I’ve been to the holy ABC Kitchen a few times but every New Yorker knows that it’s next to impossible to get a reservation at a decent hour, or essentially anything after 5:30pm. I don’t generally mind an early bird special but given my work schedule, like most people I simply can’t make this happen. Well, last Monday, I was ecstatic when I found out that my date scored an 8pm reservation. After a year since my last visit with my friend Sonia, I couldn’t wait to try all of the new fresh things on this brilliant, gorgeously designed menu.
Half of ABC Kitchen’s appeal is the feeling I get when I enter, which is the aggregate effect of the restaurant’s every intricate detail. The delicate white china, the white lacquered tables, the graceful font on the menus, the dim lighting and votive candles, the background music, the wide open dining room, and the efficient but unobtrusive service collectively create an atmosphere that you don’t want to leave. It’s the perfect mix of casual California and sceney New York. But the scene is replicated no where else…just a little more refined than Barbuto, a little more casual than Mas Farmhouse…and it hits just the right note for me when I want to have a memorable meal out any day of the week.
The other half of the draw is of course, the insane offering of local, organic food (and drink -. No need for lengthy descriptions – you’re served exactly what the few words on the menu say you’ll be served. Who knew that something so straight forward as heirloom tomato toast could be as sensuous and flavorful as it is here? Thinly sliced bright red tomato, salt, pepper, and olive oil on a perfectly toasted rustic bread happened to be my heaven that night. Just as delicious but a step up on uniqueness was the delicata squash with maple syrup and grated goat cheese, which was shaped and lusciously fried like a crispy creme donut. Like the fried bananas my mom loves at Filipino restaurants, it was crispy on the outside and soft and sweet on the inside, and made complete by the dusted salty parmesan. The ricotta cavatelli came with an overload of pan seared shrimp that was absolutely perfect, soft, delicate, and easy to chew (sorry but just admit that shrimp is painful to chew sometimes), and the pork sausage on the fennel sausage pizza made every bite taste sinfully fatty and earthy. Every single dish did the job it set out to do – highlight each of its awesome, local components. The only disappointment was the boring shredded kale salad that I simply couldn’t bother eating because of all of the better options distracting me.
I love dessert here. It took me everything to bypass the caramel ice cream sundae with popcorn and go for the cookie plate with chocolate-covered marshmallow cookies, but a side of caramel ice cream did the trick. Hard to be impressed with a plate of tiny cookies. The concord grape tart is something I never would have ordered myself but was actually interesting and delicious.
After four years of blogging, I’m starting to crack the recipe for my all time favorite restaurants. It must be casual but tasteful in setting. It must create the feeling of coziness even if it’s not cozy in space terms. It has to feel intimate. The menu is heavy on vegetables, seafood and sharable plates. It generally has a flatbread or a pizza. The cocktails are awesome. ABC Kitchen fulfills all of these requirements – I just wish I could go without fear of an hour long wait!
Location: 35 east 18th street (between broadway & park avenue)