While plenty of New York restaurants have lately made the environment a priority—sourcing their ingredients locally and crafting dining rooms from salvaged materials—none have done so with quite as much visual and gastronomic panache as chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s ABC Kitchen. Everything, including the antique armoires, reclaimed-wood tables, porcelain plates and chandeliers entwined with flowering vines is gathered from area artisans.
Though the restaurant’s sustainable ethos is outlined on the back of the menu like an Al Gore polemic, the cooking, based on the most gorgeous ingredients from up and down the East Coast, delivers one message above all: Food that’s good for the planet needn’t be any less opulent, flavorful or stunning to look at. It’s haute green cuisine.
In step with fashion, the menu is a sprawling collection of small and large shareable plates—but unlike so many, it features reasonable pricing and dishes that all seem to work well together. After passing around pastas, salads, maybe a bowl of fried calamari—beautifully encrusted with crushed Martin’s Pretzels, lending an extra-crispy saline crunch—you might covet an entree all for yourself. A supremely buttery arctic char fillet, featuring skin that’s as crisp as a kettle-fried chip and nutty florets of roasted Romanesco, is certainly worth hoarding. As is a flattened golden roasted half chicken, its juicy flesh bathed in a vinegary glaze with wilted escarole and heady, butter-sopped potato puree.
While some diners might be drawn to ABC Kitchen for its politics—the soap is organic, leftovers composted, herbs snipped from the rooftop garden—if you strip away the rhetoric, you’re left with a beautiful restaurant, offering food that’s as distinctive as it is thrilling.