My last blog post left off with the question of where world renowned chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten will open next. This famous chef and restaurateur is on a roll, opening restaurants all over the world in big cities like London and Paris, and even remote locations like Bora Bora and Doha. I was pleasantly surprised to find the answer in his current home turf, New York City. Jean-Georges’ newest venture, called ABC Kitchen, brings him back to the Big Apple where he keeps a close watch over several successful and award winning restaurants, including his 3 Michelin starred namesake Jean-Georges in the Trump International Hotel and Tower. As if he’s not busy enough, he opened ABC Kitchen in March of this year, just 2 weeks after opening The Mark Restaurant in the Mark Hotel on the Upper East Side. The theme at ABC Kitchen is farm-to-table with an emphasis on sustainability and conscious sourcing.
Jean Georges partnered with Paulette Cole, CEO of ABC Home, to open ABC Kitchen on the 1st floor of the ABC Carpet & Home Building near Union Square. The beautiful restaurant and café space looks like an extension of the posh furniture and interior store, decorated in Boho chic with white wooden furniture, antique crystal chandeliers, distressed mirrors and salvaged entry doors that are so beautiful that they could easily sell as ‘as-is’ merchandise. Distressed wooden ceiling beams salvaged from a barn, exposed brick walls painted in pure white and artwork by local artists create a warm and inviting countryside atmosphere that transport you far away from the honking taxis and busy streets just outside.
ABC Kitchen salutes sustainability and local resourcing by constructing their menu around fresh organic and local ingredients that cultivate a harmonious relationship with our environment. Every produce that is proudly displayed on a table by the semi-open kitchen comes from organic farms that don’t use pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, pesticides or insecticides, and can be traced to a specific farm. Meat, fish and dairy are also locally sourced from farms that promote cruelty-free humane animal treatment. Herbs and microgreens are grown on a rooftop garden while teas, coffees and spices are organically cultivated on fair trade cooperatives.
The gorgeous interior is something to be proud of too. Reclaimed wooden tables and porcelain dinnerware were handcrafted by local artists, bread baskets were handcrafted by indigenous Mapuche people of Patagonia, and many of their cups and flatware are antique. Soy candles that come alive for dinner service are free of pesticides, GMO’s and additives. The menus are printed on FSC certified 100% post-consumer fiber and coasters are made from cardboard shipping boxes. Front-of-the-house staff uniforms were bought at local thrift stores. The concept extends even to places that we cannot see- all cleaning products used in the restaurant are organic. It’s no wonder that the space feels warm, clean and radiant. From the moment that I stepped through the front door, I felt the refreshing and pure energy of the room.
It was the perfect place to catch up with my friend Steve Plotnicki of Opinionated About Dining over lunch. Needless to say, as an out-of-towner choosing a restaurant for a New York based gourmand and blogger, I was a bit nervous. What venue do I choose for a man who not only has dined at practically every restaurant in Manhattan, but has also appeared on No Reservations and can summon the voices of Jay Rayner and Eric Ripert for a food survey? It was my luck that ABC Kitchen was one of the few restaurants in New York that Steve had not dined at yet. We were both excited to try Chef Dan Kluger’s (who has previously worked at Gramercy Tavern and Tabla) market-driven cuisine.
We started with the sweet pea soup, a bright and almost fluorescent green broth with mint ribbons, carrot slices and big crunchy croutons. Whole round green peas added snappy texture to the wonderful vegetable soup that was full of vibrant flavors.
Raw Maine diver scallops sliced into thin carpaccio slices were garnished with horseradish shavings, sea salt and olive oil in a beautiful pearly scallop shell. The fresh scallops were incredibly tender and soft, melting in my mouth with the ease of warm butter. What really made the dish was the olive oil, an intense fruity Californian oil with deep nutty aromas.
Pretzel dusted calamari served with marinara and mustard aioli could’ve been more crisp, as this dish is really all about texture. Perhaps we would have had more success with their other appetizers, such as wood oven roasted asparagus, caprese salad, roasted carrot & avocado salad, or mackerel sashimi with ginger & mint.
Perfectly cooked steamed halibut with shiitake mushrooms, avocado and asparagus juice was a light dish with simple flavors but wonderfully orchestrated to enhance the innate delicious flavors of each vegetable. I could really taste and appreciate the bounties of the earth in its purest and uncorrupted form.
The restaurant offered a variety of pastas and whole wheat pizzas, from housemade ricotta ravioli and veal meatballs to spinach & goat cheese pizza. We tried the pizza with morels, parmesan, oregano and farm egg, a dish that has not quite found its perfect state yet and needs a lot of tweaking. A better preparation of the various fungi to bring out its flavors better, coupled with more parmesan would have made it much more palatable.
The best dish at ABC Kitchen was the Akaushi cheeseburger with herbed mayo, pickled jalapeños, wild arugula, herbed mayo and grated Cato Corner cheese. I had never heard of Akaushi before my lunch at ABC Kitchen, and am now left wondering why this incredibly tender and flavorful meat hasn’t become mainstream yet. Akaushi means ‘red cow’ in Japanese, and it’s a Japanese Wagyu brand of cattle that has the characteristic marbled meat and rich flavors of other Wagyu brands like Kobe beef. Akaushi originally came from Kumamoto prefecture in Japan, and the small number of Akaushi cows that were imported to the US many years ago are now being raised at Heartbrand Beef in Harwood, Texas. The perfect spiciness of the jalapeños, the creamy herb mayo, the sharp grated cheese that doesn’t overwhelm, the bitterness of the wild arugula and the soft Eli’s bun, all perfectly balanced the luscious fattiness and flavors of the medium rare Akaushi burger patty to make one of the best burgers that I have ever had in my life.
Salted Caramel-Peanut Ice Cream Sundae: The perfect balance in a sweet-salty dessert with a whipped creme fraiche topping, chocolate sauce, and caramel popcorn crisp.
35 east 18th street (between broadway & park avenue)
new york ny 10003
phone 212 475 5829
Random trivia: Did you know that intact horseradish root has hardly any aroma or sharp flavors, but when cut or grated, the enzyme myrosinase released from the damaged cells degrades sinigrin to a mustard oil, giving it its characteristic pungent taste?