After carefully scrutinizing the menus, we can officially declare Jean-Georges Vongerichten's latest addition to the abc restaurant family a pea quacamole-free space—for now. The chef's first exclusively vegetarian restaurant abcV, which opened last week, has yet to debut dinner, but with influences from the Middle East and Asia (instead of Mexico) driving the menu, the appearance of the infamous guac from Vongerichten's ABC Cocina seems unlikely.
The stunning space—read more about the design aesthetics here—will showcase Chef de Cuisine Neal Harden's globally-influenced menu of plant-based dishes. Breakfast could be a health-minded yogurt shake or bowl of fruit-fortified chia seeds, or it could be Indian dosas with swiss chard and a fried egg with za'atar seasoning.
Sauerkraut abandons sausage in favor of dill and extra virgin olive oil during lunchtime, joining a lineup of salads, noodles, grains and more dosas, which you can peruse on the menus below. The whole of it sounds tailor-made for the yoga mat-toting set, especially the "beauty and wellness menu" ($48) that's the restaurant's description of the tasting menu.
We also spoke with chef Harden about the vegetable boom, collaborating with Vongerichten, and being under the spotlight of notable restaurants.
Vegetables are "trendy" now but do you think that plant-based lifestyles are going to be the new normal? I do think there has been a trend toward chefs embracing plant-based lifestyles. It certainly will have a permanent effect on how we eat—people aren't simply going to return to a protein-centric diet, especially as the environment, and the world around us, continues to change. More and more people will want to eat this way all the time.
How collaborative was the menu creation and what signature items do you feel most reflect your excitement about the restaurant? It was collaborative. I had a couple of years to workshop dishes. Jean-Georges is very hands-on and tasted every single thing—and provided feedback—before any item went on the menu.
I'm excited about the fermented foods we're doing here, as well as the foods we use from our forager, wild foods...we're two blocks from the famers' market, so everything is at its freshest. Really, it's hard to choose a single dish I'm most excited about, because the dining experience at abcV is such that a number of dishes combined together form the meal; a rainbow on the table.
Was there a conversation about vegetarian versus vegan and if so, what ultimately swayed the restaurant towards including animal-based products? We definitely discussed that. Originally we were leaning towards a vegan menu to truly focus on vegetables—and lunch is almost entirely vegan—but the thing that swayed us was breakfast. People enjoy eggs for breakfast; we didn't want to limit the experience.
There are global notes resonating all over the menu; what kinds of cuisines are you most inspired by? I would say in this particular restaurant, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Far Eastern cuisines inspire a lot of the menu. It also reflects our early discussions with Paulette Cole and Jean-Georges about their personal travels, which are featured throughout the aesthetic and menu. In addition, we were influenced by many cuisines that have different vegetable preparations to begin with. For example, Middle Eastern cuisines features many vegetables at breakfast time, and we see a lot of those flavors highlighted on the menu.
You've gone from one high profile restaurant (Pure Food & Wine) to this next one: how do you handle the pressure of being in the spotlight? My focus is definitely on the kitchen; I just like to do what I do. I'm happy with it—I don't feel stressed because I 100% believe in what we do.
35 East 18th Street, (212) 475-5829; abchome.com
AbcV Breakfast Menu by Nell Casey on Scribd
AbcV Lunch Menu by Nell Casey on Scribd