Up Front With Martin B. Deutsch
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Special Occasion in New York? Try Lincoln
December 4, 2014 -- Are you in New York to celebrate landing a new client? In the process of wooing new business in the Big Apple? Have you recently enjoyed a particularly good week on the market? Has your late Aunt Tilly left you a small fortune? Are you perhaps planning an end-of-the-year holiday in New York?

If any of the above queries generate a "yes" answer, or you're just propelled by curiosity to embark on a memorable dining adventure, I'd recommend Lincoln, an upscale Manhattan restaurant that's quietly made an impact on New York's special-night-out scene since its debut in 2010.

The Michelin-starred eatery is located on West 65th Street between Amsterdam Avenue and Broadway. That puts Lincoln in the heart of Lincoln Center, New York's remarkable nexus of performing arts and home to the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic, several legitimate theaters and jazz venues, a movie house and the Juilliard School, where many of the nation's best performers were trained. It's also a few steps from LaGuardia High School, New York's magnet facility for aspiring artists and performers.

Lincoln is visually stunning and uniquely situated. Its angled-roof glass pavilion is literally beneath a sloping field of grass that's accessible to the public. In fact, the dining room's ultra-modern design evokes almost as much conversation as its highly creative Italian dishes.

The spacious 11,000-square-foot restaurant includes a display kitchen and three dining areas. Despite its size, it's comfortable with considerably less audio distractions than most restaurants. Seated in a high-backed booth on a recent Thursday evening, we remarked on the lack of distracting chatter from fellow diners. That's a welcome respite in a restaurant of any size or configuration.

Lincoln's chef, Jonathan Benno, is known for his past stints at two Thomas Keller dining rooms: the extremely pricey Per Se in the nearby Time Warner complex and the highly rated The French Laundry in the Napa Valley. Benno's menu at Lincoln changes by the season and by region. When we ate dinner there, the kitchen was focused on the province of Puglia in Italy's southeast. It's currently featuring the Piedmont region in Italy's northwest.

Our visit fell into the special-occasion category: The birthday of our teenaged daughter. Once our party of six was settled in our roomy booth, we were talked through the very focused menu by our engaging waiter, who typified Lincoln's flawless service staff. Even buttressed by the regional specialties, Lincoln's contemporary Northern Italian offerings are somewhat limited, especially compared to the copious wine list.

The evening started when we were treated to a small platter of chopped liver served atop a crisp flatbread. Outstanding. For starters, we ordered a small plate of mixed roasted mushrooms for the table as well as the misticanza, a chopped vegetable salad with hazelnuts and castelrosso cheese. (Both were priced at $19.) We were offered a selection of homemade breads served up over several visits from the bread maven.

Also of note on the antipasti offerings were two highly touted specialties from Puglia. One was burrata (a fresh cheese of mozzarella and cream) served with heirloom tomatoes, melon, arugula and a mint salsa verde. It was $19. The spiedino di mare (skewers of charcoal-grilled octopus, shrimp and scallops) was served with chickpeas, pickled red onion, Sinese chili and charred lemon puree. It was $25.

My entrée was the grilled Scottish sea trout, served with local squash, bagna vert (Italian green salsa) and brown butter zabaglione. At $34, it was delicate and flavorful and a real winner from the seafood-centric menu. My daughter and her friend both had spaghettoni, a thick spaghetti topped with a sauce of fresh cherry tomatoes, lemon and ricotta salata. (It was $24.) My wife chose roasted heirloom carrots with honey, chili, rosemary and ricotta di bufala ($18). Other entrees for our party included the $35 zuppa alla tarantina (cod, clams, mussels, squid, octopus, shrimp and chickpeas in a tomato-saffron broth) and the $24 conchiglie nere, a squid ink pasta tossed with chili, basil and lots of seafood, including shrimp, mussels, lobster and squid.

The entrees were followed by a refreshing gelato, which cleared our palates. The evening's piece de resistance was the Boca Nera, a lavish dark chocolate mousse cake. It was carved into six generous portions and priced at $98. If you add tip and tax, that works out to about $20 a slice, but it was well worth it. The price per slice comes down when you consider what followed: a small, complimentary platter of homemade pralines and other candy, such as nougat, as well as biscotti.

Lincoln's list of wine by the glass offered many delicious, although pricey ($12 to $26), selections. The adult guests chose a delightful dry, white Gavi di Gavi ($16); a Dolcetto ($16); a Soffumbergo ($18) and a Syrah ($18). There's an extensive--and expensive--list of bottled wine, of course. Lincoln also offers a negroni and a prosecco bar and features craft beers from Baladin in the Piedmontese province of Cuneo. (Prices run from $8 to $36.) The birthday girl and her friend each enjoyed Shirley Temples ($5) and tasted the restaurant's own cherry soda concoction ($6).

The combination of a superior menu, elegant ambiance and refined service made for a special dining experience. At a bit over $500 plus tax and tip for six, including a custom cake, it was well worth the money--and a good deal by Manhattan standards. And if a $500 tab seems stiff, consider that the restaurant cost $20 million to build when it was constructed four years ago.

Lincoln is open seven nights a week for dinner and serves lunch on Wednesday to Friday. Brunch is available on weekends. Reservations are required, of course, and are taken up to two months in advance. A word to the wise: Lincoln is generally booked well in advance on the nights of performances at Lincoln Center's main venues, so plan accordingly.

This column is Copyright © 2014 by Martin B. Deutsch. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2014 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved. All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Martin B. Deutsch. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.