Walking into ABC Kitchen was like stumbling into enchanted woods, dusted with white snow and pretty fairy lights. Or wandering into the refined interior of a farmhouse with white details, exposed bulbs and comfortable armchairs. They were washed over with rustic moments, modern elegance, and white. The space created a blurry white afterimage, fuzzy from satiety and fond moments.
They managed to sneak for an early dinner that Sunday, sans reservation but full of hope. Wishes were granted, white seats were taken at a white table, and farm fresh menus were studied. Dizzy with excitement and forgetting the time constraint, they ordered with big eyes.
The housemade ricotta and fig market table starter was a dream, served with slightly charred grilled bread to bring mouths back to reality. The dense ricotta and syrupy fig compote felt like dessert, smooth and creamy, where the dark bread and drizzle of olive oil reintroduced the savory. Even the white of the cheese and the distressed brown of the figs echoed the decor.
However, the crab toast with lemon aioli spoke to a different kind of sweetness. The crab was so fresh that it hardly tasted like crab, but just sweet and juicy meat, doused in a delicate but present acidic charm. The lumps were garlicky and bright as well, absorbed by thick dark toast.
Even the raw diver scallops brought alive the beauty of fresh and organic elements, mimicking some of the tastes in the crab toast; the seafood, the citrus, the pleasure. The tart lemon and spicy chilies danced in the appetizer, and each thin slice of scallop induced new feelings.
The squash blossom pizza was salty and tangy, bready and light. The cheese countered the acidic grape tomatoes, and the whole-wheat crust added balance. But the pretty farm-to-table blossoms were decorative and delicate, last of their season.
Many of the mains featured fish, but the suckling pig entrée tempted with in season tiny white turnips and a sweet and spicy bacon marmalade. The dish was too rich and heavy in comparison. Even though the dark green leaves were left on the root vegetables, the dish lacked that light fresh appeal. Turnips have a heaviness, a starchy creaminess that perpetuated the decadence of the fatty pork. The bacon marmalade’s heat proved useful to cut the fat, but the gummy chunks of bacon were too large and superfluous.
Dessert continued the downhill with the almond cake with poached pears that brought the meal to a standstill. The cake was light and crunchy with little sweet crystals that recall marzipan, but it was dry and the poached pears felt less fresh. The tangy housemade yogurt broke up the odd monotony, but was too savory for the limp dessert. The cinnamon and the pears were inharmonious, an unexpected clash when most of the meal was well orchestrated.
The freshness that ABC Kitchen is known for sang in every dish, resonating in their mouths and minds. The drinks also felt clean like the very last light of summer and the new beginnings of fall. But fall was creeping into the menu, highlighting the newly available ingredients. The squash blossoms were vanishing, and concord grapes replaced by cherries and strawberries. The menu morphs as Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten focuses on the organic here-and-now at ABC Kitchen, only using relevant produce and seasonal gifts.
NOTE: Since this meal, the menu has changed. Some items are the same, while others have different produce elements, like the ricotta market table item, the pizza and the almond cake dessert.