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Apr 24, 2012 04:15 PM

Lincoln Ristorante - Need soothing words to calm me down!!

For my last 'chow-spot' in my upcoming trip to your great city, I have taken up the suggestion of fellow chowhounder 'uhockey', by making a reservation at 'Lincoln'. However, the ease ( 5 days advance ) with which I manage to secure a table for 4 on a Saturday at this supposedly - 'better than the over-rated Marea' establishment turned on a few warning lights in my head!
Am I over-reacting? Did I make the right choice?! The food from the kitchen headed by an ex-Per Se/French Laundry Chef de Cuisine should be more than acceptable?! No??!!
Any recent positive experiences from fellow chowhounders to calm me down??!!

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  1. What time is your reservation on Saturday?

    Many people don't go to that neighborhood unless they are specifically going to see a show at Lincoln Center, in which case, they may be dining early (pre-show) or late (post-show) or have chosen to dine more inexpensively (at one of the Boulud places across the street).

    1 Reply
    1. re: kathryn

      This is a very very good point - when I ate there it was during Fashion Week and the place was absolutely JAMMED at 5:30 but damned near empty by 7:00ish as everyone was off to the various shows and events.

    2. I really enjoy Lincoln. I don't enjoy Marea. Does that help?

      Is your only concern that you got a reservation? If so, you should relax. A lot.

      8 Replies
      1. re: nmprisons

        Pretty much.

        I'm not sure why being able to get a reservation somewhere is a bad thing - Corton regularly has open slots and I'd eat there over anywhere in New York aside from Per Se if price were no object.

        1. re: uhockey

          Thank you!!! Will report back with photos and all....!!

          1. re: Charles Yu

            I would never eat at a restaurant that I can get a reservation at. That's crazy.

            1. re: tpigeon

              What are you looking for? If its overly rich, unimaginative, fancied-up International-Italian-American food, this is your place. For what its worth, although Marea is in the same general category described above, it is better. I've eaten things at Marea I can honestly call delicious. The very best thing I've ever eaten at Lincoln "Ristorante" is the baby lettuce salad, which is perfectly dressed and simple and just right. Everything else I've tried on the menu is a bomb. Particularly the $16 side dish of eggplant parmesian which I ordered thinking that a world-class chef at a serious ristorante would have a chowishly scrumptous trick up his sleeve. Turns out the sleeveless chef serves up a heavy cheese-bomb of a baked eggplant parm with less delicacy and flavor than a neighborhood pizzeria. There are things about the restaurant I like, like the architecture, the service, and the generally sophisticated vibe. But the food is the opposite of what you might get in Italy. The motherland serves up astoundingly delicious meals using a formula of simple recipes, perfect execution, and the freshest and highest quality ingredients. Lincoln is heavy and rich, boring and bland. If you want great Italy-style Italian food in that neighborhood, Salumeria Rossi is probably the best Italian restaurant in the city at the moment, IMO.

              1. re: Skillet Licker

                <<Salumeria Rossi is probably the best Italian restaurant in the city at the moment, IMO.>>

                Interesting, but that's analogous to saying that Balthazar is the best French restaurant in the city. It's all good though.

                The only problem with Lincoln is occasional oversalting but otherwise it's comparable in quality to other high end Italian restaurants like Marea and Scarpetta, The menu changes frequently but I'd recommend the tripe, octopus, quail, pork shoulder ravioli, roasted mushrooms, and the duck. Their specials are usually very good.

                1. re: H Manning

                  I second the ravioli's. Indeed, any o the filled pastas are quite good.

                2. re: Skillet Licker

                  It's been a while for me but this was my last review of Lincoln:

                  As far as ease of reservations go, it's a combination of factors already mentioned here:
                  The restaurant is huge. They can do over 300 covers in one night.
                  Most of their business is pre- and post- theater/show.

                  As far as "But the food is the opposite of what you might get in Italy" is concerned, that's not what it's aiming to do. My guess is Charles is not coming to NYC to try to eat "authentic" food from Italy.

                  The starters tend to be very good examples of the balance in dishes that exemplify Per Se. As nmprisons said, the filled pastas are excellent. I also remember we loved a lamb porterhouse.

                  Like I said, they can do almost 300 covers a night, so I would make sure to emphasize that you are there for a special occasion meal experience, perhaps by doing a tasting menu.

            2. re: uhockey

              It also is not hard to get reservations at Ai Fiori, because it's so big.

          2. This question/comment makes me think of the old Groucho Marx lines: I won't belong to any organization that would have me as a member.

            One of our dinners at Per Se was a result of a reservation we got for a Saturday evening just 3 days before we wanted to dine there so...

            1 Reply
            1. re: Spiritchaser

              It makes me think of the wondrously-Zen Yogi Berra line, related to a particularly popular restaurant at the time: "nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded."

              I expect I'll return to Lincoln one day, but I had such a bad experience with a maitre d' sporting a snootful of attitude on my last visit that I'm not inclined to go there again very soon.

            2. We went for the first time a few months ago at an off hour. We had a wonderful experience food and servicewise. I would not hesitate to return.

              1. I like Lincoln a lot. But DO NOT go there expecting food anywhere near the level of Per Se or French Laundry. It is NOT that level of restaurant (nor does it try to be).

                I think it's easy to get 8 or 9 o'clock reservations at Lincoln for the reasons people have stated: it mainly caters to people going to Lincoln Center. It hasn't taken off as an independent destination. I don't know why -- I certainly think it deserved to. I guess it's because (a) people wrongly assumed, based on the participation of Chef Benno, that it was going to be on the level of Per Se, and were disappointed when it wasn't, and (b) the restaurant got what I think was an unfair reputation for being expensive when it opened.

                For the very little it's worth, though, I much prefer Lincoln to Marea.

                17 Replies
                1. re: Sneakeater

                  ...and Charles, for what it is worth, I've never met Sneakeater, but I trust his opinions. :-)


                  1. re: uhockey

                    I had lunch there with a good friend during Rest Week a couple of months ago, we both thought the food was very good and the service couldn't have been nicer. Really enjoyed all our courses. Thought the place was pretty cool too. On a nice day you will almost feel like you are dining outside.

                    1. re: uhockey

                      I have met Sneakeater, and I still trust his opinions! :)) And, btw, I agree with everythiing he said, including preferring Lincoln to Marea -- and by the proverbial country mile.

                      Our first time at Lincoln was after a concert mid-week around 10 p.m. We were only one of two tables in the dining room, which didn't bother us at all. Chef Benno was in the kitchen. I had a view from my seat and noticed that he personally plated our main course. (We both chose chicken). He also sent out an extra course for no apparent reason (well, maybe because I was taking photos?) -- the eggplant. It and all the rest of the food were delicious. Our second time there on a Saturday evening, the dining room was full. Chef Benno was not in the house. (Our server told us Benno and his wife had just had a baby, and he was taking some family time.) The food was every bit as good as when he was there. Obviously, he's got a great team.


                      1. re: RGR

               shocks me how Marea continues to net 2* when so many people I trust were vastly underwhelmed.


                        1. re: uhockey

                          I will say that the pastas we had were outstanding though I wasn't exactly thrilled when I was served a very dry piece of fish. Despite the latter offense, it is possible to have a very good meal there. However, my antipathy towards Marea goes beyond what's on the plate to other issues.


                          1. re: RGR

                            I generally dislike places that are or try to be "hip," but my main gripe with Marea is the same as RGR's: If you run a seafood restaurant, you have to be able to cook fish. They consistently fail to do that well.

                            1. re: nmprisons

                              To be fair, when we had the whole baked branzino during our second dinner there, it was cooked perfectly. Still, there was no excuse for the dried out fish -- especially, as you said, at a seafood restaurant. And especially one of Marea's supposed caliber. I should have sent it back and am still annoyed with myself for not doing so.


                    2. re: Sneakeater

                      What about compared to Ai Fiori?

                      1. re: Pan

                        I realize your question is directed at Sneakeater, but....

                        I think the food at Ai Fiori and Lincoln is equal in quality and deliciousness. However, I prefer the ambiance at Ai Fiori.


                        1. re: RGR

                          I respect your opinion, too. :-)

                          1. re: Pan

                            Thanks, Pan! Right back at ya! :)

                        2. re: Pan

                          I like Roz and respect her opinions, but I feel Lincoln executes on a higher level than Ai Fiori and given the option to watch the "fishtank" kitchen at Lincoln I'd choose it 9 times out of 10.

                          The bread basket and dessert is superior at Ai Fiori, however.

                          I will note, however, that I ate at Lincoln solo before the Interpol show at RCMH and I ate at Ai Fiori with RGR, MR. RGR, and Steakrules so I probably wouldn't have been paying as much attention to the action in the kitchen if dining with friends.


                          1. re: uhockey

                            uhockey, I value our friendship, and the respect for each other's differing opinons goes without saying. :)

                            The meal Mr. R. and I had at Ai Fiori a couple of months ago with Chef de Cuisine P.J. Calpa in charge of the kitchen was, I think, better than the meal we shared with you and steakrules when Chris Jaekel was there.

                            I've had one so-so dessert at Lincoln and one that was really delicious. As for Pastry
                            Chef Robert Truitt's dessert as Ai Fiori, they are miles better than some of the horrible things he created when he was at Corton. The only Ai Fiori dessert I didn't care for was his Baba au Rhum, which I thought was leaden and very weak in the rum department.


                            1. re: RGR

                              Lincoln vs Ai Fiori is a tough debate. I'm a huge Michael White fan and Benno was very impressive as well. Both are great in my opinion. Two of the top Italian restaurants in the city and I thoroughly enjoyed both of my meals there. Did not experience a bad dish at either. I did enjoy my pasta dish as Ai Fiori better than Lincoln. However, Lincoln's gnocchi side dish was incredible. The mains were both were impeccably prepared, but Lincoln's duck prep was one of the top 3 I have ever had.

                              I will say that I prefer the atmosphere at Lincoln with the open kitchen and the views of Lincoln Center. It just felt more exciting and welcoming to me. You can't go wrong with either in my honest opinion.

                            2. re: uhockey

                              I agree with uhockey.

                              I think Lincoln's food is better conceived and better prepared than A Fiori's.

                              I find the food at A Fiori to be too heavy (while pretending to be light). I think the dishes tend to be too complicated, as if they're trying to prove something. I think the food at Lincoln is much finer.

                              1. re: Sneakeater

                                It'll be interesting to see how I react. I have really enjoyed the complexity of the food at Ai Fiori - always a pleasant surprise ingredient that wasn't mentioned in the menu description.