night. Chef Jonathan Benno certainly creates a worthy menu, and it is solidly executed. But the service tends a bit scripted and contrived, leading to a sense of insincerity, even though they have every reason to be proud of their place of work.
The dining room features a enormous glass wall bolted with steel fixtures that overlooks the plaza, a dark wooden ceiling slopes from the opposite wall to meet it. Seating is comfortable and plentiful: this is a very large restaurant, and it has a spacious and airy feel which adds to the luxury: ample elbow room is a precious commodity in this city. The menu is vehemently seasonal: we began with the Insalata del
Mercato, featuring many early summer garden headliners, bolstered with fat grains of chewy, nutty farro drizzled in an herby sesame puree. It was neatly divided to share between me and my tablemate, although its diminutive portion made the halved plate look a little skimpy. Bolder was the Sarde alla Griglia,
proportionately heavy on the summer squash, which was folded into thick, fat ribbons, but sardine was the main flavor component (as sardines tend to be), although even it was almost obliterated by a pungent smear of Calabrian chilis and garlicky olives. Gamberetti Fritti wouldn't have been out of place at Red Lobster, their seasoned breading too heavy, overwhelming the preciously fresh, fat shrimp ensconced within. Lemony leaves of purslane and sweet slabs of pickled yellow
tomato elevated the dish beyond chain restaurant territory, however, imparting a summery, modern element.
There are several Primi on offer, ranging from $26-$38, which is a lot of coin for pasta. But many feature precious ingredients, so some of that might be justified. I was a little put off that the "ravioli" we ordered wasn't technically ravioli but another pillowy pasta shape. Actually, sort of a compartmentalized ravioli, I suppose, with a deuce of filling separated like quilting: half sweet Jersey corn and half rich summer truffle. The rectangles were thickly doused in salty, rich brown butter enriched further with straciattella, and a smattering of brilliant emerald peas, which added a pleasant pop. Bonus were several sauteed morel mushrooms, not mentioned on the menu, but highly appreciated.
For a main course, we both went seaward, choosing Ippoglosso (halibut) and Orata (daurade) from the six Secondi offered. The halibut was actually the most expensive menu item, a whopping $46 for the fish, which might have been a touch overcooked. It was suppose to be served with sugar snap peas, but actually arrived with green and yellow string beans, but true to description a plethora of nutty golden chanterelles as well. The buttery almond-chamomile broth added an element of richness, which another might find it overly saline, but I like salty. I consider it an indulgence at restaurants, sodium
restrictions be damned. The Orata was less impressive, a bit limpid in its somewhat generic white wine and lemon, but the fish itself was more deftly prepared, and I'm never going to complain much when there tender bulbs of poached fennel and earthy artichokes floating about. There is also an ample selection of Verdure on the menu, creatively prepared and overzealously portioned. I suppose they have to be, given the prices, but they aren't quite substantial enough (except maybe the Melanzane alla Parmigiana), I wouldn't think, to be treated as entrees (although at $18 to $22 apiece they nearly cost as much). They're big enough to
Desserts, for me, were wildly less gratifying. We ordered what looked to be the most interesting options, but what arrived was both not interesting and certainly different than what I inferred from the menu descriptions. I love a semifreddo for its diaphanous frothiness, but Lincoln's blood orange version verged on leaden, the plentiful pistachios within weighing it down even further, and the white chocolate yogurt drizzle presented a table hardened into waxy, saccharine castings atop. The Bocca Nera didn't provide much appeal either. Centered around a shiny parapet of glazed chocolate cake, it shared the plate with poached sour cherries, a scoop of
chocolate-mint ice cream and walnuts both candied and creamed. There was just too much going on- you can have chocolate and fruit, chocolate and mint, or chocolate and nuts... but not all three, all at once. You'd be better off with a housemade gelati or sorbetti, or the savviest of all: just order a post-prandial coffee or digestivo, and enjoy the complimentary rainbow cake that accompanies, moist and fudgy. Here, the diverse combination of flavors work. Even the coffee
comes with its own pasticcino, a chewy layered caramelly almond bar far more pleasant than the composed desserts we tried. Cut thirty dollars off your bill and walk away feeling a little less taxed and just as pampered.
142 West 65th Street at Lincoln Center