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By Vinny Galeno

Last night, my boyfriend Joe Wickes and I were treated by our friend, event designer Mark Rose, to dinner at the brand new ABC Kitchen (Executive Chef, Dan Kluger), the new Jean-Georges hot spot committed to organic and local meat and produce.  It was a total knockout!

We began with interesting and homespun cocktails like ginger margarita and basil daiquiris, while taking in the decor.  White square tables with white, round-backed Grandma chairs — occasionally a long wooden farm table for large parties — and antiqued lightbulbs suspended from the ceiling.  Everything is warm and dim.  The back wall of the large space offers a peek into ABC Carpet and Home (that’s where all the furnishings came from) and a great shot into the kitchen.  Since a little of this rustic thing goes a long way, the homey feel of the design is balanced by the waitstaff — all in thrift-store plaid shirts and jeans — attending to customers in a formal and very attentive manner.

Appetizers started with an amazing Peekytoe crabtoast, which was basically a crabby bruschetta; hearty toast topped with chunks of crab and a smooth aoli.  The ramp toast with goat cheese, a special, makes you think there just has to be more than ramp spread, cheese, and a dandilion on that bread…gold, perhaps?  The chicken liver toast, cooked with pancetta, was so subtle and flavorful, that even a pate’ hater (my boyfriend) had to admire it.  Pretzel dusted calamari was an irresistible crunchy version of a favorite.

We shared the pea soup, which immediately impressed with an unusually bright color.  It was an electric green broth with whole peas, but mint and lime zest gave it an interesting heat.  I admit this was one dish that didn’t blow me away, it was a very inventive and economical use of flavors, which is a theme to ABC’s entire menu.

For the entres, simplicity was the name of the game.  A Flying Pigs pork t-bone in an apple-meyer lemon sauce was complimented beautifully with sauteed swiss chard.  A side of asparagus with jalapeno and sliced mushrooms was a salty delight.  But stealing the show, decidedly, was a special entree, a cavatelli with spring vegetables.  This demanded a call to the waiter to explain every detail.  As expected, not many: small slices of asparagus, fava beans, cooked together in the pasta water.  But the lemon and dill infused in the dish brought it all home.  This was the winner, and I wish I could recommend it, but it’s not a part of the regular menu…not yet, that is.  Indeed, Jean-Georges said the menu will change frequently.

The dessert selection reminded me of the cocktail menu with it’s country-kitchen tone.  A brown butter, chocolate ganache and hazelnut tart


took my breath away.  But we couldn’t help asking for a favor: we just wanted one scoop of the salted caramel-peanut ice cream from the sundae dish, and you can only imagine…

The surprise of the night was when we were finishing out cookie plate, and a diminutive man in a white chef’s coat appeared right outside the kitchen talking to a staff member.  It was, of course, Jean-Georges himself, who gamely stopped at our table so we could babble about how wonderful everything was.  He took it in good humor, but didn’t want to steal the glory from our neighboring diner, the woman who designed the handmade bowls and plates.  Very gracious, and what a thrill.

Reservations are becoming impossible, so run!  This is a lovely date spot, too.

ABC Kitchen is located  35 East 18th Street, 10003, between B’way & Park.

By Vinny Galeno

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