There’s a restaurant review from the late London critic AA Gill that is one of our favorite things ever written about food. Gill sets up his criticism of a local vegetarian restaurant by dedicating a few hundred words to the idea that pandas are bullshit because they are the only mammal that chooses to be vegetarian, even though they have all the necessary facilities to eat meat (incisors, carnivore’s metabolism, bear DNA). He then parlays that into his argument that eating only vegetables in a restaurant is also bullshit.
This is not necessarily a view we share, as you can probably tell by the rating sitting at the top of this review. abcV is Jean-Georges’ third restaurant inside of the ABC Carpet & Home furniture store. It’s entirely meat free, and we think it’s the best of the three.
But our recent meals at abcV keep bringing that AA Gill review to mind. Not just because this is a vegetarian restaurant, but because the success of this restaurant and so many others like it has made it abundantly clear that we, advanced human beings, are basically becoming pandas.
That fact is no more apparent than when you try to get a reservation here, which can be very difficult, especially at dinner. This place is consistently packed with big groups of people sharing a bottle of wine and a head of cauliflower and having no problems with the fact that there is no meat on this menu. As a matter of fact, they might not even notice.
And that’s the thing about abcV. That it is an entirely vegetarian restaurant is not the point. It’s just a feature. There’s no need for an asterisk, where we say that the food is great *for a vegetarian place. It’s great without a caveat. The menu is big and diverse, split into sections like “Grains & Legumes,” “Warm and Sustaining,” “Vegetables,” and “Brunch Bowls.” That last one we are opposed to on principle, but otherwise it’s hard to go wrong.
But the thing we like most about abcV is that they aren’t out to make a vegetable into something else. There’s no cashew cheese, and nothing is labeled as a “steak.” They just source great vegetables at the green market and make them into something delicious. Or find something creative to do with a dosa, or serve you an incredible plate of “wild fried rice.” There’s no sleight of hand, and we won’t cheapen it by trying to hit you over the head attempting to convince you that “even your most carnivorous friend will like it.” Because they will. All of your friends will like it.
Even the most advanced ones.
Peaches, cherries, basil, serrano, and some farmer’s cheese that tastes like burrata. I don’t care how much meat you eat or how many weights you lift (my record is three), this is a plate of food you’re going to enjoy eating.
Green Chickpea Hummus
No, this isn’t green pea hummus, it’s green chickpea hummus, which means it tastes more like the hummus you’re used to, and less like split pea soup that’s been sitting out for a while. It’s a must order, as most everything else you’ll eat here can be improved upon with a quick nose dive into this bowl and then a steep climb into your mouth. You decide whether or not making an airplane noise is appropriate.
Dosa with Sambal, Cheddar, Egg & Mint
A delicious dosa with an egg and cheese surprise inside. This is a phenomenal thing to eat for breakfast or lunch or whenever you can get your hands on it. We haven’t seen it on the dinner menu, but we’ll be circulating a change.org petition shortly.
Whole Roasted Cauliflower
We’re not the kind of people to just sit down and eat a head of cauliflower, but the shot glass of warm turmeric slurry they provide with this thing makes all the different. Douse it, eat it.
Avocado Lettuce Cups
Lettuce cups with avocado, flowers, and a lot of seasoning inside. We’ve found these to be both very good, and also very salty, depending on the visit. When they’re good, they’re incredible. Roll the dice.
A nice bowl of lentils that nobody is going to complain about. They also probably won’t high five you over it. But it’s nice to have on the table.
Fried Wild Rice
This tastes exactly like fried rice, but a little healthier. On principle, that should mean that we hate it. But it’s actually very, very good.