Chef Chris Neff puts passion into the cuts at Lincoln, a JW Steakhouse

By Niki D’Andrea

Chef Chris Neff puts passion into the cuts at Lincoln, a JW Steakhouse.

The era of luxurious, classic steakhouses with $80 cuts of meat and million-dollar views arguably peaked in the 1970s, but Lincoln, a JW Steakhouse at the JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort & Spa, offers a wrinkle in time with an ulta-modern feel and mind-blowingly fresh flavors. From the stunning patio views of Camelback Mountain to the impeccable service to edgy takes on classic dishes, there’s nothing stale about this place.

A classic steakhouse aesthetic does permeate the restaurant’s design – an entire wall of wine bottles enclosed in glass; dark wood dining tables topped with silver placemats and pristine serviettes; subdued patio dining with soft lighting that lets the landscape take the visual lead. But the menu puts a modern spin on many things.

Executive Chef Chris Neff, who formerly helmed Meritage Steakhouse at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge, gives traditional dishes a spin: country-fried chicken rendered rich and sultry with the Lincoln’s house-made smoked salt; Colorado rack of lamb coated in a fennel crust; a peanut butter mousse punched up with toffee popcorn.

Ingredients are largely sourced locally, through purveyors including Abby Lee Farms, Crow’s Dairy, Noble Bread and Ramona Farms. Other vendors include Ohio-based The Chef’s Garden and Skuna Bay Seafood out of Vancouver.

Most meals begin with bread – a pedestrian proposition at most places, but a palate adventure at Lincoln. The roll-like bread possesses a perfectly lightly crunchy exterior and lusciously puffy and soft interior, and is slathered in butter and dashed with salt. Another great start is the pickles and ham board, loaded with cheeses, cured meats and other nibbles accompanied by a trio of mustards.

Among appetizers, lobster escargot – served in a small and cute cast-iron skillet – is a succulent surprise. It’s purely lobster (the “escargot” tag describes the dish’s presentation; it does resemble a ramekin of snails), and each immaculate chunk sits in a sea of butter.

Greens get gussied up and grilled like nothing before. Grilled asparagus spears are uniformly tender and spritzed with charred lemon, while Brussels sprouts get a boost from bacon and golden raisins.

Drunken mushrooms make a great side for diners who aren’t averse to funghi. Wild ‘shrooms are gently doused with red wine, making them a flavorful companion to any of the Lincoln’s show-stopping steaks.

Obviously, there’s no shortage of steak options on the menu. The Butcher’s Steaks section has three components – cuts from Cedar River Farms in Colorado including prime New York sirloin and Kansas City strip; a “Chef’s List” that features entrees like Salisbury prime steak, Dover sole, bricked chicken and tuna peppercorn steak; and wagyu sirloin and filet from Snake River Farms in Idaho.

Steaks come with a choice of sauces: classic béarnaise, rosemary red wine, green peppercorn made with Maker’s Mark bourbon, and garden parsley chimichurri. Add-ons are also available: king crab Oscar, garlic shrimp, and a sauce made with bacon and Rogue Creamery blue cheese. King crab Oscar is the hands-down favorite add-on, according to our server.

We went with 9 oz. center cut filets from Cedar River Farms, and to say we weren’t disappointed might already be the understatement of the year, and it’s only March. The filets were cooked to a perfect medium, with juicy pinkish-red centers and a lovely char that left a tingling trail of spices across our tongues. Those steaks were works of art.

Servers are knowledgeable and friendly; ours suggested a wine with our steaks – a 2005 Chappellet Cabernet Sauvignon that made the perfect pairing. In addition to the massive wine menu, the bar serves a slew of classic craft cocktails, including a Bees Knees made with Arizona’s own CaskWerks Gin and honey from Mountain Top Honey Co.

There’s not a lot to the dessert menu (at least not compared to the wine list), but pastry chef Denny Mollior makes it memorable. Try Denny’s German Chocolate Cake or the Peanut Butter and Jelly Pie for a final course that’s sure to set off a sugar rush.