Location: 240 Central Park S, New York, NY 10019. (212) 582-5100
Date: July 2, 2017
Rating: Great “fancy” Italian
My family loves Italian food and New York is famous for its Italian, so I figured we try a bunch at a bunch of different levels.
Marea is the modern style of fancy Italian, which some Italian-American lovers dismiss, but is actually fairly representative of high end (Michelin) restaurants in Italy. I know, I’ve eaten at plenty of them. And in fact, Marea has 2 stars itself.
The menu. We all went for the 4 course “deal.”
An amuse of sardine/anchovy and cheese on polenta.
They had a lot of very nice breads like this olive focaccia.
And since two groups ordered the whole fresh Branzino, the fish came out first to show off — just as they do in the Mediterranean.
2013 Azienda Agricola Bucci Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Riserva Villa Bucci. 91 points. I visited this winery 2 years ago. The nose was alive with saline-minerality and zesty citrus tones. On the palate, I found soft, lifted textures with tart citrus, spice and mineral tones. It finished fresh and lively.
Insalta. Sesonal greens, sherry dressing, almond, nectarine, parmigiano.
They have a lot of crudo al taglio on the menu, like this: Tonno. yellowfin tuna, oyster crema, crispy artichoke.
Scampi. Pacific Langoustine, murray river pink salt.
And my Assaggio di tre. From left to right: Scampi Pacific Langoustine, murray river pink salt. Passera. Long island fluke, stone fruit, almond, chive blossom. Dentice. Pacific snapper, lime coriander, crispy skin.
These were nice. I’ve decided that these “western sauces” are MUCH better on crudo (aka sashimi) than on sushi (like Sushi Gari). It doesn’t play well with the rice.
Polipo. grilled octopus, smoked potatoes, radish pickled red onions, chilies, tomato.
1999 Mastroberardino Taurasi Radici Riserva. VM 90-93. Good ruby-red. Red plum, sweet spices, roast coffee, flowers and a loamy nuance on the open-knit nose. Then juicy and stylish in the mouth, combining peppery and soft red fruit qualities with a subtle touch of oaky sweetness. Not a hugely concentrated wine and surprisingly forward, finishing with suave, spreading tannins and an almost sweet quality. There’s nothing wrong with this balanced wine, although I would have expected a little more complexity and depth; I wonder if the production of the 130-year anniversary bottling in the same vintage caused this Riserva to be less concentrated and deep than it might otherwise have been. Readers should take note that 1999 in Taurasi was characterized by a cool growing season, and thus was nothing like the outstanding ’99 vintage in Montalcino or Barolo. Still, I always felt that 1999 in Campania was unjustly overlooked by wine critics at the time, and I think that the wines are starting to show well now.
Twisted trofi pasta with pomodoro sauce. Great texture.
My son’s lizard toys get their own plate of parmesan.
Gnocchetti. Gulf shrimp, chillies, rosemary. First there was Gnocci, then there was gnocchetti.
Spaghetti neri. Seppia, ink, mussels, fresh chili, saffron.
Pansotti. Lamb, bagna cauda, english peas. How can you go wrong with fresh made pasta stuffed with meat and covered in butter?
Rosotto funghi. Wild mushrooms, parmigiano. Perfect creamy texture.
Branzino. Here comes the fish, perfectly filleted.
Brodetto di pesce. Adriatic seafood soup, clams, langoustine, scallop, prawns, bass.
With the broth. The flavor was great and the seafood fresh. It wasn’t the strongest or richest broth, channeling a lighter more delicate vibe rather than the more southern heavy garlic/tomato thing.
Tagliata. Grilled creekstone 50-day dry aged sirloin. braised romaine.
Fingerling potatoes, rosemary.
Market beans, romesco, almonds.
Trio of sorbetti. Cherry amaretto, strawberry balsamic, blackberry lemon.
Affogato. vanilla gelato, espresso, amaro, almond sbrisolona. I haven’t seen affogato (mostly) straight up on a 2 star menu before.
Semifreddo tropicale. coconut semifreddo, passion fruit, kiwi, mango, basil.
With a gooey center! This dessert was an 11 by my standards. A perfect expression of coconut and bright tropical fruits. I will make a coconut gelato with almonds and passionfruit coulis to riff off of it.
Cioccolato. domori chocolate, white chocolate ganache, almond stracciatella gelato.
Petite fours. Raspberry pate de fruit.
My son likes dressing up now.
Overall, Marea was very good. Execution was top notch across the board. Pastas were amazing. Interesting that it’s Adriatic in style, most closely resembling these places I’ve eaten at on Italy’s Adriatic coast: Madonnia del Pescatore and La Frasca. The format is a bit different more American at Marea, with fewer larger courses. I, of course (pun intended), prefer the more smaller dish format. Marea plays it fairly safe too, avoiding some of the weirder (to American taste) choices you might get in Italy. But it is quite Italian.
Service was top notch. Our server was simultaneously very New York, punky, not explicitly Italian, and excellent. Very nice, knowledgable, responsive, accommodating, etc.
The wine list was good and only slightly high. Clientele was more staid and there were quite a number of wealthy Chinese.