ABC Kitchen, Jean-Georges' new farm-to-table yet corporate-seeming venture opened two weeks ago in Flatiron's ABC Carpet Home. Here Jean-Georges ostensibly focuses on sustainability that includes market-driven foods, 100% recycled paper for menus, thrifted staff uniforms, locally designed ceramic dishware, barnyard wooden beams, and other hippie stuff. Aside from the restaurant's farmhouse effect, the daily rotation of food comes from available goods at the greenmarket a few blocks down. While the online critics have called out the general concept as too trendy, called this "a hack job," said Vongerichten was overextending himself, the diners are singing a different tune. Read the mostly positive ahead.
The Early Good News: Gael Greene weighs in: "I’m here for the second night in a row, drawn back by the shock that a taste epiphany can be found in a carrot salad. I know what inspired chefs can do with farm fresh beets. So the sweet audacity of exquisite end-of-winter candy striped and baby beets on thick homemade yogurt are a joy but no big surprise. Still, a carrot salad? I’m only ordering it to see why anyone would dare. It’s an instant cause for celebration at our table. Scrawny carrots roasted and draped with avocado and sour cream get a crunch of seeds and a citrus spritz. I take another taste, just to be sure. A thick juicy Flying Pigs Farm pork t-bone doesn’t need that much salt either, but it’s delicious, unlike crisp fried chicken, too salty to eat, surrounded by cuts of green puntarelle soaking in a saline puddle. The kitchen is just shaking out. Perfection needs time to gel." [Insatiable Critic]
The Mixed Bag: A Yelper likes a lot but has some misses: "We ordered cocktails at the bar and I was underwhelmed by those. $12 each, so standard price, but the Green Kitchen martini is green and has absinthe and was very different. Wouldn't order it again...The clam pizza was AWESOME. Wood-fired i believe and so full of flavor. The sea bass was gross. Lacking flavor and the broth which I was hoping would add some moisture to a totally lackluster dish didn't help matters, it just added oil. Wouldn't do that one again. Dessert was far and away some of the best dessert dishes I've seen in NYC thus far...Also, I loved seeing Jean-George prance around the dining room to ensure his latest venture was doing it's thang correctly. It surely is." [Yelp]
More Great News: Another Yelper gives word: "blood orange bellini was delicious (which I "borrowed" from my co-worker). The rest of my co-workers loveeeee the vodka thyme lemonade...We waited about half an hour to be seated and almost 45 minutes to get our orders taken...the service was kind of lacking there but I think they were letting our group settle down some more. I ordered the chili-herbed black sea bass. It was yum and the carrot cake dessert was meh. The cream cheese frosting was little too sour for my taste. The warm apple crumb tart was a lot tastier but is it worth $8? Decor is definitely very chic and beautiful! 4.5 star really. I would have given a 5 but all that waiting made me a very very hungry!" [Yelp]
The Bad News: A Mouthfuls commenter is not impressed: "It's sort of like the Hollywood phase of John Woo's career vs. the Hong Kong phase. In Hong Kong, he seemed to make movies he needed to make, to express thoughts and feelings he had through manipulation of genre. In Hollywood, he made straight genre films, whatever the studios gave him. Of course, some of John Woo's Hollywood movies were pretty good (if nowhere near as great as his Hong Kong stuff). And ABC Kitchen isn't a terrible restaurant. Probably it's better than Coliccio & Sons (I'm not saying that's much; I'm just trying to put this new place in perspective). Is there any need to go there? Absolutely not. Every dish I had, had a flaw." [Mouthfuls]
The 'It's Improving' News: Open Table users have been particularly fond of ABC Kitchen, with some reviews coming across as borderline shills. One user says the place has been steadily improving: "The food was great. No complaints. I have been there twice now. The first time was when the restaurant first opened. The service was not great and the pork terrine was a bit salty. This time, however, everything was wonderful. The bean salad was surprisingly addictive and the wheat pasta with pork ragu was fantastic. Not as heavy as one would think, but perfect proportions." [OT]
The 'It's Good In Spite of the Hippie Theme' News: Although some commenters at Grub Street took issue with the coasters that are made from the cardboard of shipping boxes, most doled out more rave reviews. Commenter Tristan said "I have actually tasted the food, and the flavors are exceptional! Yes, the cardboard coasters are overdoing it a wee bit, but the restaurant is bright and inviting, the decor does not distract from the food, and the food is worth giving all your attention to. The bigoli with pork ragu were yummy, so was the chocolate cake, and so were the cocktails. The highlight, however, was the service. Never have I seen waitstaff that was so attentive, informed, and professional." [GS]