Marea – New York City

Chef Michael White (partnered with Chris Cannon) opened Marea in May 2009, and it immediately gained huge popularity among New Yorkers and food critics.

I find it insufficient to call Marea an Italian restaurant that specializes in Seafood -their website says it better by calling it “Italian coastal cuisine”. Marea garnered a michelin star in the NYC Michelin Guide 2010 and then 2 in the 2011 guide.

I read about it in numerous blogs, then on Anthony Bourdain’s show – so it was a no brainer when deciding where to eat. Given the limited time in NYC, I actually had to give up going to Daniel (Gasps!) to try out Marea. Odd as this may sound, I figured Daniel will always be there but I wanted to see if Marea lives up to the hype.

We were seated by the Crudo Bar at the lounge because they were fully booked (on a Thursday night!)

They have a very impressive selection of wines~

Menu is pretty extensive with a nice selection of crudo (raw fish & shellfish), antipasti, pasta, fish & a couple meat selections. Definitely a lot of seafood on the menu~ (Please ignore the line in the menu, I asked for a copy and they just took it out of their menu board, folded it and gave it to me)

Asked about the Tasting menu and was pretty much told it is either 6 or 8 courses with items from the regular menu, when asked to elaborate he just went off on it verbally. Would be nice to see a printed out menu.

Ended with their recommended $89 four course prix fixe.

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Before we start the intense food porn: Special shoutout to my dining partner in crime Cat Lee.  All food pictures are taken by Cat of Rouge Designs. She makes my simple point & shoot photos (fuzzy pictures of the restaurant) look really sad . LOL

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We ordered this to share in addition to our prix fixe:

Ricci $15

Sea urchin, Lardo and Sea salt

I was in for a surprise when I tried this dish. It was a heaping pile of sea urchin with a thin layer of lard on a very very thin crisps crostini. I needed more crunch for such a heavy bite. It was definitely rich (maybe too rich for me) but it went really well with our glasses of white wine which cuts the fat.

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1st courses:

Astice (supplement $6)

Nova scotia lobster, burrata, eggplant al funghetto and basil

This dish was as delicious as it looked. The lobster was sooo tender and sweet, and it didn’t matter how you eat it (whether you make the perfect bite with a little bit of everything, or eat each component individually or two at a time), it was amazing. The burrata was creamy and nothing like I have ever tried (cheese – wise) and the tomatoes gives the dish a nice acid.

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Gambero e Fegato

Hawaiian blue prawns, foie gras, celery, apple cider and pistachio

This was actually quite disappointing. The prawns were overcooked, which was surprising for a seafood-centric restaurant. The foie gras was pretty delicious, but overall the whole dish didn’t work for me and it didn’t help that the main component was hard & overcooked.

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2nd courses:

Fusilli

Red wine braised octopus and bone marrow

Another rich and sinful dish. The pasta was a little too al dente, when chewing bits of it would get stuck in the teeth (that is how “toothsome” it was). However the octopus was delicious! It was prepared so well that I think it easily rivaled the Octopus I had in Le Bernardin.

I enjoyed looking for the nice little bits of bone marrow and feel it melt on my tongue. The combination of flavours were really impressive but it was a tad salty.

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Spaghetti

Crab, santa barbara sea urchin and basil

Our menu choices are starting to look overwhelming at this point. Another amazingly rich and luxurious dish. (Sea urchin seems to be popping out every where on restaurant menus, will this be a phase or will it stay?)  The sea urchin was definitely present – it was creamy, salty, a little briney and so packful of flavour. The seasoning in this dish was right on point~

The pasta itself was cooked to a nice al dente. It was silky and yet a tad “toothsome”.. and it is then one realise – dried pasta from a box can never compare to fresh made.

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3rd courses:

Ippoglosso

Herb crusted east coast halibut, broccoli rabe, soppressata, royal trumpet mushrooms & cipollini

This was an amazing piece of fish. The halibut was stunning – cooked to perfection, flaked off nicely and glistened in its natural oil. The fish was so smooth and subtly seasoned; flavours were further enhanced by the crispy herb crust. The fish was so moist that the light sauce on the plate was not necessary but the garnishes definitely helped in making this a complete dish.

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Bistecca (Supplement $12)

Grilled creekstone 50 day aged sirloin, braised romaine, bone marrow panzanella

I loved loved this piece of steak. Not only was it a HUGE slab of meat but it is one of the best pieces of steak I have ever had to date. The aging process made the beef so tender and flavourful. It was seasoned well, and had a nice char from the grill giving it a nice smoky note.

The panzanella (typically salad of bread & tomatoes but was bread, bone marrow & romaine here) was a little too greasy as a whole. I barely touched it.

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4th Courses

Assaggio Di Tre Sorbetti o Gelati

Tasting of any 3 gelato/sorbet. CL picked Vanilla,  Green Apple & Lemon (top to bottom)

Vanilla was a little plain, green apple was insanely tart and the lemon felt like eating icy lemon juice

I was so indecisive about dessert, I could not decide between the Affogato & Crostata Di Cioccolato and went back & forth with the server. He highly recommended the Affogato – so I ended up picking that. But when the desserts came…. he sent over the Crostata as well (on the house). What a sweetheart!!! :)

Affogato

Zabaglione gelato, espresso & amaro

This was delicious! I polished off this eventhough I was insanely full after eating 2/3 of a steak course and 1/2 a fish course! The ice cream was creamy and not overly sweet. The amaro (Italian herb-y liquer) gave it a nice zing and the espresso was delicious!

It was like a yummy warm coffee float with a nice foamy top from the ice cream. Delicious!! Perfect ending to such a long long night.

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Crostata Di Cioccolato

Milk chocolate ganache, amaretto cream & coffee gelato

This was pretty good. The ganache was nice and smooth, coffee gelato was surprisingly light and was a nice complement to the tart. The amaretto cream was actually quite subtle and the little brown chunks added nice texture to the whole dessert.

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Total Damage: $330 (including 2 glasses of wines, tax & tip)

Personal Rating: 4.25 out of 5 (Great)

Everything was so rich, interesting and yet had the whole rustic feel to it. Honest good food and a reasonable price. You are definitely paying for quality AND quantity at this restaurant. The four course prix fixe menu was a great price of $89, with a generous amount of food that is enough to fill one to the brim.

I was so stuffed even before dessert hit the tables (and I have a fairly big appetite).

Service was a different story… it was painfully slow!  Our 4 course meal took over 2 1/2 hours (which is ridiculous). It took over 15 minutes for a server to come by and get our orders; then 20 minutes for the first course and about 20 mins between every course! The server was overwhelmed by the full lounge and it was evident; and I think the slow food got him even more flustered. He kept topping up our wine (on the house), which I think was because he was aware of how long we were sitting and waiting for food.

We sat around for quite a while before we were given a dessert menu and it took another 10 mins for someone to get our order. I ordered a coffee that never came but I had so much espresso in the Affogato dessert that I just didn’t bother.

The slow service was cancelled out by the generousity of the staff (free wine) and free dessert so I could not really “ding” them for how long our meal lasted.

Ending note:I think the getting recognition from the Michelin Guide is a double edge sword. I would have been less nitpicky if it wasn’t for a certain expectation one has for restaurants with the stars. Do I think this is a 2 star Michelin restaurant? No…I mean,  from experiences at other establishments, Marea is behind in so many ways BUT if we turn a blind eye to the Michelin rating; it was a very good meal.

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Marea

240 Central Park S
New York, NY 10019

(212) 582 5100

Marea on Urbanspoon

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