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Jonathan Benno's Lincoln


Chris Amirault
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I'm finding this thread terribly confusing. I have never found stars to be very tasty or interesting, I go to restaurants for the food. And I love Italianish food.

Is the food at Lincoln delicious? Are there dishes that you "get hungry for" and want to return to enjoy again?

Which ones?

If the star-counting doesn't interest you, and if you ignore those posts, what remains is the very clear sense that the food at Lincoln is very good. I do not recall any post (here or in other fora) suggesting it was anything less than that.

To those who follow the industry, it is impossible to separate Chef Benno from the place whence he came, namely Per Se. If there is a debate about Lincoln, it is whether he is still turning out food on that level, or if he is currently operating at a lower (but still very good) level.

Absolutely true. The food is excellent, and most of our arguments had to do with its category and how highly the place will be rated by critics, its value, which other places it will compete with, whether it's truly unique, and the like. There wasn't a bad item in the bunch that I ate (other than a few little dry cookies at the end) and all of it was tasty. I thought all the dishes were very well executed, some were really excellent and I'd happily eat almost any of them again (though I'd prefer to have them on someone else's dime!). So for me, I don't "get hungry" for any of the food there like I do for some of Michael White's or even Scott Conant's Italian food. But that is very subjective. There weren't any particular dishes that are haunting my memories or anything like that, but if you like Italian-ish food, then by all means try it, especially if you're not extremely price sensitive. Don't expect the Italian Per Se. But aside from being the second or third most expensive Italian restaurant in town, it's also one of the better ones.

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New menu's, most interestingly, a lunch menu with a special "local foods" strip down the middle:

http://www.patinagroup.com/restaurants/131/menus/Lincoln-Ristorante-Lunch.pdf

Dinner has the same strip, but is not yet populated. Also noticed that the steak is now $90:

http://www.patinagroup.com/restaurants/131/menus/Lincoln-Ristorante-Dinner.pdf

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I will add this - they aren't really doing themselves any favors making a menu that LOOKS like A Voce's...

Nor are they doing anyone any favors by raising the already high prices on half the apps, almost all of the pastas, and a few mains! Aside from the steak, only one reduction has been made and lots have been increased. The veal (my favorite main) is now another 15+% higher at $42, and most of the others took at least a $2 hike. I wonder if the move is a food cost thing, a marketing thing or something else entirely. Seems quite soon to be doing it.

Edited by LPShanet (log)
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I will add this - they aren't really doing themselves any favors making a menu that LOOKS like A Voce's...

Nor are they doing anyone any favors by raising the already high prices on half the apps, almost all of the pastas, and a few mains! Aside from the steak, only one reduction has been made and lots have been increased. The veal (my favorite main) is now another 15+% higher at $42, and most of the others took at least a $2 hike. I wonder if the move is a food cost thing, a marketing thing or something else entirely. Seems quite soon to be doing it.

I think it's menu engineering. The tell is that the Fagioli Romani Brasati went from $12 to $14. I doubt there was a sudden 14 percent jump in the cost of the ingredients; they just decided, "we can get another two bucks for that." Although the steak went down from $120 to $90, the description changed from t-bone to less-expensive sirloin; possibly not the best move. Absent an extremely trustworthy recommendation, you won't catch me paying $90 for sirloin.

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Just a thought, but isn't $45 per person for sirloin close to the standing price in the city's steakhouses? Oakapple, have you eaten at LIncoln yet?

Just to echo @sickchangeup, $45 is the going rate for ribeye or short loin, but not (at any place I can think of) for sirloin.

I have a reservation in the middle of November.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I think Platt's review is ridiculous. I have had 6 wonderful meals there including one last night where I ordered many of the dishes Platt didn't like. In fact, I have had most of the dishes on the menu at this point. I think if a scallop dish is perfectly prepared, (as mine was), then it is well worth $24.

The question that i have is What makes for innovative cuisine. Specifically, what would make italian cuisine innovative. Are they any Italian restaurants either here or in ITaly that produce innovative food.

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We dined at Lincoln on Saturday (blog post here). I gave it two stars, rather than Platt's one. I had four dishes, two of which I consider excellent (the foie gras terrine; the lasagne), and two of which I considered duds (gnocchi, which were comped; and the ribeye for two).

Since Lincoln clearly has the capacity to turn out excellent food, it is entirely possible that with a different order I would have considered it a three-star place. Remember, I am reviewing the visit, and unlike both Platt and sethd, don't yet have the benefit of multiple meals upon which to base an opinion. But as I visit Lincoln Center fairly often, I am sure I'll be back.

Of course, a good deal of my opinion rests on that ribeye, which I think is almost an insult to the customer for the $130 they are charging. But my girlfriend was keen to order it, and I gave in. As a general rule, I don't think steak is a very good bet outside of restaurants that specialize in it, as this dish certainly showed.

I think Platt's review is ridiculous. I have had 6 wonderful meals there including one last night where I ordered many of the dishes Platt didn't like. In fact, I have had most of the dishes on the menu at this point. I think if a scallop dish is perfectly prepared, (as mine was), then it is well worth $24.

Platt is a buffoon, by some margin the least qualified of the city's major professional reviewers. I disagree with him about the lasagne and the foie gras terrine, but his critiques of those dishes ("unremarkable" and "less than the sum of its parts") are somewhat indistinct. On the other hand, he absolutely nails the ribeye: "devoid of flavor, texture, and any kind of crunchy char."

Many of this other comments strike me as believable, particularly his complaints about the service. Although we didn't experience those things, he is unlikely to have made them up. Most service glitches are accidents, meaning they can happen at one table, and not at another.

He is clearly showing some disdain for the price point. If you're going to charge $24 for one scallop, you need to be giving it more than just an "unspectacular almond purée". Since I haven't had the dish, I don't know whether I'd share his assessment of the purée, but the gnocchi I had were in an unspectacular veal jus, and the amuse-bouche (a deep-fried chickpea cake) came with an unspectacular eggplant purée, so I know it is certainly possible.

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How many meals do you think Platt had at Lincoln before his review. I get the sense that he eats at a restaurant once and then writes his review. As I have mentioned, I have eaten every savory dish save the salad and the steak and my only complaint is that both times the cavatelle came out way too hot. I have noted that some of the dishes have changed or have been replaced altogether. I have also found that the service has become much more polished since its opening.

How fair is it to publish a review so soon after opening. I mentioned that Sifton has been to Lincoln frequently to a Restaurant Manager at a nearby ny times 4 star restaurant who said that it is unfair to review a restaurant so quickly after opening: that a restaurant needs at least a couple of months to get up to speed and work out any kinks.

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How many meals do you think Platt had at Lincoln before his review. I get the sense that he eats at a restaurant once and then writes his review.

Platt gave Momofuku Ko four stars after dining there once, and he claimed it was the only time he'd done so, with three visits being the norm. Somewhere else, he mentioned that he reviewed Masa after two visits: given that the diner has no choice over what is served, he felt that there was no point in asking the magazine to pay for a third visit.

Based on the sheer number of dishes mentioned in the review, he couldn't possibly have paid just ONE visit, unless he over-ordered ridiculously. He mentions eight separate entrées, and that includes one that actually counts as a double-entrée, namely the ribeye.

How fair is it to publish a review so soon after opening. I mentioned that Sifton has been to Lincoln frequently to a Restaurant Manager at a nearby ny times 4 star restaurant who said that it is unfair to review a restaurant so quickly after opening: that a restaurant needs at least a couple of months to get up to speed and work out any kinks.

Review cycles have been contracting for a long time now. Platt didn't review Lincoln any sooner than he reviews most places. A number of Sifton's reviews have come out after six or seven weeks. Bruni practically always waited at least two months. But a review published on the two-month anniversary will necessarily have been based on meals a good deal earlier than that.

Bruni said that he normally started scheduling visits at around the two-week mark, and spaced them over at least a 4-5 week period. His feeling was that if a restaurant was gradually improving over that time, he would be able to see it, and take that into account.

The NYT system at least has a mechanism, albeit exercised too infrequently, to give restaurants a second chance, via re-reviews. New York Magazine hardly ever does that, so Platt's assessment at the six-week mark is going to be on its website for many years to come. I agree that it isn't fair, but the problem goes far beyond one review.

I mean, Platt gave Manzo three stars after the identical (very brief) wait, and I am not sure how fair that is either. I'm sure Batali isn't complaining, though!

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The solution to the timeframe issue is to bring back Diner's Journal. Write a short, experiential, non-starred piece after the first, early visit to a place. That way you get the scoop. Then weigh in with a multiple-visit-based, rated/ranked review later. That way you speak with authority after everyone else has filed premature reviews.

I don't really know what to make of Platt's criticism of the prices and portion sizes. Lincoln is expensive. It is not by any stretch of the imagination the most expensive. If you're trying to order more economically, there are options like the market lunch, and actually the tasting menu is downright cheap compared to, say, Per Se. If you're looking to splurge, that option is available too. Complaints about portion size are red herrings in the context of food as creative art. Complaints about quality are of course germane, but in the context of fine-dining reviews I radically discount the qualitative opinion of anyone whose main concerns seem to be price and portion size.

My own experience at Lincoln was incredibly promising. I won't say 100% of dishes on the table were fabulous, but most of them were.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I know this isn't related to Lincoln so much as Platt, but knowing very little about Platt apart from what's in this thread, this quote from a Tony Bourdain interview definitely made me think of him:

Last meal, but you've got to choose between Thomas Keller and Ferran Adria to cook it for you. Who and why?

Tough question. I guess Keller, because the French Laundry was like ... my first love. The first and to date best white tablecloth meal of my life. I'm worried about whether he's p-----, actually. I wrote a chapter in Medium Raw called "It's Not You, It's Me," largely about my seeming inability to absolutely love this amazing meal at Per Se. Basically exploring the roots of my dissatisfaction and wondering the extent to which I've become jaded, using that meal at a great restaurant as an example. It says something truly tragic about a person after all, if you can't experience the same sense of wonder and thrill you once did, at a restaurant that great and that perfectionist. It speaks badly of me, I think. Hence, the chapter title. I wonder, however, if Keller has made that distinction, or cares. I've been told Jonathan Benno (the chef at Per Se at the time) was not pleased. I seldom give a s--- about p------ people off, but those two guys I respect above most all others. It's something I feel badly about, and think about a lot. But something I'll probably continue to ask myself: What does it mean if I can't enjoy Alinea, for instance? Does it just mean I'm an a------? Or, by implication, that anyone who has eaten as widely as me, and at as many great restaurants, necessarily becomes jaded and bitter and cranky and begins to experience meals differently than normal people? It's a good argument for term limits for food critics and food writers.

link to the interview

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