New York: Lincoln Yields First-Rate, First-Class Modern Italian

Exterior of Lincoln

One of my strategies to eating around New York on an indispensible budget is to do lunch well – especially if the dinner entrees of a desired restaurant tend to hit a higher price point. Lincoln, however, was not to fall under that game plan. Sam Kim said, “It’s THE opening of Fall [2010].” So I secured a reservation three weeks prior to opening and four before I boarded for JFK. It is a special place that, upon approach and even closer look, was designed to seamlessly blend into Lincoln Center. It is successful, indeed – etymologically and aesthetically, inside and out. It’s a masterpiece complete with a sloped, grass-covered roof that doubles as a lawn.

Capesanta In Padella | Sea scallop, sunchokes, almonds, sunflower oil

I had two dinner companions, and we all agreed that the feel of the space was uniquely pleasant. Beautiful. “It’s like how an airport is supposed to feel,” my friend Robbie said. The pristine, glass-encased kitchen highlighted the excellent service we received all night in an impeccably casual, yet elegant, ambiance. Through the glass walls, I admired Jonathan Benno – previously Chef de Cuisine at Per Se for 6 years – as he sent out each dish. The servers’ pace was expedient but never hurried.

We were artfully presented with thin crisps – seasoned with things delightful and elusive to my memory – before a perfect selection of three varieties of bread. The butter, made with 83% Vermont buttercream, was some of the best I have ever had. Our appetizer, a perfectly seared sea scallop with almonds and sunchoke smear, was a delicious departure and made me excited for more.

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Tomato Tour With Patina

All photo credits to Liz of Food, She Thought

One night. One group of restaurants. And one fruit vegetable (argue at will).

I enjoy tomatoes probably more than the next person yet was skeptical – multiple courses all featuring tomatoes? I could see the tour was to be taken seriously as the tomato growers themselves (from Coastal Organics in Oxnard) were along for the preview. We got firsthand tastes of the Patina Group’s utilization of their prized produce in a farm-to-table take that is the focus of so many restaurateurs these days. And utilize, they did, from using oil made from tomato vines to concocting an actual tomato dessert – the latter of which I thought had good effort with what was given but wouldn’t order.

It’s always a party with fellow food writers. Also there: Liz of Food She Thought, Neil of Food Marathon, Matt of Dig Lounge, Cat of Gastronomyblog, Lindsay and Elise of LAist, Hadley of GrubStreetLA, H.C. of LA-OC-Foodie – to name a few. We all started out at Nick & Stef’s Steakhouse. It was my first visit and it turned out to be a very pleasant one. As an introduction to how much we all really did not know about tomatoes, a different kind awaited each of us at our place setting with a request to guess what kind it was. Short of guessing, “red,” I got to get familiar with the color and texture of mine, which turned out to be a Mondrian Cross. No matter. I may not be able to memorize my tomatoes but there were many in the appetizer, which was absolutely delicious. Chef Brian Kiepler kept it simple yet fresh. After inquiring about the dish, I found multiple kinds of heirloom tomatoes were used – specifically Brandywine, Big Zebra and Cherokee. They were seasoned with a grilled pineapple chutney including onion capers, and drizzled with banyuls vinegar.
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Locals’ Night at Café Pinot

Photo credit to The Flying Enchilada on Flickr

Thursday, July 9, 2009

5:30 – 7:30 PM

Patina Group – which also includes Zucca Restaurant and Nick + Stef’s Steakhouse – is hosting a special Locals’ Night at each of their locations on Thursdays this summer. Way to bring residents and commuters alike together – that’s what I like to see. Downtown love!

For tonight – Café Pinot will feature “A Taste of the French Riviera.” The theme will inspire a $5 menu of appetizers and drink specials. Also on the menu on Thursdays this summer is live music, a complimentary appetizer and a chance to win prizes! Next Thursday will be at a different resto with a different theme so take advantage if you’re really feeling the French cuisine tonight.

And if you miss Locals’ Night, bring a bottle of your favorite wine. For the summer, the entire Patina Group (click for complete list) will waive your corkage fee.

So enjoy the skyline view and beautiful outdoor patio for a little while. Your wallet can take it. I’m taking the Metro to Café Pinot from Koreatown tonight. I know! Public transportation! The subway! In L.A.!!

P.S. – I’m told by FoodGPS to “try the rabbit.” Oh, little furries…

Café Pinot
700 W 5th St
Los Angeles, CA 90071