I’ve been dying to eat at ABC Kitchen for quite some time now. I work in the Union Square area, and ABC Kitchen is always one of the places that coworkers go to when they’re trying to impress or have a nice business lunch. Guess I’m too low on the totem pole to ever attend one of these fancy lunches (True Life: Entry Level Job), so it’s all on me to get my butt over there. A friend was leaving New York City for good soon, so we decided to meet there for lunch one day as a sort of goodbye meal. In other words, we were ready to splurge.
Even during lunchtime, the place gets full, so it’s in your best interest to make a reservation. When I was trying to book a table for two one Thursday afternoon, the time slot I wanted was snatched up before I had time to commit. Why so popular? Well, the restaurant is run by Michelin star Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Perhaps you recognize his name from his eponymous New York restaurant Jean-Georges? He also happens to be behind a slew of other popular restaurants like ABC Cocina and The Mercer Kitchen, as well as global ventures in Chicago, Las Vegas, Miami Beach, the Bahamas, China, France, Mexico, Japan, the United Arab Emirates, and the French West Indies. This man is one restaurateur.
The interesting thing about ABC Kitchen (and ABC Cocina for that matter), is that it’s a collaboration with a home goods/furniture store called ABC Carpet & Home. In fact, the two restaurants are actually connected to the store. So, basically it’s like IKEA and the meatballs they serve inside, except way, way swankier. The m.o. of ABC Kitchen is farm-to-table food free of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, insecticides, antibiotics, and hormones. It’s GMO-free and naturally and humanely sourced from regional farmers and fair trade coops. It’s all kind of fitting when you see in ABC Carpet & Home’s mission statement that they “support continuous improvement in minimizing our collective environmental footprint.”
The restaurant is an elegant space with design and decor that reflects the kind of food they serve and the kind of store its within. Simple white chairs, sleek white tables, mismatched floral porcelain plates, cloth napkins, the occasional table that looks like a finished piece of reclaimed wood, and interesting artistic lighting features…it all comes together to make a stylish estaurant.
I had been drooling over the menu for so long, I already knew the fan favorites of the place and what I wanted to try. But first, I ordered one of their freshly made juices (mine had ginger in it and I forget what else) and gave a resounding yes when our waitress asked if we wanted some bread to start. You can’t see in the pictures, but there is a little dish of flaky salt on each table. Even though I wouldn’t normally have felt the need to sprinkle some on my slices of bread dipped in olive oil, I did so anyways because it was there, it looked good, and it felt special.
My friend and I decided to split two appetizers, the famous crab toast with lemon aioli from the market table section of the menu and the line caught tuna sashimi marinated with ginger and mint from the appetizers section. We debated on swapping out the latter with the pretzel dusted calamari served with marinara and mustard aioli, but we opted for the lighter option since we had much more meal to go. I just have to mention that in all my time in New York, I’ve never dined somewhere where a celebrity was eating their meal right next to me (that one time seeing Kit Harrington at Friend of a Farmer doesn’t count). That is, until I ate at ABC Kitchen. Seated behind me, eating by herself, was Sarah Jessica Parker. And she ordered the crab toast too, so take that as you will.
While the first image in my head of “crab toast” is some shreds of crab meat thickly coated in mayonnaise, the crab toast here was made with juicy chunks of lightly-dressed crab on crusty brown bread. It was fresh and bright, and I understand why so many patrons of ABC Kitchen order it. The tuna sashimi also had that distinct fresh taste, and the marinade had more of a kick to it than I was expecting–pleasant nonetheless.
For my main dish, I chose something I had been seeing pictures of online over and over again–the mushrooms, parmesan, oregano, and farm egg pizza. This pizza is an absolute beauty. I’ll pause while you admire the photo. Misshapen, whole wheat crust, topped with all sorts of amazing looking mushrooms that far exceed the standard sliced cremini on delivery pizza and a gooey, golden egg in the center. Honestly, I was a bit astounded by how many mushrooms they put on the pizza–astounded and completely over-the-moon. You may have heard me mention before that I’m not the biggest fan of runny eggs, but it really sealed the deal with this dish. Oh how I wish I was taking a bite out of that pizza as I write this.
To finish off this extravagant lunch (guys, I normally just bring a sandwich from home…come on), I ordered the popular salted caramel ice cream sundae, which comes with candied peanuts and popcorn and whipped cream. As luck would have it, my friend and I were seated between two parties who each ordered the sundae. One had a dish that was absolutely giant and looked like it could feed two or more people while the other had one in a smaller bowl that seemed much more manageable. I asked the waitress what the deal was since there was only one price listed on the menu, and she told me that the smaller one was just because that person had done the prix fixe lunch menu. I asked if there was any way I could pretty please have that version so I could still rationalize getting it (my friend wasn’t going to be eating it with me), and she said she would talk to the Pastry Chef about it. In the end, they let me have it and charged me less! Really appreciate them making it easier for me to be so gluttonous. 😉 Salted caramel > regular caramel, and the smooth ice cream plus the crunchy toppings made for a delightful end to a superb meal.
There are plenty of other things on the menu that look fantastic like the sweet pea soup with carrots and mint; the roast carrot and avocado salad with crunchy seeds, sour cream and citrus; the asparagus, bacon, ricotta, parmesan, and black pepper pizza; and the raw diver scallops with pickled beets, horseradish, chilies, and lime. It’s all a bit pricey but manages to be sophisticated in a way that’s inviting rather than intimidating. It’s one of the best meals I’ve had in the city, and I highly recommend you check it out. I mean if it’s good enough for Sarah Jessica Parker…
Ginger juice; crab toast with lemon aioli; line caught tuna sashimi marinated with ginger and mint; mushrooms, parmesan, oregano, and farm egg pizza; salted caramel ice cream sundae with candied peanuts and popcorn, whipped cream
35 E 18th St
New York, NY 10003