Yes, I know that organic and locally sourced are the ways to eat, and sustainability and eco-friendly are words to incorporate into my everyday lifestyle and eating habits, but I can’t help it. When I hear too many of those tree-hugging, reduce-reuse-recycle words and phrases thrown together I can’t help but think of hippies and nature freaks, granola, steamed veggies and tofu. I know, I’m awful, but I can’t help it.
But never was that less the case than at ABC Kitchen, where I recently had dinner with a friend, after she managed to make a reservation at the consistently full restaurant. Everything, from the “reclaimed wood tables” and “soy based candles” to the “consciously sourced ingredients” was exactly the opposite of what I might have been hesitant about. I can’t say I was really surprised though. ABC Kitchen, located inside the massive ABC Carpet & Home store, is a Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant, and really what doesn’t that guy make awesome?
Because I was with a friend and not my allergic-to-shellfish boyfriend, I suggested we start with the crab toast from the market table section of the menu. A dark, nutty slice of toast was topped with sweet, meaty hunks of crab meat and a creamy, zesty lemon aioli. No tofu or granola in sight, just two very happy diners.
Our next starter was a classic appetizer given the JG treatment, fried calamari in a thin coat of crushed pretzels, served with a tangy, sweet marinara sauce and more aioli, this one with a mustard spiciness. It was delicious and simple, like the best calamari should be, yet with just enough of a subtle change to make it better than the average, gummy calamari.
For an entree my friend went for one of the pasta options, a colorful plate of bucatini (think really thick spaghetti) with goat cheese, broccoli rabe and sage, and although it wasn’t listed as an ingredient on the menu, pepperoncini flakes which gave it a bright spicy heat. My friend, who’s not big on spicy foods, was a little overwhelmed by the pasta’s heat, but I thought it was great. It was simultaneously creamy, spicy, rich, and earthy.
For my main course, I went back and forth a few times before deciding on the cheeseburger. I thought that maybe at such a nice restaurant, where I would inevitably end up paying a fat chunk of money on my half of dinner, getting a cheeseburger was a bit of a cop-out, maybe an immature thing to order. But then I thought, oh screw it, it’s on the menu for a reason. And that reason, I came to find out, is cause that cheeseburger was absolutely delicious. The patty, made of juicy, tender, akaushi beef was topped not with a traditional slice but instead with a heap of grated cheese, all of it paired with a thick, creamy layer of herbed mayo and pickled jalapeños, and leafy, bright arugula, everything on a doughy, soft bun. The fries, I’ll admit, weren’t my favorite, but they were good anyway, long and thin, garnished with olive oil and sprigs of rosemary.
When the table was cleared and our plates taken away, we were both stuffed, but not having dessert would have meant not having a complete ABC Kitchen experience, so we ordered the pear bread pudding and decided to split it. What came out was a dessert to match the decor of the restaurant, pretty and delicate, at the same time rustic and casual but elegantly presented. The bread pudding itself was warm and smooth, almost like a very dense flan, and the pear ice cream was just sweet and cool enough to complement it but not upstage it.
My only problem with ABC Kitchen was that while everything might have been eco-friendly and green, the prices and the final bill were not, considering the hole they burned in my wallet. It was more yuppie than hippie but at the end of the day, the food was good. And that’s all that really matters to me. The rest is for the tree huggers.