5/02/2013 12:43:00 PM

First Bite: Jean-Georges Spices It Up With ABC Cocina, Opening Tonight

The magic that ABC Carpet and Home CEO Paulette Cole brought to the design of ABC Kitchen is in evidence again at Jean Georges’s new venture, ABC Cocina, scheduled to open tonight in the space on the store’s north end that formerly housed Pipa.

The flattering aura is mostly due to energy-saving LEDs, and a collection of 50 chandeliers handpicked from the store. Encrusted seashells and crystal formations appear on the walls, and tables are black steel. Dishes too are dark, so that vivid colors from myriad vegetables really pop on the plate, while bread and butter plates are made from a contrasting pink Depression glass.

The Food: Spring is everywhere, from guacamole studded with peas and sunflowers, to morels popping out of earthy mushroom tacos. “It is the same ethos as ABC Kitchen, vegetables and other products from local purveyors, but we’ve added chilies, spices and flavors from Spain and South America,’’ explains Vongerichten who was manning the kitchen along with chef de cuisine Ian Coogan and executive chef Dan Kluger, who oversees both ABC restaurants.

The menu is divided into “Table Snacks” like cured meat and cheese boards; “Light and Bright”, which features a breathtakingly beautiful salad with countless colorful vegetables, a bright green pea soup with avocado, lime and hominy, and sweet giant poached prawns; “Golden and Crispy," a satisfyingly crunchy collection including calamari with ancho chili glaze and spicy ham and cheese fritters; “Masa and Tortillas’’ which has vegetables, chicken, fish and pork renditions; “Wood Burning Grill’’, which runs the gamut from simple, fresh perfectly charred black bass served with a mole sauce to beef tenderloin “burnt ends" with chimichurri sauce; and “Rice’’ a selection of four dishes -spring vegetables on brown rice, roasted Maine Lobster rice, Arroz con Pollo and stewed chicken with sweet onions and spicy tomatoes.

The Cocktails: Libations are creative: margaritas come in grapefruit or basil and jalapeno varieties, sparkling rose gets an extra kick from rhubarb, gin is mixed with coconut water, and rye is rounded out with an almond infusion.

Desserts: As fanciful as they are exceptional, sweets include two takes on almond cake, a soft iced version and an incredibly light crunchy macaroon contrasted served with sour cherry sorbet for contrast; a creamy flan with cake batter bottom, and popsicles that come in mango, pineapple basil and chocolate coconut flavors.

Music: Sound whiz Jono Abrams mixes up Latin influenced tunes that set a mood without overpowering conversation.

The Uniforms: Instead of the plaid shirts made famous at the Kitchen, the servers here are wearing simple and sleek grey T-shirts (which we guess came from Alternative Apparel's earth line).

 The Crowd: Invited guests for the early tasting included Joel Gray, Ross Bleckner and Carla Gugino

 The Details: 38 East 19th Street, 212- 677-2233.


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