Thursday, May 30, 2013

ABC Cucina

'Jean Georges does it again' is the first sentence that popped in my head re: ABC Cucina, his hot new tapas spot in the old Pipa space in ABC Carpet and Home. With the success of the perpetually busy and always delicious ABC Kitchen, there is some pretty scary high expectations for Dan Kluger and co at this more casual endeavor. I'm happy to say that at least according to one lowly blogger and self proclaimed foodie, so far so good!

ABC Cucina is magnificent to look at. There is a packed bar in the front, an oyster bar, comfortable booths and steel tables. Think vintage glass, reclaimed wood, and mismatched hot pink chairs. It definitely makes a statement. There is a more relaxed and casual vibe compared to Kitchen, but there are plenty of similarities as well. The 2 kitchens actually use some of the same ingredients, albeit in different ways, and both are big into the in-season produce (we had 3 different dishes with asparagus and/or peas in it).
For such a new place I have to say, they seem to have their sh*t together. We were seated promptly, the waiter was helpful and available, and the drinks (though on the weak side) were great. Extra props for the Sangria that my friend, the wine connoisseur thoroughly enjoyed.

So how is the food? Does it live up to all this hype? It is delicious. Some things were definitely better than others, but we have to give them a little leeway here, they are after all, only 3 weeks old and still in the "soft opening", impossible to get reservations stage. I'll get to food specifics in a sec, but for now suffice to say that yes, it is worth it, and yes you must get your ass here pronto. 

Since we ordered almost the entire menu (no fish or shellfish of course), I divided the dishes as follows:
1. Amazing - order this for sure. It will blow your mind. 
2. Good Stuff - tasty, order it depending on the size of your appetite  
3. Pass - not outright "bad" (nothing here is bad), but I probably would not order it again and you shouldn't either.

Amazing dishes:
  • Spring Pea Guacamole - Wow. Yum. Need more.  
  • Spring Vegetable Salad with manchego and herbs - Great salad. Loved. 
  • Fluke with green chili dressing, crunchy rice and herbs - Loved. Fresh and refreshing. 
  • Sugar Snap Peas with fried shallots and I'm not sure what else - Pretty and yummy.
  • Pea Soup - Warm, flavorful, and even vegan! 
  • Spring Pea Empanadas with green chili yogurt - SPICY but definitely a must order. 
  • Sauted Mushroom Tacos - What do they put in here? These blew the fish tacos away. 
  • Spring Vegetable Brown Rice and salsa verde - one of the best dishes of the night. I taste cumin. YUMMY. 

Good Stuff: 
  • Warm Marinated Olives- Self explanatory. Good. 
  • Potatoes with spicy tangy sauce and rosemary- I liked these, my table mates claimed they've had better.  
  • Cheese Fondue - Also good, but you only need a few bites, it is pretty rich. 
  • Asparagus with marcona almond and spring onions - Another good veggie option, but I was so full by the time this came I didn't really enjoy it much. 

  • Grilled Tuna Sashimi - Eh. Was ok, but not worth ordering. 
  • Crispy Fish Tacos - Pass. Too sweet and kind of soggy. 
  • Maitake Mushrooms with goat cheese, fresno pepper vinigrette - Looks pretty, didn't love the flavor.
  • Black Sea Bass with marinated tamarind and thyme - Most expensive thing we ordered and it was just okay. Strog BBQ flavor if you like that kind of thing. 

All 3 desserts that we got fall into the good category. Had a few bites of each, but nothing on the Sundae at ABC Kitchen level. Soft and Crunchy Almond Cake, Salted Caramel Impossible Flan and Mango, Pineapple Basil, and Chocolate Coconut Popsicles. 

Neighborhood: Flatiron / Union Square 

Bite Mark: ****

Good For: Lots! Good for Groups, Small Parties, Girl's Night, Fit for Foodies, Impress your Date, Hot & Trendy

ABC Cucina, 38 East 19th Street (No Website Yet)