New York remains what it has always been: a city of ebb and flow, a city of constant shifts of population and economics, a city of virtually no rest. It is harsh, dirty, and dangerous, it is whimsical and fanciful, it is beautiful and soaring – it is not one or another of these things but all of them, all at once, and to fail to accept this paradox is to deny the reality of city existence. -Paul Goldberger (Former architecture critic for The New Yorker, now a Contributing Editor at Vanity Fair)
I start out in the early evening while the city is still bustling and am looking forward to the long walk from the East 50’s to the Flat Iron district where I will meet up with my daughter at a restaurant she has wanted to try. I have always enjoyed walking in Manhattan. Finding one’s way is easy – it is a grid, and you always feel safe with so many people about. As usual, I start out feeling great about the city and vibrant and exhilarated. But starting around 5 or 6 blocks out I become increasingly cranky. I soon tire of what used to be almost a game for me - strategizing my path through the multitudes of humanity without having to break my stride or give up too much my “way”. The constant din soon turns from what I used to relish as the “sounds of the city” to a guttural cacophony of blaring sirens and honks and car noises. The storefronts start to lose their weathered charm. By the time I arrive at ABC Kitchen I am wondering why I continue to come back to New York and am thinking I should convince my daughter that she should have had enough of the Big City at this point. I change my shoes on the little bench (interesting bench - simply lovely) outside the restaurant’s fairly non descript window front and go in.
This I suppose is what I love about New York and keeps me coming back. In a split second all is forgiven as we enter this haven. Yes this is a city of highs and lows, the best and the brightest and the downtrodden and degenerate, magnificent art and music and filth and piled up trash, "if you can make it here you can make it anywhere". Ok enough, I’ll stop.
ABC Kitchen is not one of New York’s top “fine dining” spots but it is so very unique and just another sample of what striving for the newest and best can bring into this city.
The restaurant is a large loft like structure with what I am pretty sure are non structural wooden beams spanning across different sections of the open room, accompanied by a plethora of varied lighting either hanging from ropes or rods from the beams, or chandeliers highlighting various corners of the room. The effect creates an absolutely hip, romantic, atmospheric eating palette.
The vision for the restaurant is to offer the freshest organic and local ingredients possible, to use salvaged, reclaimed, or recycled building materials for the décor, homemade porcelain dinnerware by local artisan Jan Burtz for the table, bread baskets handcrafted by the indigenous mapuche people of Patagonia, etc. etc. The effect is stunning.
We start with rhubarb and lime mimosas (all drinks of course feature seasonal ingredients and this is rhubarb season…) I am a bit skeptical as I detest rhubarb but the mimosas are delicious.
Then we try a lovely pea soup made even more delicious served in Jan Burtz’ porcelain bowls, crab toasts (just so-so), a roasted beet salad with housemade yogurt, a delicious homemade ricotta ravioli in the freshest and tastiest tomato sauce I’ve had for some time, and roasted lobster with a spicy vinaigrette.
The food flavors are obviously achieved with fresh seasonal produce and fresh herbs as opposed to an overdose of butter, oil and salt.
Conclusion: Pricey (but using the best and freshest ingredients is pricey); not over the top gourmet but good fresh flavors; a special and well done décor. Oh! - and the ABC store that is attached is a must see - furniture, lighting, kitchen and tabletop items in a 5 story building.
Until my next visit....