Everyone is opening stylish, shareable Mexican restaurants these days so when Jean-Georges opens one, you know it’s going to be big. With the success of ABC Kitchen next door, ABC Cocina took over the old tapas and sangria space, Pipa, that groups of girls loved and the gentleman always chose as first date spots. As expected, ABC Cocina has received outrageous reviews, raves and compliments which it’s tough to get a reservation (just like ABC Kitchen). When you first enter the restaurant it’s pretty dark but has this magical background lighting that makes it look whimsical and enchanting. There are unique design fixtures and a small florescent light in the back corner which emits this kind of lighting. Strings of lights drape across the ceiling in the bar and table top area. The menu is pretty simple and just like next door everything tastes fresh and not overwhelming or too aggressive. The menu is composed of golden and crispy dishes such as fritters and calamari, empanadas, tacos, fish dishes and then a rice section. The must start dishes are the Spring Pea Guacamole with Warm Crunchy Tortillas. The combination of the salt from the crisp chips and the creamy avocado with a little spice is a smooth crunchy bliss. I was excited for the unique pea ingredients but frankly you couldn’t really taste it. The pine nut texture addition is also a huge plus.
The corn was our favorite dish. It’s seasonal, fresh and tastes like crack. Tip: definitely mix it up with your guac for a spark in your mouth. The Peekytoe Crab and Corn Fritters surprised me by how good they were. The fried part didn’t overtake the seafood or vegetable and it still somehow tasted fresh, greaseless and good.
The Beef Tenderloin “Burnt Ends” and Chimichurri sauce are cute little pieces of meat cooked and looking just like filet mignon. While they are tender, they aren’t as crunchy or crisp as the phrase “burnt ends” made me think they’d be. However, if you like steak it’s a great piece of meat, but if you were thinking along the lines of Brisket Town’s burnt brisket ends don’t get these. The chimichurri is light and clean. The Arroz con Pollo as the finale was the best ending and as satisfying as a dessert. The rice is a bit damp but not like Japanese sticky rice. It molds well together with the chicken bites which are great portion sizes. This dish can feed several and every component of the dish is special. It wouldn’t be the same without the little flakes of chicken skin. Jean-Georges is fantastic at combining textures and creating a party in your mouth and if you are lucky you’ll see him wandering around shaking people’s hands and checking in on his guests.
ABC Cocina is the kind of New York restaurant experience where you get everything you want: simple, clean and creative food in a poppin’ and comfortable atmosphere for all. Can’t wait for them to surprise us with brunch…