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Jonathan Benno's Lincoln


Chris Amirault
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As the NYT reported in September, Jonathan Benno has left Per Se and is opening a restaurant in Lincoln Center named... wait for it... Lincoln. The WSJ covered friends and family this weekend prior to the September 24 opening:

The seafood-centric menu was modern Italian. Think sea scallops with sunchokes, almonds and sunflower oil; a lamb chop and shoulder with garlic sausage and Romanesco cauliflower; and a bucatini pasta dish with Dungeness crab, Pacific sea urchin, peperoncino and sea beans.

For dessert, there was an Italian chocolate pudding with pistachio and a burnt orange sauce. Espresso came with a domed lid and bread service began with flat bread brushed with pork fat.

Any other information out there? Anyone going soon?

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I believe it opens to the public on Friday. They have been remarkably cagey about the menu, which has not yet appeared on any of the usual websites. Even the article cited above, mentions that the menu they saw did not have prices.

I'll certainly be going later in the fall, but I am not rushing to be there on Day One.

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I have a reservation for October 2nd. I inquired about a tasting menu and there is one although the lady who took the reservation wasn't entirely certain on the price (she thought $125.00). I asked about a wine pairing and she wasn't sure at all on that. There is also an a la carte menu and the dress code is "casual elegance" -- I asked for a more pointed description and slacks and a button down are fine -- some guests who are taking in a show will be dressed fancier (jackets, ties - suits I am sure) she said. If anyone goes before Oct. 2nd please post - I will after I go (not 100% if I am keeping the reservation yet -- I don't doubt it will be fantastic but it is only week 2 at that point - we'll see...

Edited by jayvalle42 (log)
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I'd say "casual elegance" means that anything you can wear to a concert at Lincoln Center, you can wear to Lincoln. I am positive that any restaurant with a $125 tasting menu will pair wines if you ask them to.

Incidentally, Eater.com Ben Leventhal had a tweet today that there will be no photography permitted during the opening period. I cannot remember an opening where they were so eager to avoid information getting out -- exactly the opposite of what a restaurant normally seeks to do.

I am not criticizing the strategy, just making the observation.

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I'm checking it out on Friday 9pm and will try to report. I know there will be hiccups opening night but I was available and I'm excited. I also inquired about proper attire and was told they were expecting lots of pre-theater guests so it was not too formal, I don't recall the exact terms used. I don't know what menus they will offer so I'll go with the flow, but I'll get a tasting if offered and the wife is up for it.

I had not heard about the camera policy, I plan to bring a small one to get some shots but I guess we'll see. I'd think they would welcome the attention, at least at first.

Stay tuned...

Ed aka Wordsmithing Pantagruel

Food, Cocktails, Travels, and miscellany on my blog:

http://www.wordsmithingpantagruel.com/

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I had not heard about the camera policy, I plan to bring a small one to get some shots but I guess we'll see. I'd think they would welcome the attention, at least at first.

Chefs have a wide divergence of views about food photographers, ranging from welcoming them to outright hostility. I know of only four NYC restaurants that have banned photography outright: Momofuku Ko, Corton, Masa, and Joe Doe. (That list could easily be one of those SAT questions, "Which of the following is unlike the others?")

I would assume that Benno is not fond of shutterbugs, and with Lincoln making just about everyone's list of "most eagerly anticipated openings," he probably figured he didn't need any more attention than he is already getting -- which is plenty.

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So I checked Lincoln out tonight, and I'm a fan. I know it's the first night, but I'd tentatively compare it to Marea (which I love), even if Lincoln currently has a slightly less ambitious menu. By far my favorite dish of the night was the "Terrina di Fegato Grasso, Coniglio e Animelle", or Foie Gras, Rabbit and Sweetbread Terrine with Plums and Lettuces:

DSC01439sm.jpg

It was a real standout, one of my favorite dishes in recent memory. Our other favorite was the lasagna. I've got more pics and full commentary here:

http://www.wordsmithingpantagruel.com/2010/09/lincoln-opening-night-at-bennos-new.html

I included the full menus and prices if you want to check them out.

It's not per se, but it's not trying to be. That doesn't mean it's not great, which it is. Plus it was opening night and I can only assume it will get better from here.

Ed aka Wordsmithing Pantagruel

Food, Cocktails, Travels, and miscellany on my blog:

http://www.wordsmithingpantagruel.com/

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Well, it's not like I got permission to take pictures, but I wasn't asked not to so I figured I'd be discreet and stop if requested. That's why I didn't get a pic of every dish and a couple quick shots I took were not exactly in focus. I wasn't going to post the menu except I saw it posted somewhere else first so figured it wouldn't hurt.

Ed aka Wordsmithing Pantagruel

Food, Cocktails, Travels, and miscellany on my blog:

http://www.wordsmithingpantagruel.com/

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I had a superb meal at Lincoln last night. I didn't notice a tasting menu listen on the menu, though they mentioned that one would appear shortly.

The scallops, agnolotti, and veal chop were perfectly prepared and delicious. The clementine sorbet and the coffee desert were also delicious. I had prosecco and a bottle of 2006 trebbiano d;amburuzzo from Emilio Pepe that went extremely well with the food.

The service was exceptional as well

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There was definitely not a tasting menu listed on the printed menu for the night, but I'm not sure if they offered one if requested. We we not up for a full tasting when we were there, but I had intended to ask out of curiosity but I got distracted and it slipped my mind. So I'm not sure, sorry.

Ed aka Wordsmithing Pantagruel

Food, Cocktails, Travels, and miscellany on my blog:

http://www.wordsmithingpantagruel.com/

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I was there Thu 9/30.

There was some great crostini sent out along with an amuse of breaded pork-stuffed olives and some super-tasty (and light!) arancini.

I had the aforementioned Terrina (how it could be hearty and light was a wonder) and Rigati.

I then had the Merluzzo, flaky cod with a tasty crust with pancetta, littleneck clams, corn and lovage. Benno knows how to keep a dish from being oversalty and keep its flavors, that's for sure. I got a side of the Gnocchi di Pitate Alla Bava, the lightest and doughiest pillows of love with a light buttercreamy sauce.

I got for deserrt the Budino di Cioccolato, an Italian version of flan with some newer accompaniments: Pistachio Genovese, a burnt orange sauce and Cara Cara orange (red navel) sorbetto that all went together beautifully.

I had one of the house cocktails to have during the meal (can't remember enough details to describe) but got a dessert wine that is the Moscato Passito di Pantelleria, a Sicilian potable that was a perfect match to the dessert. I got a pleasant surprise when my Moscato was on the house!

Benno talks in

that he wants people to come back on a "regular" basis. I certainly will try to get in every time I see an event at Lincoln Center, that's for sure.
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Benno talks in

that he wants people to come back on a "regular" basis.

That comment needs a little parsing. Clearly, no chef ever says, "I would rather that people don't come back on a regular basis." What chef doesn't want regulars? So when Benno says the fricking obvious, what does he really mean?

Simply that it's not an "occasion" place. It's both inexpensive enough and informal enough to be the go-to restaurant for the upper middle-class, without requiring them to spend half a paycheck. At the risk of belaboring the obvious, it's another signal that Lincoln isn't built for four stars.

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First, There is a Bar at Lincoln and you can eat at the bar. Second, the food and service is definitely 4 star caliber.. As i wrote on another thread, I don't think Patina Group hired the chef at the country's best restaurant to open a restaurant in a prime location, spend millions of dollars on said restaurant, and had the chef and general manager travel throughout Italy looking for the best Italian produce and not have aspirations for achieving a 4 star rating in the new york times.

Wouldn't it be nice to have a four-star restaurant that doesn't cost and arm and a leg yet holds itself to the highest standards?

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Wouldn't it be nice to have a four-star restaurant that doesn't cost and arm and a leg yet holds itself to the highest standards?

Yes, of course it would. The trouble is, the highest standards are generally expensive to produce. If Chef Benno has figured out a way to produce four-star food at three-star prices, then good for him, and even better for us. But I doubt that he has: there is a reason things cost what they do.

Of course, it would also invite the question about the city's other "high threes" that are doing very similar things.

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Oakapple, when you finally eat at LIncoln, I would like you to report what four star standards aren't being met at Lincoln. Perhaps, the lower menu prices are related to the deal Benno has with The Patina Group. I doubt he is using lesser quality ingredients then his competition.

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As I understand it, the debate from oakapple's perspective isn't whether it is, or will be a 4 star place. It's whether Patina Group set out to make a 4-star place. This distinction is the only thing that matters cause he argues that a) They clearly didn't b) IF they didn't, then it's (historically anyways) impossible that they'll get it. It's a very sound argument.

Breaking down what they started out shooting for - Looking at the venue, it's clear they built a 4 star venue. Far more expense than necessary went into this to say otherwise, although it's unclear that this was all Patina capital and design - presumably Lincoln Center may have kicked in seeing at they are the ones that will be there forever (I have zero clue about that). Looking at the wine list, it's clearly not a 4 star wine list. The food menu is still too early for us to say whether it's a 4 star attempt cause we know more is coming. Right now it's definitely missing the high end, top flight menu option to contend for a 4 (there's no caviar, no tableside presentations, centerpiece signature dishes etc... that are omni-present in 4 star places). The quality and preparation of the ala carte menu is certainly well within the realm of 4 star ala carte menu's IMO, but that's the easy/inexpensive part of the equation.

Based on that, I must say that I agree with oakapples remote-hands assessment that they did not go into this with a 4-star or bust mentality (as Per Se and Del Posto did from day 1). I think a positive 3 star review is going to leave them very pleased, and having attained their initial goal. I'd wager that's going to be their rating (far more interesting to me is the 1 or 2 star Michelin debate - there I actually fall in the 2 star camp).

What I've disagreed with all along, and still do, is part B of oakapple's argument above. If a kick ass high end tasting menu blows the doors off, I think a 4 is in play still. I'll forever point to EMP's lunch service as the central pillar of my argument - a NYT critic was so enamored by the rest of the place that he willfully discounted their 2 star lunch program, and gave them a 4 despite it (which - lunch program now scrapped - they very likely proved they deserved some months later). The tasting menu at Collichio and Sons presumably bumped their star rating up a notch or two as well. "Impossible" and "Unlikely" are two different things in my book.

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As another remote-hands commentator (I'll get there often enough eventually), I think it bears noting that Lincoln may be trying to do two things. One is to be the (high-end) commissary for Lincoln Center. As Oakapple says, a place that upper-middle-class people will comfortably go to whenever they're seeing a program at Lincoln Center. It would be almost impossible to do that and be a four-star restaurant. Four-star food, service, and prices would be overkill, more than that audience needs or even wants.

I think the current Lincoln menu reflects this aspect of the venture. I look at that menu and think that even if every single dish were perfectly prepared, that could still not be four-star food.

Now it's possible that the Lincoln also has four-star aspriations in connection with its after-8 o'clock program. They don't close at curtain time. Maybe they'll introduce a high-end tasting menu for that period. We know Chef Benno is capable of it. Even then, maybe Lincoln would get the strange sort of split review that Amanda Hesser gave Masa.

(And they'd still have to upgrade their wine list.)

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We've already seen one sign that they aren't exactly doing things with the Lincoln Center crowd in mind (LOI at 10:30). Could be they don't mind the traffic (as 50 walk in seats would suggest), but aren't minded towards necessarily revolving everything around that crowd either.

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Maybe I lack imagination, but it seems hard for me to believe that the group that has the contract for all of Lincoln Center's restarant concessions would open up a restaurant in Lincoln Center and not target the Lincoln Center audience. I know that people will go where the place is if it's good enough, but who else is on that block of W. 65th St. in the first place?

As I've said elsewhere, I think the 10:30 closing time simply reflects Lincoln Center's inability to see beyond the large suburban component of its audience (which is, of course, why it finds it hard to attract a younger more urban crowd).

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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