Meet Marissa Lippert, Well+Good’s carnivorous, gourmand nutritionist who navigates the city’s most popular and indulgent restaurants with one eye on the scene and the other on the scale.
With his newest restaurant, ABC Kitchen, Jean-Georges Vongerichten cooks of-the-moment “local, organic, original food” in a pristine, white setting within ABC Home’s vast Union Square store. (All the place settings and dining-room décor are for sale as well, fyi). And with Esquire Magazine recently crowning ABC Kitchen as “Restaurant of the Year,” it’s definitely worth a visit.
Merging good food and great ingredients, the restaurant sources straight from Union Square’s greenmarket; herbs and micro-greens make short trip from ABC’s rooftop garden. It’s nice to know you’re supporting sustainable farming; unfortunately, that still doesn’t give you free reign on calories.
With that caveat, let’s get down to the food. Actually, let’s start with a drink first, because this is one restaurant where the fresh ingredient-driven cocktails are a worthy beginning.
Stay away from the syrups. To keep those calories in check before you’ve even begun your meal, order a syrup-free cocktail, like Rye Whiskey Manhattan with Brandied Cherries or the Ginger Margarita. Yes, the Manhattan’s fresh cherry may be slightly sweetened and there’s a fresh ginger-lime base in the margarita, but there’s no calorie-heavy juices or mixers to muddle these pristine cocktails.
Choose veggies first. Set yourself up for a smartly balanced meal by choosing a salad or veg-heavy appetizer or side-dish first. Look to the Crispy Delicata Squash with Maple Syrup and Goat Cheese or the Fresh Mozzarella with Late Harvest Heirloom Tomatoes with Basil & Serrano Chilies. Greenmarket vegetables translate to better flavor and greater amounts of antioxidants and nutrients on your plate. Skip the locally cured meats and cheeses. You can get these at many New York restaurants, and the calorie and saturated-fat content (the not-so-healthy kind) can rack up quickly.
Zero in on a protein-based appetizer. The Line Caught Tuna Sashimi with Ginger and Mint is a super-light and lean option. Alternatively, the lightly-fried Pretzel Dusted Calamari is excellent. I’m not a nutritionist who bans absolutely everything fried: Instead I advocate a “tasting” portion of 5-7 pieces, and stop there. Just remember, more food’s coming.
Share something hearty. If you’re a meat-lover, order the Akaushi Cheeseburger with Herbed Mayo and Pickled Jalapenos. Why am I suggesting you order a burger? Akaushi cows hail from Japan and are primarily grass-fed and free-range. The result is a juicy, rich burger that’s lower in cholesterol and higher in healthy omega-3 fats—even more than salmon. But beware the Jean-Georges extravagances: herbed mayo and cheese. All the more reason to split the burger (yes, enjoy the bun too—Jean-Georges made it that way for a reason).
Reconsider “crispy”. The Crispy Organic Chicken, Roasted Eggplant with Tomato and Golden Balsamic Dressing is a deceptively healthy option. It may have “crispy” in the description, but it turns out the chicken is simply roasted, making it a smart choice for a comforting, hearty fall dish. The pizzas (whose whole wheat crusts have more fiber) and the pastas look enticing, but I’d stick with a basic entrée that’s not as carb-heavy if you’re determined to have dessert.
Order by the spoonful. Don’t feel limited to the fruit crumble or sorbet, which might present themselves as the healthier choices. Order what really looks unbelievable, otherwise there’s a good chance you won’t be satisfied and may end up downing the entire dessert all by yourself. The item that’s an absolute must-have in my opinion? The Salted Caramel Sundae with Candied Peanuts and Popcorn. Rich, indulgent, salty and sweet goodness—just order it with 4 spoons.
ABC Kitchen, 35 E 18th St., btwn Broadway and Park Ave. S., 212-475-5829