I do love a surprise. Especially aÂ deliciousÂ one – which is exactly what’s tucked under the grass-covered roof of Jonathan Benno’s glass-walled Lincoln. As sophisticated as the Henry Moore sculpture which sits in a reflecting pool at the entrance, Lincoln doesn’t just wax nostalgic for how a big cityÂ restaurantÂ should feel, it delivers. Lincoln – all hail the Upper West Side food gods – is a restaurant for grown ups. Not buttoned-up or pretentious grown ups mind you, but the urbane, smart set which once populated many aÂ WoodyÂ Allen film: attractive, somewhat attenuated New Yorkers partaking of theÂ distinct difference between eating and having a meal. ProperÂ drinks, substantiveÂ food, the dull murmur of smart chatter – all that’s missing from this light-filled room areÂ the sinuous strains of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. Buttery leather chairs are smooth and silent against a carpeted floor; the wait staff glide as if on wheels, as crisp with a pour of Collio Bianco as they are with a well-timed quip. Then there’s the food, which even my tablemate had to admit was a series of gustatory pleasures far more impressive than the oratorio for which we wereÂ reluctantlyÂ about to depart. For one long used to the cheek by jowl seating across the avenue at Fiorello’s or – god forbid – the ignominiousÂ cuisineÂ at too many of the establishments which line the perimeter of Lincoln Triangle,Â it’s aÂ littleÂ disorienting.Â The menu at Lincoln Ristorante – to use theÂ restaurant’sÂ full name – may not be strictly Northern Italian but it nevertheless feels that way: cool, collected, and stylishly composed, it’s a marked contrast to the swarthy, sweaty,Â SouthernÂ ambiance popularized by Mario Batali. Chef Benno calls his cuisine modern Italian, which is a far cry better than farm-to-table Italian, of which it shares an ethos, but it still doesn’t do justice to the precision techniques on display. Jumbo soft shell crab is lightly battered and deep fried, with a garnish of pickled green tomato, cucumber, celery, and red onion. Alongside a slice of smoked trout terrine, halved stalks of white asparagus are generously blanketed in a fine mince of egg and baby mache. Milk-fed pork shoulder, pecorino romano, and lots of black pepper go into the ravioli, which is as pillowy as any I’ve ever tasted. Long a staple of my childhood menu, had my family called flounderÂ passera I probably would have eaten a lot more of it. Of course, it would have also helped had the fish been pan-fried, too, and perched atop a green sea of fava beans, pea leaves and the first of the spring peas. Who’d have guessed it’d turn out that mint zabaglione is all my childhood really lacked? Mixed roasted mushrooms sound like such a simple side dish and in fact they are, yet what a bowl of funghi:Â smoky shitakes,Â meaty hen o’ the woods, and earthly kingÂ trumpets in little more than butter, garlic and chives. Perhaps we’ve grown so accustomed to overly lyrical menu descriptions that toÂ call a thing by its name alone feels a bit naive. Looking over the menu after the fact I realize that everything at Lincoln is so equanimouslyÂ named: soft shell crab, white asparagus, pork ravioli, flounder, and zuppa inglese – a desert of macerated raspberry, lady fingers, and sabayon that beggars belief.Â Feel free to humor that naivetÃ© at Lincoln; streetwise, studied, or simple, Chef Benno tells Â – and cooks – it like it is.