A Peek at ABCV, a Top Chef’s First Vegetarian Restaurant
Who knew that vegetables would take this long to prepare? After several years of talk and planning, the chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten is preparing to open his first all-vegetarian restaurant, ABCV, by the end of the month.
The third of the Vongerichten restaurants in the ABC Carpet & Home store in the Flatiron district, the restaurant replaces a branch of Le Pain Quotidien. The space is now bright and white, with an open kitchen, dressy chandeliers and, near the entrance, a stretch of bar opposite a sales counter with bowls of food for takeout. Service will begin with breakfast and lunch; dinner, consisting mostly of shared plates, will be added in a few weeks.
The chef de cuisine is Neal Harden, who was at Pure Food and Wine on Irving Place. Mr. Harden, 35, has been a vegetarian since he was a teenager. “It was because I loved animals,” he said. Mr. Vongerichten said the food at ABCV was “all Neal, but with my touch.” And the inspiration is certainly global.
The day can start with avocado toast, a hemp protein shake, assorted dosas (southern Indian pancakes), steamed tofu with roasted cauliflower and harissa, fried eggs with smoked potatoes and vegetables, and congee, the Cantonese porridge, made with forbidden rice and millet.
Lunch offers a verdant kale and avocado sandwich; a deeply flavored mushroom and barley soup; a whole artichoke with Sicilian olive oil and lemon; colorful warm carrots with stone-ground seed and nut butters; and sauerkraut that is unusually light and fresh. “We use savoy cabbage, which is more attractive, let it ferment only for two weeks, and add some horseradish and dill,” Mr. Vongerichten said.
What you will not find on the menu are veggie burgers upholstered with nut “cheese,” or vegetable protein masquerading as meat. “I don’t believe in doing things like that,” Mr. Vongerichten said. “Vegetables can stand on their own.”
The kitchen has a wood grill, and on the bar is a Juicero, a machine for making vegetable juices in minutes. “I’ve been doing vegetable juices since Lafayette,” Mr. Vongerichten said, referring to the opening of his first New York restaurant more than 31 years ago.
There’s a full bar with locally made organic spirits and a list of biodynamic and organic wines. “Pairing wines with this food can be a challenge,” said Jeremy Mustakas, the wine director. “But you’d be surprised; you can enjoy a Brunello with the wild mushroom burdock noodles.”
The vegetarian restaurant, which uses only organic ingredients, an effort Mr. Vongerichten is making at most of his other restaurants, has been an evolving project: It joins ABC Kitchen, which opened in 2010, and ABC Cocina, which followed three years later. They replaced two restaurants, Lucy and Pipa, owned by Mr. Vongerichten’s business partner, Phil Suarez, and Paulette Cole, the owner of ABC Carpet & Home. In their place, Ms. Cole wanted restaurants that relied more on local produce.
Soon after ABC Cocina opened, Mr. Vongerichten began discussing the next step, a vegetarian restaurant, with Ms. Cole, who is a partner in ABCV and the rest of the ABC collection.
“ABCV is an offshoot of ABC Kitchen, but more focused,” he said. “It’s a game changer for me.”
ABCV, 38 East 19th Street, 212-475-5829, jean-georges.com.
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