patrons who wanted to order them as entrees. So the kitchen had increased the size of them slightly. I understand the fear of deciding for diners whether dishes will be filling or not wanting to be responsible for whether or not they like their meal, but in my opinion, when people ask these questions, they won't hold their servers accountable and would more likely appreciate a little guidance.

The amuse bouche: chickpea cake with a roasted eggplant puree.


Burrata Cheese with kabocha, acorn and butternut squash, walnuts and watercress. I liked the creamy cheese (essentially an amplified mozzarella cheese) and the variety of squash that came with it. The squash is a good cold-weather vegetable, but the pairing might be a little bit heavy with such a rich cheese.

Cavatelli with razor clams, peppers and lemon thyme sauce. An excellent dish — the pasta was satisfyingly chewy and soaked in the grand flavor of the ocean, which proved to be too much for my dining companions. But the taste of the salty waters is the truest indication of the seafood's freshness. The peppers (perhaps a mix of shishito peppers and red bell peppers) added a nice sharpness to the whole concoction.

Rigati with Dungeness crab, Pacific sea urchin, peperoncino and sea beans. Another standout. It was creamy as a dish of mac and cheese and the bowl had almost as much crab and sea urchin tongue as pasta.

Main Courses
The lasagna was one of the dishes the waitress was hesitant to definitely say could be a main course. It was a rich combination of veal, beef and pork ragu covered in cheese and uniquely cooked in a springform pan that made a fine meal, especially when preceded by several appetizers.

Veal chop, semolina gnocco with fontina and parmesan cheese, carrots, Chanterelle mushrooms. A hearty serving of meat well-liked by my dining companions.

A seafood broth with red snapper, shrimp, lobster knuckles, little neck clams and fregula (a pasta similar to Israeli cous cous). This was also deliciously redolent of the sea. The lobster and shrimp were both sweet, but the clams were a little on the tough side.


Warm Domori chocolate cake with coffee and chocolate cream and fior di latte gelato. This dessert was not on the regular dessert menu, but it was listed as part of the chef's tasting prix-fixe menu. (Unlike at many other restaurants, the chef's tasting menu does not need to be ordered by the entire table, but can be ordered individually.) In the end, this turned out to be the best of the desserts we got,perhaps because it was the simplest.

Torta di ricotta with pumpkin bread and custard and toasted walnut gelato. The cheesecake was just okay and the incarnations of pumpkin bread were bland. And the pumpkin cream, pumpkin seeds and candied pumpkin didn't do much to enhance the dish.

This was essentially a tartufo with buttermilk gelato and chestnut sorbet and candied chestnuts. It came with a mini-chocolate cake with grappa-infused chocolate on top. Beyond the chocolate, the flavors were too mild and this was also unsatisfying.

I can only attribute the empty tables to the fact that the word hasn't spread among the general public yet. It should become a pre- and post-show destination. The food, though pricey, is terrific and with time, will probably become even more refined. It seems that the menu is printed daily and is changing with the seasons, good reasons to return. The desserts could use some work, but the restaurant has the important part down.

1 comment:

  1. Navah8:35 PM

    yum! was jealous reading this! Now how to get an invite ;)