Monday, August 2, 2010

ABC Kitchen

Hello there!  It's been a while.  I was busy the last few months.  Getting ready to get married this October :D.  Food-wise, I've tried not to miss out on too much though.  Here's my latest update on ABC Kitchen.  This is Jean Georges Vongerichten's newest restaurant, located inside/beside the ABC Carpet and Home store by Union Square.

ABC Kitchen
35 E 18th Street between Broadway and Park Avenue South

I've been wanting to try this restaurant since it opened.  At first, the buzz was light and the description of the restaurant was not super exciting ... something along the lines of "white," "spartan" and "organic" came to my mind.... like a plain white t-shirt...  then the reviews started coming in, to the point where I could no longer brush off this newcomer as yet another restaurant in the whole farm-to-table genre.

Reservations seemed predictably difficult to secure but I managed to score a reasonable one a few weeks in advance for a large party on a Friday night at 7pm.  Note that there are 2 entrances to the restaurant, one on 18th street and another through the ABC Carpet and Home store itself.  It was a little weird, the entrance through the store because it is technically the 'back' of the restaurant and I was awkwardly looking for a hostess to announce my arrival to... the reception desk was positioned only at the front of the restaurant so you need to walk through the entire length of the restaurant in order to speak to someone that can help seat you.

That aside, the restaurant space that greeted me was gorgeous.  Lots of white, as I had always expected, but softened with warm lighting, plenty of pale wooden tones and softly edged furniture.  Our table was made from a patchwork of wooden pieces formed to look like a giant slab of tree trunk - kinda cool.

Our waiter was sleepy in his manner but he delivered the specials without much fanfare and showed up whenever he was needed - service was adequate in summary.

The restaurant wasn't full throughout our meal.  Especially before 8pm and later around 9pm, I saw plenty of empty tables... I suppose everyone only really wanted to be there at prime time but not otherwise?

The menu was quite simple, organized and with just a few selections per section:
1. Market Table - small bites to share
2. Appetizers - salads, soups etc
3. Pastas
4. Pizzas
5. Entrees
6. Sides

My overall verdict of ABC Kitchen is that I want to come back again! The food was generally tasty with lots of clean flavors. There was one disappointment (the overly salty black bass) however, the calm atmosphere of the restaurant plus the generally good food makes me really want to come back again. We tried a lot of dishes that evening, my favorites were all the toasts (crab, tomato and liver), the halibut, the bowtie pasta and the donuts with bacon chocolate sauce. Here's the break down:

The tomato toast - simplicity on a crusty piece of bread, it was simply thick-ish, well-toasted slices of bread, seasoned with what tasted like gruyere cheese and topped with a generous layer of freshly sliced, raw tomatoes - SO much flavor with these few ingredients, it was brilliant:

ABC Kitchen's Tomato Toast

The peeky-toe crab toast - it had a generous layer of fresh and sweet crab. It was also served slightly warmed so the wonderful aroma of crab was enhanced and wafts up enticingly whenever you take a bite:

ABC Kitchen's Peeky Toe Crab Toast

The chicken liver toast - nothing much to look at but it was packed with a lot of flavor. It was rich, earthy, gamey and luxurious, all in one bite:

ABC Kitchen's Chicken Liver Toast

The roasted portobello and celery leaves - another winner. I don't know what they roasted the portobello with but it was like concentrated mushroom essence. The celery leaves was a wonderful juxtaposition to the meaty, juicy mushroom flavors:

ABC Kitchen's Roasted Portobello w Celery Leaves

The pretzel-dusted calamari appetizer with marinara sauce and mustard aioli - I thought this was the most pedestrian although most of my dinner party really enjoyed it. The calamari was crunchy and tender; well-made, but nothing extraordinary:

ABC Kitchen's Pretzel-Crusted Fried Calamari

The roasted carrot and avocado appetizer salad - there were a lot of rave reviews online about this dish so I was expecting a lot and.... I was a bit disappointed. It all tasted good, the roasted carrots were sweet, the micro greens gave the dish a nice touch of chic-ness but there was nothing out of the ordinary in the flavor combinations:

ABC Kitchen's Roasted Carrots and Avocado Salad

The kasha and bowtie pasta w veal meatballs - definitely a stick-in-your-ribs dish. Kasha is another word for buckwheat. The sauce was just really rich, savory and tasty, perhaps not a great choice for our hot summer weather but that aside, it is just such a great dish on its own:

ABC Kitchen's Bowtie Pasta w Meatballs

The organic crispy chicken w escarole and mashed potatoes - this dish was very simple but in a good way. The skin was definitely very crispy and the chicken was very juicy. All the flavors were super clean.:

ABC Kitchen's Crispy Chicken w Mashed Potatoes

The black seabass with chilies and herbs, red bliss potatoes and spinach - this broth in this turned out to be overly salty. We didn't send it back to the kitchen but we should have. I really wish they had bothered to re-taste their sauces because the seabass was otherwise cooked perfectly:

ABC Kitchen's Bass

The steamed halibut w shitakes, avocado and asparagus juice - the halibut was definitely better than the seabass. The fish was super moist and tender. The sauce was a bit overly citrusy to me. However, it was definitely another tasty entree option:

ABC Kitchen's Halibut

The sundae with salted caramel-peanut ice cream, candied popcorn, whipped creme fraiche & chocolate sauce - there can be nothing wrong with this dessert:

ABC Kitchen's Sundae

The donuts with bacon chocolate sauce - the texture of the donuts were amazing - cakey but still light as air. The bacon chocolate sauce went so well with the donuts, I'd definitely highly recommend this dessert:

ABC Kitchen's Donuts w Bacon Fudge

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