A warm toast topped with fresh, creamy sea urchin, thin buttery sheets of lardo, and sprinkled with a tiny bit of sea salt. Perfection on a plate? Just nearly.
Welcome to Marea, Chef Michael White's latest venture in New York City. Opened in the spring of 2009, Marea focuses on Italian seafood and already boasts one Michelin Star, 3 Stars from the New York Times, and countless other accolades. Of course White is no stranger to Michelin stars, having received three other stars (total) for his other two Italian restaurants this past year - two stars for Alto and one star for Convivio.
I had a business trip in New Jersey a few weeks back. I took the opportunity to stop by New York (which was on the way) to enjoy a fun dinner at Marea with other New York food bloggers. It was great - we ordered a bunch of different things, tried each others' dishes, and of course, snapped tons of photos of the entire experience.
High Low Food Drink and Talida Bakes
We were so fortunate to be able to book the private dining room (free of charge!). Typically there is a $1600 minimum dining charge for use of the room (which fits up to 14 people), but they were kind enough to waive it for us on a Monday evening. Moral of the story: it never hurts to call and ask.
This was great, as it gave us the freedom to get up and take pictures at our leisure without bothering other people in the restaurant!
Fresh Local and Best
We had lots of random fun just snapping pictures of each other!
We started with a lovely amuse bouche that consisted of just a simple grilled peach topped with crushed pistachios on top of a savory melon soup. A great start - light yet flavorful.
At Marea, you can order a tasting of three different crudos for $25. I couldn't decide between all the excellent choices, so I actually decided to forgo a heavy meat course and instead order an appetizer, a pasta dish, and two crudo tastings (woo hoo! 6 different crudos!). The tasting portion sizes are about half as big as the individual a la carte crudo sizes.
VONGOLE geoduck clam, fresh chilies, lemon, hearts of palm
I had never had geoduck before (prounced gooey-duck), although I heard quite a lot about it from last season's Top Chef Masters (where Jody Adams had to cook it on the "exotic meats" episode). This long, phallic looking sea creature looks scary in a tank, but much more approachable on a plate. In terms of flavor? It was . . . interesting. More than one of us described it as tasting "very much like the sea." I think fishy might be too strong of a word to use, but it's definitely an acquired taste. Chubby Chinese Girl absolutely loves the flavor, but Talida Bakes and I weren't sure if we were new fans or not!
I actually can't quite remember which crudo this was -some kind of white fish that did not really make a strong impression on me. It fresh and it tasted fine, but nothing extraordinary.
LANCIA hawaiian blue marlin, sturgeon caviar, mussel vinaigrette
This marlin was very nice, with the caviar adding a nice, salty kick to the crudo.
SCAMPI pacific langoustines, murray river pink salt
By far my favorite out of the first three, this langoustine tasted surprisingly sweet and delicate. It reminded me very much of the amazing langoustine I had in Boston, though this was one step better because it was raw. I would definitely order this again.
SEPPIA cuttlefish tagliatelle, sorito crudo, bottarga di muggine
ASTICE nova scotia lobster, sun dried tomatoes, olives, plum
TONNO bigeye tuna, oyster crema, crispy artichokes
I loved the crunch of the crispy artichokes and how they contrasted the tuna.
FUSILLI red wine braised octopus, bone marrow
One of the restaurant's signature dishes, this beautiful fusilli is tossed with a sauce of braised octupus and finished with bone marrow. How do you make this? First you braise baby octopus from Spain in a San Marzano tomatoes, garlic, and basil based sauce for an hour and a half. Then you sauté thyme and garlic seasoned bone marrow and add it to the tomatoes, creating a velvety thick sauce that works beautifully with the pasta. Definitely worth ordering!
POLIPO grilled octopus, smoked potatoes, pickled red onion, chilies, tonnato
This grilled octopus was also fantastic. Several people at the table mentioned it was literally the best octopus they had ever had. I think it's on par with the best octopus I've ever had. I would highly recommend this dish as well.
SPAGHETTI crab, santa barbara sea urchin, basil
It's true what they say - Michael White is amazing when it comes to pasta, and I would highly recommend trying any of the various pastas on his menu. If you like uni (sea urchin), definitely try out this wonderfully creamy dish. His homemade pastas have amazing texture, and the sauces are also really really good.
AGNOLOTTI veal ravioli, sweetbreads, funghi
IPPOGLOSSO alaskan halibut alla piastra, cippolini agrodolce, morels, spring peas, parmigiano
GIANDUJA cocoa nib crema, hazelnut chocolate, fior di latte gelato
SEMOLINA TART, poached local cherries, honey custard brachetto sorbet
POLENTA FRITA, blackberry compote, mascarpone ice cream.
We received a few complimentary after-dinner sweets,such as biscotti and chocolates.
I had a fantastic time at Marea. Of course, a lot of this was because of the excellent company I had. They did mess up our order a bit, and in retrospect, the service may have been considered a bit slow. Nevertheless, the food is overall fantastic, even if it's on the pricey side.
I had read that the pastas and the appetizers were the stars of the menu, and that the main courses were hit-or-miss (or just ordinary). As a result, I personally chose to pass on the main courses and instead load up on crudos, appetizers, and pastas (I ordered two 3-course crudo tastings, the grilled octopus appetizer, and the uni pasta dish plus a dessert). You could go with the 4-course tasting menu ($89), which includes a crudo, an appetizer, a pasta, and a main dish. Our final bill came out to be $126/per person including tax and tip. We each enjoyed one glass of wine, and about half of us got dessert and coffee or tea.
If you do come, I would definitely recommend ordering the Ricci (sea urchin, lardo, and sea salt toast), a tasting of crudos (definitely get the langoustine, bigeye tuna, and another one, maybe the geoduck if you dare!), the grilled octopus, and definitely some of the pasta dishes. My favorites? The fusilli with red wine braised octopus and bone marrow or the spaghetti with crab, santa barbara sea urchin, and basil. Seriously though, you probably can't go wrong on any of the pasta dishes!
All in all, definitely a place worth visiting. We had a fantastic time there and would definitely go back to re-sample some of our favorite dishes.
Chubby Chinese Girl and Fresh Local & Best
High Low Food Drink
Talida Bakes and Tim
240 Central Park South
New York, NY 10021
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