Steak is one of the few foods that can be served by itself and be fully accepted as an entrée. Just cook the meat to temperature and, if you must, throw on a pat of butter or rub the meat down in pepper. While a steak is a meal unto itself, an enjoyable dining experience at any steakhouse is not so simple to achieve. The Lincoln, one of the myriad steakhouses in Santa Monica, distinguishes itself by delivering a classic, first-rate steakhouse experience with ease.
Like the other myriad restaurants fighting for recognition on the coveted turf of Wilshire Blvd, The Lincoln occupies just a tiny portion of real estate, which they make the most of. The restaurant is split in two: one side devoted to the bar, which boasts 30 small-batch bourbons and signature drinks, like the Lincoln Lemonade, with the other side partitioned off as the dining area. Mirrors cover an entire wall and reflective surfaces are employed as much as possible to give the illusion of more space. Relaxed lighting from pin lights in the ceiling streams softly down on the rich chestnut palette of colors, which contrasts pleasingly with the white linen table cloth. Despite the wonderful ambience, a busy night can have diners and servers bumping into each other or into the back of your head as they pass by. Talking audibly can also be a problem, as you might get drowned out by other tables. Thankfully, as a substitute for booths, a few more intimate tables come with deep armchairs with high backs for more private occasions. Lastly, dining by yourself can still be enjoyable as the restaurant presents “Dinner & Jazz at The Lincoln” every Sunday through Tuesday from 7:30 to 10:30 PM.
The Executive Chef is Jack Melson and it was his goal “to create a traditional steakhouse menu complemented by contemporary renditions of classic American favorites.” The menu reflects this sentiment with a nice assortment of steak, pork, poultry, and seafood entrées all reasonably priced between $25 and $50. Moreover, Chef Melson’s creativity will amaze you with the food presentation.
To start, I ordered the New England style Clam Chowder, which was deconstructed into its individual parts, starting with a thin base of broth, with diced potato and celery forming a small mound, finally topped off with clam in the half-shell and a bit of parsley. Far from what I expected, but it was delicious just the same.
For the main course, I ordered the Benne Seed-Crusted Ahi Tuna. Once again, the presentation was nothing short of marvelous. Imagine two filets of Ahi tuna resting on top of a bed of summer vegetable slaw, complemented by a sweet vanilla vinaigrette. I recommend ordering it seared as fish of this grade does not need to be cooked through and through and the taste will be that much more pleasing.
We, of course, had to try the steak, which can be ordered with sides and toppings. My companion ordered the special, which was a filet with the bone in, rubbed down in peppercorn. Honestly, I’ve never seen a filet with the bone in and felt it was daring without understanding the purpose, but I chalked it up, once again, to Chef Melson’s creativity. To accompany the steak we ordered a side of whipped potatoes and creamed corn.
The dessert menu is standard faire with a small assortment of baked and frozen foods. The dessert wines are mostly from California. I ordered the sorbet and it was appropriately tart and flavorful and it was presented neatly with assorted berries.
A lot of restaurants in LA boast a fine dining experience, but so many fall short of that distinction. The Lincoln comes very close, but a few annoyances mitigate what is otherwise a wonderful affair. For instance, the servers may have been trained in fine dining, like serving from the left and clearing from the right, but the bussing staff clearly has not. Some bread plates will mysteriously be taken off the table while other bread plates remain and if a diner looks finished with his or her meal, that plate will be whisked away even if other people at the table are still eating. Lastly, and most annoyingly, is the lack of crumbing service. Dessert was served with a glob of creamed corn staining the middle of the table. None of this is to say that the service at The Lincoln is bad by any stretch of the imagination. Quite the contrary, in fact. The service staff is knowledgeable, friendly, and prompt, without being overbearing. I raise these criticisms only because a restaurant cannot call itself fine dining without being held up to stricter scrutiny.
With its relaxing ambience, courteous wait-staff and food that is as much a joy to behold as it is to eat, The Lincoln will leave you content that your dining experience will be memorable. Consider The Lincoln as “high-end casual” and you can’t be disappointed.