With so many great restaurants in New York City, it is always interesting to see a new restaurant make its entrance. Expectations were high as soon as the word got out about ABC Kitchen a couple of years ago, a collaboration between ABC Carpet & Home and Jean Georges, two heavy-hitters in their respective fields. It even went on to win the award for the Best New Restaurant of 2011 by the James Beard Foundation, only adding to its popularity. Thus, when one of my oldest friends, Vanessa, was visiting from Spain this past week, ABC Kitchen was naturally on her list of places to visit. As securing a reservation for Saturday brunch is nearly impossible, Ariele, Vanessa and I walked in for a late lunch around 2pm. The wait? A rather reasonable thirty minutes. Although Ariele and I are both frequenters, we had never been seated towards the back of the restaurant, which has a view of the bakery bar adjacent to the kitchen, ABC Home (we even spotted Padma Laxmi), and Pippa’s kitchen, the tapas bar belonging to the same family. The back of ABC Kitchen is a smaller, quieter area that allows you take in all of the on-going action in the light and airy, modernly rustic, barn-style main space, filled with reclaimed furniture and handcrafted tableware from local artisans. It made for the ideal place for catching up over chef Dan Kluger’s seasonal dishes.
Simple, sleek and beautiful tables
Artwork in the restaurant, similar to other pieces that can be found throughout ABC Home
Hungry, we skipped past the afternoon drinks and went straight for the local, sustainable and organic fare. With an array of vegetarian friendly options, it took us a while to finalize our picks. We started with the Roasted Carrot and Avocado Salad with crunchy seeds, sour cream and citrus. The carrots were the star of the dish, tender, sweet and zesty, and bursting with citrus undertones. The creamy avocados and earthy micro-greens played a fantastic supporting role. The fragrant dollop of sour cream and crisp seeds (sunflower and sesame) added a lot of texture, complimenting and completing the salad.
Carrot and Avocado Salad
Vanessa and Ariele got the Pea Soup and the Veggie Burger to share. The warm Pea Soup, topped with sizable cheese puffs and a mixture of herbs was surprisingly cooling on a summer day. The smooth, not-too-thick pea puree with notes of basil, mint and cilantro was refreshing and very flavorful. However, the melter skelter cheese puffs were an unneeded distraction since they were soggy and did not add anything special to the delightful soup.
The Veggie Burger, served with minted yogurt in a house-made whole wheat pita was hearty and full of robust herb flavors, which the minted yogurt really brought forward. I personally appreciated that the burger was served in a pita because I think that it made for the perfect burger to bread ratio. Here, it was clear that you were eating a veggie burger and not a veggie burger sandwich.
I could not resist ordering the Mushroom, Parmesan, Oregano, and Farm Egg Pizza, created on a whole wheat crust. After one slice, I knew that I had been deceived by its mere good looks. The fresh, succulent mushrooms blended very well with the parmesan and oregano, creating an almost woodsy mouthful. While I understood that I had asked for the crust to be well done because, from past experience, I know that it is otherwise not at all crunchy, this is no excuse for the egg to be fully done. The main appeal of this pizza is that the yolk be a bit runny, adding a creaminess to the pizza. I ended up discarding the yolk completely. In addition, even with the blend of such delicious ingredients, the pizza was a bit bland. It could have used a touch of salt or even some heat of sorts. It just felt slightly incomplete.
Mushroom, Parmesan, Oregano, and Farm Egg Pizza
We were ready for a nap after our leisurely meal which, unfortunately, left us no room for dessert. Vanessa ended her meal with a little pick-me-up. In Spain, she explained while having an espresso with a side of steamed milk, every afternoon meal concludes with a cortado, an espresso that comes “cut” with some warm milk.
During our lunch, we noted that there is something obviously gimmicky about this farm to table concept, complete with the very affable wait staff dressed in plaid shirts, jeans and Converse/Ked’s style kicks (that made me want to start line-dancing). But it is this exact gimmick of feeling like you are enjoying a fresh meal at a chic country house that really seems to work here at ABC Kitchen.
Recap: attentive and friendly service; fresh food; beautiful interior and relaxing atmosphere; affordable; good for large or small groups or a date; reservations are recommended; plenty of vegetarian options; seasonal menu; an NYC hot-spot
Food Tally: Carrot and Avocado Salad, $15; Pea Soup, $15; Veggie Burger, $19; Mushroom, Parmesan, Oregano, and Farm Egg Pizza, $18; Espresso, $4. Total w/tax = $77.30
Address: 35 East 18th Street, between Broadway and Park Avenue, NYC; www.abckitchennyc.com