November 29, 2010
Lincoln opened on September 24, 2010, with high expectations. It is on a spectacular site in Lincoln Center, the heart of New York’s performing arts world. $20 million had been invested in the building. The chef is Jonathan Benno, who has trained at many of the most renowned restaurants in France and the US; most recently he was the chef de cuisine at Per Se. So Kristin, Linda and I were looking forward to an interesting meal when we went to Lincoln for dinner on November 3, 2010.
It is surprising to me that a high-priced Italian restaurant was chosen for this site. A mid-priced modern American theme would seem more appropriate for a place serving a wide variety of tourists and local visitors to Lincoln Center. The chef’s experience had not included Italian cuisine and so he spent half a year in Italy researching and preparing. Perhaps they thought that with 150 seats and the need to serve the pre-performance diners quickly, that Italian cuisine would lend itself to a fast pace in the kitchen.
Arriving at 7:30, we were seated right away as the restaurant surprisingly had not been full for the pre-performance crowd. It did not fill up later either. The décor is quite spare. All four walls of the sloped-roof building are glass, opening out onto the reflecting pool with its Henry Moore sculpture in front of the Beaumont Theater, towards Avery Fisher Hall, the home of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and across 65th Street to the Julliard School.
The glass walls make the interior quite noisy. The main floor has an open kitchen surrounded by dining areas on three sides. Downstairs are more kitchens and a private dining room.
Grissini with chili and two flat breads, one with lardo and one with sesame arrived: good, fresh, flavorful crunchies to enjoy with the aperitifs.
The ladies ordered glasses of PROSECCO DI VALDOBBIADENE Bisol ‘Crede’ 2009 (Veneto) and I a glass of FRANCIACORTA Ferghettina Brut NV (Lombardia). Good choices. There is a seven course Menù dello Chef at $120 (with optional wine pairings at $80), but we decided to order à la carte.
There is a big selection of Italian wines, many of them quite expensive. We ordered a bottle of DOLCETTO DI DOGLIANI Querciola ‘Cornole’ 2006. It went well with all the cuisine.
The amuse-gueule was two little plates of three deep fried arancini, one filled with with cream cheese and one with mushroom risotto. They were crisp, hot and good.
A basket was passed with three breads, including a delicious warm foccacia.
Kristin’s first course was
TERRINA DI FEGATO GRASSO, CONIGLIO E ANIMELLE
FOIE GRAS, RABBIT AND SWEETBREAD TERRINE, SECKEL PEARS, LETTUCES
The rabbit flavor dominated, but the foie gras was evident enhancing it. The sweetbreads were in the background. This was excellent.
I think that for our two starters we chose the only two dishes on the menu that were not mostly Italian.
Linda and I started with
RIGATI CON GRANSEOLA
Dungeness Crab, Pacific Sea Urchin, Peperoncino, Sea Beans
Here the crab flavor dominated, but the sea urchin came through as a nice accent, particularly on the bottom. The peperoncini were happily restrained. The seaweed sprouts added a nice bit of maritime color. Very good dish.
Linda went on to
Cotoletta di Vitello
VEAL CHOP, GNOCCHI ALLA ROMANA, CARROTS, CHANTERELLE MUSHROOMS
She said it was an excellent small veal chop and vegetables.
Kristin and I had
AGNELLO ALLA GRIGLIA
LAMB LOIN, CARDOONS, ARTICHOKES, CROSNES, BAGNA CÀUDA
Kristin was disappointed that the lamb chops were not the small Italian variety, but I thought they had a good lamb flavor. The vegetables underneath were interesting and appropriate.
We ordered to share for the table
MELANZANE ALLA PARMIGIANA
I had read beforehand that this is a surprisingly good rendition of a common dish which is easy to ruin. We enjoyed it also.
For dessert Kristin and Linda shared a
CROSTATA DI MELE
CARAMELIZED POACHED APPLES, SESAME PASTA FROLLA, CREMA PASTICCERA, MASCARPONE GELATO
They said that it was excellent.
My dessert was
TORTA DI RICOTTA
PUMPKIN BREAD AND CUSTARD, TOASTED WALNUT GELATO
There were several variations on pumpkin and walnut flavors and textures here. Very good.
There was a generous plate of mignardises.
We enjoyed a nice evening at Lincoln. The service was friendly, efficient and at the right pace, although the noise was a problem. I think that Lincoln will gain a reputation as a very convenient, good place to dine at Lincoln Center, but will not achieve the kind of ratings the chef is used to.