(Eating Ourselves Silly at) ABC Kitchen
Last week, Darcy and I ate at ABC Kitchen, the Jean Georges farm-to-table restaurant inside ABC Carpet & Home. What its founder calls “casually elegant,” I call an awesome splurge and the start of an annual killer dinner tradition.
ABC does not need much of an intro. It opened in 2011, promptly racked up awards and is now a real hit, even by Jean Georges standards. He has plans to add a tapas bar (ABC Cocina) and an Eataly-style food court within ABC Home, as well as a second ABC Kitchen on the West Coast (in LA, says Eater.com). Darcy is an interior designer, and heads to the store often enough on business — she reports the restaurant is packed at off hours. I can attest that reservations take a month and fill in minutes.
My brother and his wife heavily subsidized dinner as a very generous engagement present — thank you again, Dan and Leah! The night was proof that 200+ bucks (okay, close to 300) for dinner, once a year, is money extremely well spent, even when you are supposedly saving for a wedding and a down payment. We felt like VIPs on vacation for the night and left completely refreshed and happy.
We excitedly studied the menu all week, and negotiated a few dealbreaker dishes (Darcy: kale salad and raw diver scallops; Me: shaved fluke and heirloom bean salad). Although the food was certainly awesome, we were just as impressed with the chic, modern rustic decor, sourced from ABC Home. Think distressed wood and construction lights paired with sleek white Magis Steelwood chairs and ceramic plates in organic shapes. Or just take a look at this great write-up. Hello, wedding registry.
We were impressed with the total air of professionalism — smiles all around, no rushing and plenty of small touches like swapping tableware between courses, popping large beer bottles in ice buckets and folding errant napkins. And boy does staff take its food seriously. Not in the svarmy, we chose all this because we know better than you way of many Brooklyn and Portland farm-to-table places, but in a geeky, Apple store kind of way. Our flannel-clad server clearly loved the food and was excited about the local burrata special, baked and topped with shaved truffle — in Monday morning quarterbacking, maybe we should have ordered that. When I asked her preference between the raw fluke with crushed olives and the raw scallop, she thought a second and said, “Well, in March I would go with the fluke,” even though she “hates olives.”
So now about that food. We made our own tasting menu from small plates, delivered two or three at a time. At lesser places that may have made servers unhappy. Ours kept telling us what great (and plentiful?) choices!
- Olives. Sure, real restaurants don’t screw up olives. But these were really nice, fleshy, marinated with chili and citrus peel, perfect with my beer.
- Shaved raw fluke w/ crushed olive, lemon and chili. This dish was refreshing and very well balanced. Each bite had velvety fish punctuated with little points of olive and chili.
- Roast carrot and avocado salad w/ roast seeds, sour cream and citrus. Another beautifully composed dish that balanced creamy avocado with chewy caramelized carrots (and was delicious in bites with the fluke).
- Crusty bread w/ olive oil, salt and baby radishes. I stubbornly refused to give into filling my stomach on the cheap. Delicious though.
- Heirloom bean salad. I love heirloom beans and had this on my dealbreaker list. That said, the dish was a dull mix of ordinary black beans and cannellini in a vinaigrette. Guess even JGV can’t win’em all.
- Roasted sunchokes. Oily, tasted more friend than roasted, like little cubed potatoes. That said, these were the best home fries I’ve ever had. Even better with crushed hazelnuts — what isn’t?
- Crab toast w/ lemon aioli. My favorite dish of the night, somewhere between killer versions of bruschetta and the stuff you get in Chinese restaurants. It tasted of pure delicious crab.
- Raw diver scallops, market grapes and lemon verbena. A little Zen to go with the rich crab toast — a single sea scallop sliced paper thin in its own shell.
- Kale salad w/ lemon, serranos and mint. This was a simple shredded salad, just dinosaur kale and dressing. We had a similar salad at Clyde Common in Portland, with a spectacular dressing that stood up to the strong flavor and texture of dinosaur kale. This one was just so-so, and a little too acidic. Refusing to end on a sour note (pun intended), we braved our way to round four.
- Trio of ice creams and sorbets. Delicious all around. Salted caramel is part of ABC’s signature dessert, a sundae for two with salted popcorn that every couple around us ordered. Buttermilk lemon was lovely, blood orange clean and refreshing.
- Complementary lemon tart. Nice touch. This one had congratulations written in something, and, oddly, a single candle. We wished for the remainder of bill to go away.
- Scotch. Yum. That plus a big bottle of Brooklyn Sorachi Ace during dinner, and I was happy, satisfied and on my way to a splitting hangover.