35 E 18th St
(between Broadway & Park Ave)
New York, NY 10003
ABC Kitchen is one of those staple NYC restaurants that everyone recommends to their out-of-town friends because it is a safe recommendation. It was opened by a famous chef, Jean-Georges, and it boasts a cool NYC vibe with its rustic wooden farm chic decor. The kitchen uses only fresh organic and local ingredients, which is all the talk now. It also has a cool concept as it is attached to its own furniture store that sells all the furniture and kitchenware that the restaurant uses, forcing you to pay attention to not just your food, but also the $55 ripple porcelain plate that your food sits on. Its pricing is also standard NYC pricing for a decently “nice” restaurant, with entrees ranging from $18 to $37 and appetizers ranging from $6 to $17. As you can tell from the large price ranges, the menu is pretty large and so I didn’t post about ABC Kitchen until I had been there twice, once for dinner and once for lunch. I’m going to combine the dinner and lunch items so you get a larger survey of their food (you’ll notice the change in lighting in the photos).
This is the Roasted Carrot and Avocado salad ($14), probably my favorite item on their menu. I got it both times I was there because it is so unique and really defines the restaurant for me. The salad features a large handful of fresh greens with roasted carrots, fat slices of avocado, crunchy seeds, a dollop of sour cream, homemade garlicy croutons, and a citrus dressing. The roasted whole carrots (each about 5 inches long) were caramelized and exceptionally sweet. The ingredients are reminiscent of a simplicity and charm of the “countryside” yet when combined, produces the complexity that you would expect of a stylish NYC restaurant. The textures are crunchy (croutons and seeds), soft (avocado and sour cream), and leafy (greens), while the flavors are sweet (carrots) and sour (citrus). Yum!
This Chicken Liver Toast ($10) was from their Market Table section of the menu. Their menu items consist of quite a few “toast” options, including a Roasted Kabocha Squash toast and a Crab Toast. My friend is really into liver pates so we chose the chicken liver, even though I am a bit wary of chicken liver because bad chicken liver has a horrible, horrible, gamey and iron taste. Thankfully, ABC Kitchen’s chicken liver was quality; it was very creamy and smooth and was not as dense as most pates. Despite the fact that it was lighter with almost a mousse-like consistency, the kitchen slathered on the pate really thickly and so was still too dense for me. The bread, though had a nice crisp crust and soft interior, was not nearly as thick as I would’ve wanted it to be. I ended up supplementing my pate with the bread basket because the pate was just so overwhelming. I’m a bit of a liver pansy though; I imagine that if you were a diehard Liver Lover, you would wolf up the toast with relish, like Y.P. did.
These two appetizers were not as stellar as the first two. Pictured left is the Kale Salad ($14) with lemons, serranos and mint. It was definitely very fresh and made me feel like a rabbit eating all those greens, but it lacked the complexity of flavor and texture that the Roasted Carrot and Avocado salad had. Good for a simple no frills fresh salad, I guess. Pictured right is the Pretzel Dusted Calamari ($13) with marinara and mustard aioli. Such a fancy name for a not-so-fancy dish. There was nothing pretzel about the calamari. I guess you could argue that the fried squid was salty like a pretzel, but other than that, I found little resemblance. The marinara and aioli were decent, but tasted no different from what you would have anywhere else. Squid was very mediocre; it was deep fried, did not melt in my mouth, and was a little too chewy. Meh.
Y.P. loved this Line Caught Tuna Sashimi ($16) marinated with ginger and mint. The tuna was served in a ponzu-like citrus sauce. In Japanese food, tuna steak is often served with ponzu sauce, making this appetizer fairly classic. Though the tuna was pretty good, I would have liked it more if the slices were thicker. The $16 dish a little too pricey considering the for 4 very thin tuna slices that you get. Yes, yes, line caught fish is more expensive, but even then I think they are charging a bit too much.
ABC Kitchen is particularly known for their whole wheat pizzas and as pizza is one of my favorite foods (see Luzzo’s, Posto, Homemade, Lombardi’s, and L’asso EV), I was eager to try it here. The pizzas are very thin and sog up very quickly, as you can see in the second photo. We ordered the Jersey Tomatoes, Buffalo Mozzarella, and Basil Pizza ($14), which was also just mediocre. Sure, the tomatoes were flavorful, the mozzarella was good, each slice had its own nice big leaf of basil, and the crust was made with whole wheat flour (bonus health points wooo), however, none of it was particularly fantastic. Crust had no flavor and was so limp so that it didn’t retain any chewiness.
The truffle pizza held up slightly better because it was a tomato-free pizza. We went during truffle month so they had a variety of specials that night. This pizza was $40+ and I guess given the quantity of fresh truffles it had, we wouldn’t have expected it to be any less expensive. Unlike the tomato pizza, where we at least had a lot of flavor, I thought this truffle pizza was a little bland. The cheese was not salty enough and fresh truffles in general are not as intensely flavored as truffle oil. I imagine they refrained from adding too much flavor so as to not mask the truffles… makes sense.
I had the Black Sea Bass ($28) with chilies and herbs, baby market potatoes and spinach. I’m a sucker for black sea bass for its slightly sweet flavor and tasty skin. ABC Kitchen did a good job preserving these natural qualities. The skin was crisp and flavorful, while the actual fish itself was firm but soft at the same time and had a tinge of sweetness. The spinach and potatoes were swimming in a light lemon and olive oil broth that was nice in that it did not overpower the fish. This fish was simply fresh and light. Not much more and not much less.
Desserts! Pictured left is Meyer Lemon Panna Cotta with graham cracker crumbs ($11). Again, nothing particularly extraordinary about this panna cotta but it was very light and creamy. Pictured right is the Warm Pear Crisp with ginger ice cream ($11). The pear crisp was too sweet for my taste and the ginger ice cream could have had more of a pungent ginger flavor.
I would’ve never thought to order an ice cream sundae at a restaurant like ABC Kitchen but I’m very glad that J.H. did. This sundae is no ordinary sundae as it consists of salted caramel ice cream, candied peanuts and popcorn, whipped cream, and chocolate sauce. It was a bowl of sweet ‘n salty delight! The flavors played well with each other, intense but relieved by the whipped cream, and the textures made it a fun dessert to have. The popcorn was crunchy and airy while the peanuts were crunchy and dense. The ice cream was thick and creamy while the whipped cream was light and airy. The chocolate syrup was sticky and delicious, bringing together all the elements. I definitely had chocolate syrup all over my hands after eating this dessert, reminding me of my childhood summers.
I had a latte after my lunch to pull myself out of a food coma. The latte was not too strong nor bitter. What I really liked about the latte was the $35 matte porcelain mug that it came in.
Overall, both lunch and dinner experiences were enjoyable. I focused my review on the food but the ambience of the place really added to the experience. If only I could afford all their furniture… Next time I go, it’ll definitely be with a few friends over just appetizers and market table items (or “shared plates” as restaurants now like to call it).