Wow Jean-Georges, you’ve done it again. One of my favorite restaurants in NYC, ABC Cocina, has now been matched by ABC Kitchen. The Kitchen features the same fresh, top-notch ingredients, with a completely different menu. While Cocina has a small-plates/tapas-style menu with Latin flair, the Kitchen showcases a more traditional American-style dish using seasonal ingredients, all with their own twist.
I’m kind of a sucker for any “Farm-to-Table” restaurant that builds relationships with local producers. The first page of ABC Kitchen’s menu details all of the farms that the restaurant works with, which I find magnificent to learn where your food is actually coming from. Such restaurants strive to support the local ecosystems and small-time farmers in the region, which is very important in our globalized world in terms of both eating fresher ingredients and reducing overall carbon footprint.
Despite its sustainable, eco-friendly nature, ABC Kitchen is super trendy. The bar was poppin’ at 9pm on a Monday night, and the cocktail menu is fantastic albeit pricey. It also happens to be a hot celebrity-spotting site. Does anyone watch “The Big Bang Theory?” I don’t, but I recognized one of the main characters at the table next to us. After a quick IMDB search, turns out his name is Sheldon on the show.
Ok shall we talk about the food? I took my Dad here while he was in town for business, and we started off sharing two appetizers; the crab toast and the roast carrot & avocado salad. The hearty chunks of crab mixed with lemon aioli on a hearty slice of country bread was incredible. I also hear great things about their roasted kabocha squash toast, which I will be sure to try next time. As for the salad, I’m not sure what kind of marinade they used on the carrots, but my Dad and I both agreed they were some of the best we’ve ever had. Mixed with my favorite food in the entire world, avocado, I was in heaven with this salad. I went on to order the black bass as a main, and convinced my Dad to order ABC Kitchen’s signature fried chicken so I could have a bite. The bass was perfectly silky, light and flavorful, atop a wonderful cooked spinach mixture. The bite of the fried chicken I had was even more incredible, so moist and crispy, unlike any I’ve had.
ABC Kitchen $$$$
35 E 18th St, New York, NY 10003
What to Order:
Drinks: Big Apple, Concord Grape Mimosa
Food: Roasted Carrot and Avocado Salad, Crab Toast, Kabocha Squash Toast, Black Sea Bass, Fried Chicken, Broccoli with Cheddar Cheese Sauce, Popcorn Crunch Sundae
The other weekend, Marta and I decided to try out a new restaurant: Gracias Madre. A few months ago, one of our Lyft drivers recommended it to us, saying that it was some of the best vegan options she’s tried in Los Angeles. And though we are both omnivores (I cannot say no to a steak or Korean BBQ and Marta’s protein of choice is fried chicken), we decided to check the place out.
Gracias Madre is a super busy restaurant located in the heart of West Hollywood, so making a reservation in advance is recommended. Headed by Executive Chef Chandra Gilbert, this restaurant boasts of various Mexican food favorites — all of which are organic, locally grown and farm fresh. And, if fresh ingredients was not reason enough to check this place out, you should definitely come here only to be wowed by the quality of their cheese and dairy substitutions. Really, the totopos con chile with the cashew crema (the vegan version of is queso fresco) is to die for. In fact, I’m pretty sure Marta and I stopped talking for a few minutes to enjoy our appetizer in silence.
And while I thoroughly enjoyed my entree (I ordered one of my childhood favorites: the flautas de camote), I’m going to skip right over to the dessert, which was so darn good! Marta and I ordered the fudge brownie, topped with coconut bacon and an orange cashew whipped cream. How they manage to make the whip so creamy without any dairy still amazes me –a definite must-try.
I really recommend that if you ever have the chance, you must try out this restaurant. Even if you aren’t vegetarian or vegan, Gracias Madre has something on the menu that caters to everyone — even if you just go for appetizers and drinks.
8905 Melrose Ave. West Hollywood, CA 90069
What to Order: The totopos con chile makes a great appetizer/something to munch on while you sip your cocktails. The tamale and flautas were tasty, but the fudge brownie topped with the orange cashew whip takes the cake (…or in this case, the brownie??)
Chef Mario Batali has captured my palate again with the small Gramercy tapas joint, Casa Mono. (Batali’s Greenwich Village Italian restaurant Otto is currently my favorite pizza in all of NYC). After a trip to Spain earlier this year with my girlfriends, I’ve been all about tapas, and you don’t have to stray far in NYC to find some incredible Spanish tapas- many even better than those I had in Spain. Casa Mono is extremely intimate with seating for maybe 25 people, and it does not take reservations—prepare for a 2 hour wait on a Saturday night. Luckily my friend and I went on a Thursday rainy night around 7, and we only had to wait about 30 minutes. Bear in mind it was also raining :/.
The menu is not one for the unadventurous; items like sea urchin and sweetbreads are sandwiched between more typical iberico ham and patatas bravas. The interesting combinations of flavors is what really captured my attention as I stumbled with what to order—half of the items I had no idea what they were, but most sounded intriguing.
The Buffalo’s milk burrata with saffron oranges was the perfect combination of creamy, tangy and sweet. I definitely don’t think I’ve ever had burrata with orange, but it was a fantastic twist. The simple pan con tomate was done flawlessly, on a toasted baguette with juicy tomato preserves. I would say it was a bit pricey for what you get, but worth the splurge at least once. I could easily see myself returning to tapas places like Macando or Pata Negra, but Casa Mono might be a one-time dining experience for me; given the unconventional menu items and steeper prices, I can’t see it becoming a regular stop, but man was it worth it for a unique dining experience.
Casa Mono $$$$
52 Irving Place New York, NY 10003
What to Order:
Tapas: Pan con Tomate, Buffalo’s Milk Burrata with Saffron Oranges, Chorizo Meatballs, Casa Pareja Marinated Goat Cheese
I’m not sure if you’ve ever faced my continual brunch dilemma of savory or sweet, but it’s an ongoing battle. Every time I go out to brunch, I’m immediately drawn to the decadent description of brioche French toast with fresh berries or lemon ricotta pancakes, but resist because I know myself too well; I will take two bites and crave something savory to even out the sweet. Well, I found my solution at Beauty and Essex, a genius idea of brunch small plates to share which means everyone can have a bite of both sweet and savory.
Beauty and Essex wins at life, and they win a top seat on my favorite brunch spots, which is saying a lot coming from a bruncher like me. When you enter the old furniture store front that the restaurant has tastefully kept intact, the dark front room is full of cases holding antique jewelry, skis and other strange items. You immediately hear bouncing club music from the champagne brunch day club upstairs, and as you enter the dark velvet adorned bar, you’ll spot girls in furs and heels galore. I’ll admit the trendy, dressed-up aspect of the place is not really my style for brunch, (pretty sure I was in Lululemon leggings…) but it makes for fantastic people-watching. If you’re not into “the scene,” this place may not be for you.
Now let’s get to the food. Chris Santos, the executive chef, is hands-down the king of small plates. After eating at his restaurant Stanton Social, I couldn’t wait to see what his other Lower East Side spot had to offer. We started off with vanilla beignets with raspberry preserves for a sweet bite, and they were incredible, warm and oozing with raspberry. Luckily there were four of us, so we got to try quite a few different savory bites as well. My favorites were probably the “bagel and lox” pizzetta (a “pizza dough” that literally tasted like a flattened everything bagel with a generous portion of lox), the braised short rib huevos rancheros and the lobster hash. We were not disappointed in anything, and could easily have ordered about 8 other dishes; it was very hard to choose! And the best part was getting to try a few bites of everything. Tapas-style brunch is definitely the way to go, well done Beauty and Essex.
Beauty and Essex $$$
146 Essex St. New York, NY 10022
What to Order:
Small Plates: Vanilla Beignets, Hot & Sweet Marinated Tomatoes on toast, Bagel & Lox Pizetta, Lobster & Chorizo Hash, Braised Short Rib Huevos
*Note: Order about 2 per person