Saturday, April 30, 2011

51 Lincoln, Newton Highlands, Newton

Off Menu: Tagliatelle served with Fresh Lobster meat,
and Fiddlehead Ferns in a Prosecco sauce
There was a time when I spent a fair amount of time in the Newton Highlands area.  It is a beautiful village in Newton, full of adorable shops, cute bakeries, and gorgeous homes.  Much of my time while there however was spent in the much loved O'Hara's, a truly wonderful Irish pub.  Often I would pass by 51 Lincoln, opened about 4 1/2 years ago, and wonder.  Chic and clean looking from the outside -it appeared to be a lovely little restaurant, but often falling into the minority of the group I dined with, I didn't have the opportunity to experience it myself.  You can imagine my delight when I received an invitation to dine at 51 Lincoln and try out their spring menu. 

Out of the cold, the wind and the rain, myself and three other bloggers (MichelleJen and Lisa) emerged into the warm welcome of 51 Lincoln.  Once seated, we were greeted by Miguel Escobar, their Sommelier, who assisted in serving us wine for the evening.  We had the choice between Riesling, a light, often sweet, slightly effervescent white wine, and a medium bodied, fruity Bordeaux.  I selected the Bordeaux and was pleased with its versatility to the different dishes which we were served over the course of the evening. 

House cured head cheese
51 Lincoln boasts a true commitment to local, seasonal food, even installing a roof deck garden on their building, and partnering with local farmers, as well as a kind and knowledgeable staff.  Our server for the evening was amazingly helpful and knowledgeable of the menu, offering a detailed yet approachable description of each menu item when requested.  We were also greeted by  Chef De Cuisine Max Burns, who executed our meal for the evening, and ushered us through courses with ease. 

We started our meal with a charcuterie and cheese plate featuring house cured meats and locally sourced cheeses.  We were treated to October's Pork Salami, Maxwell's Head Cheese, and a black pepper Pork Jowel, paired with a beautiful blue cheese and a French goat cheese.  Though I don't normally mention the bread- this plate was served with crisped, buttered and warm crostini that I was completely addicted to. This was my first experience with Head Cheese and I found this to be light, smokey, salty and almost sweet in taste.  Its form, a thin slice, melted on the tongue.  The salami had been cured in October, and its depth of flavor was evident. Fennel shown through against the fatty meat, and when paired with a pickled onion the cleanliness of the meat was apparent.  The black pepper pork jowel was also delicious, a fair amount of spice against the indulgent cut, however I think that the salami might have shown it up just a bit.  Over all though these three meats were beautiful offerings of a house run curing, and made me want to continue my exploration.

We moved on, rather reluctantly, to our appetizer course, a dazzling array of their menu featuring a Caesar salad, pan seared watermelon steak (!), Tuna Tartar, and we were also treated to their own Rigatoni Bolognese.  We leaped for the watermelon steak first. Well touted before its arrival at our table, we learned that it is the creation of Executive Chef, and owner, Jeffrey Fournier and is a preparation like no other.  Watermelon is soaked in Sherry for three days, it is then roasted for three hours so it develops a char to the outside.  This is then pan seared and served with an Eggplant Chicharron.  Chicharron, in its normal definition, is pork rind, meant to add texture and flavor to a dish.  Here, in its vegetarian state, it had a beautiful charred flavor to it.  The watermelon, when tasted on it's own had a texture of Ahi Tuna, but a unique flavor.  Sherry was present, but not in the sharp form you might anticipate with soaked watermelon, it was mellow, lending sweetness, but not over powering.  The char was present, but again, its imparted flavor slight.  When paired with the Chicharron, this char came out further, and the result was meat like- as though you were eating a rare steak.  The final twist was with a French Feta which lent that wonderful saltiness that you love to taste in a good steak.  

My second favorite of this round was the Tuna Tartar- a hearty preparation of Yellow Fin Tuna enhanced with cilantro, citrus, red onion and chili oil and served with house made salty potato chips.  I loved this dish.  The tuna was perfectly prepared, clean and meaty, with just the right amount of seasoning, further enhanced when eaten with one of the chips, its salt pulling out more of the flavor.  Now, the menu claimed that this was made with lime juice- but I swear I tasted orange...and it was a beautiful harmony.  

When I saw the Caesar Salad I can't say excitement was my first emotion- sure I love salad but with everything else in front of us- could it really compete?  I was wrong to doubt the almighty Caesar.  Romaine lettuce, simply dressed in house made dressing, sardine's artfully displayed pulling in the beauty of the Mediterranean.  The final piece to this salad was Fiore di Nonno Burrata cheese placed on a crouton.  Simple, elegant, and amazing.  

The Rigatoni Bolognese was another well executed dish.  One of the things that I love about a good Bolognese is how simple it is, but how deep the flavors layer.  In it's truest form Bolognese is a brown sauce made basically from meat and stock.  51 Lincoln uses this premise, adding only a hint of tomato for the acid, and adding a variety of meats to increase the depth of flavor.  This was one of the best Bologneses I've had.

It seemed impossible that we had entrees coming to us, but we did.  I chose the Long Island Duck Breast, cooked Medium Rare, and served with a parsnip and potato puree, sauteed chard and a rhubarb Bordelaise.  The duck, in a word, was phenomenal.  Perfectly cooked, the meat was tender, moist and flavorful and the external skin had been crisped to perfection and lightly salted, resulting in an experience that played with the taste buds rather than overwhelming them.  When dipped into the Bordelaise (a wine and stock based sauce) the sweetness of the sauce pulled out the sweetness of the meat and the result was fantastic.  Nearing fullness- I wanted to stop eating.  I cleaned my plate of the duck.  I felt that the chard, sauteed to a wonderful slightly crisp texture was a good accompaniment for the rich bird, though the highly pureed potatoes and parsnip were a bit texture lacking for me.  

We ended our meal with a variety of desserts, none of which I had room for, but all delicious enough that my fork wandered towards them time and again.  "Where's The Cake Lebowski" was a decadent white Kahlua Cake, layered with Kahlua enhanced cream and coconut and then showered with a sprinkle of cocoa powder.  The Mexican Chocolate Spiced Terrine, served with fresh orange segments and home made orange ice cream was far beyond "good".  I had to move it to the other side of the table to keep from eating the entire portion-in one bite.  The texture of the Terrine, almost pudding like, was the perfect vehicle for the deep chocolate and orange flavor combination, all wonderfully enhanced by a light sprinkle of salt across the top.  Finally they also served us their own homemade frozen custards and sorbets- Honey Lavender, Chocolate Walnut Espresso, Cinnamon Sorbet and Cranberry Sorbet.  Though I spent far too much time with the cake and the Terrine, these were each special in their own way, and are worth ordering far beyond my diligence here.

51 Lincoln beyond exceeded my expectations.  Each course, each plate, had unique twists and turns, but more importantly each was prepared with exceptional care, and excellence.  It was clear that the basic principles of cooking were regarded highly and served as a perfect jumping off point for their more creative touches. 

I was brought in to 51 Lincoln as part of a media dinner, however, as I watched the patrons around us it was clear that our experience, though more bountiful than the average table, was no better than others.  Every table was greeted with warm hospitality, and politeness.  Every diner seemed to savor each bite of food, and cherish ever flavor.  Every patron was having an enjoyable time, and 51 Lincoln played the perfect host.   I will return to 51 Lincoln- as soon as I possibly can.  

Please note- the wines enjoyed throughout our meal were:
2006 SELBACH Bernkasteler Kurustlay, Mosel Germany (Riesling)
2009 CHATEAU du PIN Bordeaux, France (Merlot)       


The Small Boston Kitchen said...

Great review, so thorough! Glad you had such a fun evening. I really liked that place!

Jen said...

What a great writeup. It was a great evening and I loved the tuna as well.

Lisa Johnson said...

It was wonderful catching up with you again Fiona. What a great restaurant!

Anonymous said...

Great entry! Their food is amazing, as is their really unique, hand picked wine list. The staff all seems happy to be there, know the food, from the runners up to the knowledgeable and charismatic Sommelier. Their GM is always hospitable and greets people with a warm and sincere smile.

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