On our second evening in New York, we met up with Chef Z, an friend from the nineties who is the current executive chef at the Conde Nast Cafeteria (where we had breakfast a few days later but that's another story). She knows her way around the NY culinary scene and chose the restaurant - ABC Kitchen - as she knew I was a fellow foodie who would appreciate something new. The last time we saw each other was in 2010 in Singapore for a Hainanese Chicken lunch at the well-known Wee Nam Kee.
T and I showed up at ABC Kitchen where Z was already seated and waiting for us. ABC Kitchen, another creation of chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten with Phil Suarez, prides itself in its' locally-sourced menu serving modern cuisine using local, sustainable, organic and seasonal produce in a lively atmosphere. The restaurant is located inside the ABC Carpet & Home store with it's own entrance on East 18th street. Listed as the Best New Restaurant of 2011 by the James Beard Foundation, the restaurant has been packing it in since it opened and is popular with both locals and tourists, young and old.
On that Tuesday evening, the restaurant was packed with large groups including the Food Network Senior Vice-President and General Manager Bob Tuschman who was seated right beside us. The dinner menu is on one-page clipped onto a piece of cardboard with a large selection divided into market table (shared plates), appetizers, pastas, whole wheat pizzas, main courses and sides. Food is served in different antique-looking dishes on polished wooden tables while servers are dressed in checkered shirts and jeans contributing to the casual farm-to-table cuisine at ABC Kitchen.
We ordered their freshly-made sodas (no Coca-Cola served here) - ginger-lime for Z and the basil-lime for me while T had a glass of Pinot Noir. While we studied the menu, the chef sent out a complimentary starter, the heirloom tomato toast, for us to share - a slice of toasted country bread drizzled in extra-virgin olive oil and topped with sliced heirloom tomatoes and sprinkled with sea salt. This was a sign of the food to come with the flavor of the fresh summer tomato making this dish a star. Next, we were given a basket of fresh country bread and a dish of tiny spicy radish.
We ordered several items from the market table and appetizers to share so we would have a chance to taste several dishes form the menu. Pretzel-dusted calamari - lightly breaded crispy and not oily, these squid bites came with marinara sauce and mustard aioli followed by crispy squash blossoms drizzled in honey and grated goat cheese - again, a perfect bite of sweet, salty and crunchy. Another complimentary dish was sent out to our table - roasted beets with house-made yogurt - yellow, red and orange beets tossed in a cold creamy light yogurt.
For our main courses, we all shared two dishes: an appetizer portion of pasta - cavatelli with cherry tomatoes, prawns and and chili breadcrumbs and the mushroom, Parmesan, oregano and farm egg whole-wheat pizza. The pasta was light and filling with the crispy spicy breadcrumbs bringing texture to the dish while the pizza was heavier with the mix of earthy mushroom and oregano and the rich flavors of the Parmesan and raw egg mixed into the hot dough. We tried our best to polish off the pizza but Z ended up taking half home to her hubby for a midnight snack.
We were already quite full but couldn't resist to share the toasted almond panna cotta - a classic panna cotta served in a glass topped with apricot jam, compote and crumble - a tangy, sweet taste of summer. Along with this, the chef sent us a final complimentary dessert - their signature sundae, which several chefs name as their favorite late-night sweet treat on Chefs Feed. This delicious dessert is served in a large bowl where three scoops of salted caramel ice cream sit in a pool of dark chocolate sauce where a mix of candied peanuts and caramel popcorn float - all this topped with a dollop of whipped cream - heaven in a bowl and a cheeky dessert rendition of the classic ice cream sundae. It was a perfect end to a perfect meal and one that I would gladly repeat every time I visit the big city.
35 E. 18th Street (between Broadway & Park)
New York NY 10003
Telephone: +1 212 475 5829
*Open daily for dinner from 5:30 p.m. till 10:30 p.m. Monday to Wednesday, till 11:00 p.m. on Thursday, till 11:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and till 10 p.m. on Sunday.
*Brunch daily. During the week from 12:00 to 3:00 and on weekends from 11:00 to 3:30 p.m.