Tucked inside ABC Carpet & Home is an amazing new restaurant, ABC Kitchen. Created by Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Phil Suarez, ABC Kitchen has taken repurposed, recycled, natural and organic to new heights. You can enter the restaurant either through the ABC store itself or through an unassuming entrance on East 18th Street. Preferably use the 18th Street entrance – this way you aren’t walking through the entire restaurant to get to the hostess desk and then back through the entire restaurant again.
As you walk in through the East 18th Street entrance, you walk through beautiful antique mirrored, French paned doors. That alone gives you a sense of something wonderful happening behind them. They almost steele you for the fairy like experience that waits behind them.
You walk into the bar room, the host staff – oh, and more on them later – is eager and friendly and show you to your table. The bar is large with a number of high tables with stools – stools without backs, whoever decided these backless stools were comfortable was nuts.
As you pass from the bar area to the main part of the restaurant, you just want to start humming a Ricky Nelson song – ‘I went to a Garden Party’. You have been transported from the dirty, grimy city into what can only be described as a shabby chic garden. White walls, Light colored wood floors, white tables and chairs. Great photographs on the walls. The ceiling is opened up and now resembles the inside of a barn, all wood supports and beams exposed. The wooden beams were acutally part of a hacienda in Brazil and brought to New York for use inside the restaurant. The bread dishes are all mismatched, old tea saucers. The silverware all different pieces from different sets, mostly bought in eBay. Over the larger tables are different chandeliers. Very fairy like and light.
The staff – the wait staff is superb. Probably the best to date. AT the time of our Adventure, the restaurant had been open for two weeks. The staff went through extensive training for one month previous. Every dish on the menu tasted and tested so that each staff member would be able to form a personal opinion. We had two lovely young ladies fawning all over us – Laurie and April. There wasn’t anything that was asked of them that they didn’t know or weren’t more than willing to find out. Bravo! There is nothing more inviting in a restaurant than fabulous service! Great food with bad service really brings the enjoyment of a restaurant to a halt.
Tucked in a corner of the restaurant – over by the kitchen – is the harvest table. All the seasonal produce being used for that day’s menu are displayed here. It is thoughtfully and beautifully set up. Just looking at this table, you knew you were in for a special experience.
While we were looking over the menu and taking in all the beautiful ambiance ABC Kitchen had to offer, Laurie came over to tell us about the specials and take out drink order. Iced tea – very good, but NOT bottomless and $3 a glass! Once she left, April brought over bread and tiny radishes and a small dish of salt and olive oil. Now, we don’t want to use the word monopoly, but guess where the bread came from? The Sullivan Street Bakery!
So many delicious things, so difficult to choose. There were many starters we wanted to try and only one entrée, so we opted for three starters.
The first to arrive was the Fragrant Steamed Mushroom Toast. What arrived was a thick slice of toasted bread, smothered in all different types of mushrooms. There were button, shitake, maitake, and one we can’t remember the name of. The mushrooms were steamed and were very citrusy with a little kick of spice to them. We have been to a lot of places, and tried many different dishes, but this has to be, hands down, the most spectacular thing we have ever tried. It was savory and crunchy, and lemony, and just an amazing blend of flavors. Our next trip back – and yes there will be a next – we want one each!
Next spectacular dish to arrive was the Roasted Carrot and Avocado Salad , with Crunchy Seeds and Citrus. Fork wasn’t too sure about this one – carrot salad? How wrong could one piece of cutlery be? The name alone should have given Fork an idea that this was going to be unlike anything tried before. Fork is not a big cooked carrot fan, but these were oven roasted and not mushy. There were big wedges of avocado, a generous sprinkling of assorted seeds to give the salad a really nice crunch factor. Add to this the mound of microgreens and a dollop of sour cream, and you have a winner. Oh, wait, let’s not forget the dressing. The dressing was simple and intricate at the same time, fresh and citrusy with just the tiniest bit of heat.
We wanted everything on the menu. we already have our next meal at ABC Kitchen planned! But let’s not got up from this table quite yet.
Spoon’s eye was drawn to the Pear and Apple Salad with Endive, served in a pool of creamy blue cheese dressing with chunks of blue cheese. How can the combination of pears and apples and blue cheese not be good? The sweetness of the apples and pears play off the bitterness of the endive and rich, tang of the blue cheese. Scattered throughout the salad were walnuts. Fork and Spoon have to admit of the three starters, this was the least favorite. Don’t get us wrong, this group of cutlery whipped through this salad and left nary a bit of walnut of blue cheese, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the Steamed Mushroom Toast or Roasted Carrot Salad!
Next up was the entrée that we decided to share. Fork and Spoon can never resist a steak from the specials of the day, especially when it involves a hanger steak. What arrived were thin slices of hanger steak, so beautifully cooked, with a red onion marmalade just sitting at one end of each slice. The marmalade was sweet and savory, a little heat added for fun. The marmalade perfectly balanced the richness of the steak. Served along with the steak were in-house made tater tots. Sadly, Fork is of the opinion that tater tots are part of the world’s most perfect food groups and these were fantastic. Only complaint? There weren’t enough of them!
The last dish that rounded out this extraordinary feast was Baked Endive with Flying Pigs Farm Ham and Gruyere. Fork and Spoon were not quite sure about the baked endive part, but the ham and gruyere part made this side dish too intriguing to pass up! The endive loses all of its bitterness when baked, almost to the point of having not much flavor at all. The stars of this dish were definitely the ham and cheese, the endive merely a supporting player. Really very good, but not something Fork would order again.
Now the dilemma. Should we have dessert? I know, I know, very funny. What sort of Adventure would Fork and Spoon be having if there wasn’t at least ONE dessert? No Adventure is complete without dessert.
In this case, two were necessary. More would have been ordered if the Cutlery didn’t have a certain amount of modesty! The pastry kitchen is off to the side. At some point they are planning on having a retail section for the bakery, with a small seating area for dessert and coffee. Everything looked absolutely amazing, that made it so much harder to only choose two!
The two desserts we chose were opposite ends of the spectrum, but both very good!
First up was Chocolate Cake with Melting Chocolate Ganache and Toasted Marshmallow Frosting. Fork and Spoon saw this being served at another table and it looked amazing! The slice of cake served was HUGE. Our piece? Not so much. The cake is very dense and rich, much more than what we were served would have been much too much. The ganache serves as the filling and the toasted marshmallow frosting really speaks for itself. The toasted marshmallow was the perfect partner for this dark chocolate cake. At the end of the day, though, this was just chocolate cake. Very good chocolate cake, but still and all, chocolate cake.
Our second dessert was simply stellar. Warm Apple Crumble Tart with Cider Sauce and Maple-Cinnamon Ice Cream. Now, doesn’t that simply sound amazing? It absolutely was delicious. Great crust, lots of apples, terrific, buttery and crispy crumble topping. Drizzled around the plate was an amazing cider caramel – apple-y and buttery and rich with caramel flavor all at the same time. And just when you think your taste buds have had enough you dip your spoon into the maple-cinnamon ice cream. Holy moly. This was all of the best flavors of fall on one plate, all able to fit onto one spoon! The only thought Fork had at the time was wondering whether it was a strange choice on a spring menu. No complaints with the dessert itself – there was so little left on the plate that you would be hard pressed to even know there had once been a dessert there!
Oh, wait! Back to the staff. This was our only negative feeling about ABC Kitchen. When Fork and Spoon walked in, there were three people behind the desk. Okay. One seemed to be permanently stationed there, the other would seat people, the third – well, we’re not quite sure. But then there are the ‘others’. There were SIX other people just walking around in the restaurant. And we don’t mean an occasional walk thru the restaurant, we mean hovering, staring constantly walking through and around the tables. Sometimes 2 or 3 at a time, stopping and having conversations and pointing. It was reminiscent of a grammar school cafeteria at lunch time. Way too many people, spending way too much time milling about. It was very, very distracting!
ABC Kitchen is a fabulous restaurant. Run there! You definitely want to sit in the main part of the restaurant and not in the bar room, so make sure to make a reservation. Be flexible with your dining time!
Fingers crossed they will participate in the next Restaurant Week.