One final post on New York before clearing the terrible backlog at home.
Michael White had already opened Marea when I was still living in Manhattan, but I had too much going on that spring of 2009 to visit. I figured we had to stick in into our schedule, given how it would tick the mental boxes for both Italian and Seafood, killing two birds with one stone food-wise. It also did not hurt that it was ridiculously close to G’s apartment where we were bunking, and that she had given us her seal of approval regarding Marea.
A stone’s throw from Time Warner Centre and facing Central Park, the restaurant boasts a privileged location (with pricey real estate), and slick modern decor to go with it. The culinary style is also modern, focused on seafood, the menu a divergence from your regular trattoria. Sure there is spaghetti, but it is coated not with tomato sauce and meatballs but uni.
We started with very light appetizers before proceeding to robust mains. The crudo tasting comprised 3 different main ingredients, each fish lightly seasoned and adorned to bring out its natural tastes, be it the sweetness of langoustines or the assertively meaty flavors of the tuna. Even better was a composed salad of cooked crab, marinated cucumber, pinenuts and Greek yogurt, the interplay between sugar and acid, crunchy and soft tantalizing the palate.
For our mains, I picked Marea’s most well-known dish, the crowd pleasing fusilli with octopus and bone marrow sauce. Despite the hype, it was definitely an exemplary dish. And while the pasta and the octopus was perfectly cooked, the highlight for me was the ultra dense sauce, concentrated with deep, tomato and wine flavors. The bone marrow cubes that partially melt and meld into the sauce finished the sauce with a unique funk and meatiness that neither butter nor olive oil could have provided. I licked the plate clean.
P’s squid ink bucatini was a little pedestrian in comparison, though again, the pasta was cooked till just al dente, and coated with just the right amount of sausage studded sauce. With the addition of chopped parsley and still visible chunks of tomato, it almost felt light and healthful compared to the fusilli.
The $42 business lunch menu did not include dessert, and after perusing Marea’s roster of pretty traditional offerings, we ordered an affogato to share. The zabaglione gelato and amaretto spiked cream were very good but melting so quickly into the aromatic shot of espresso that we felt rushed into finishing everything under 3 minutes. Potentially one dish where the sum of the parts were greater than the whole.
Some mignardises appeared as we called for the check, a nice touch that was not too costly for the restaurant but which the guests appreciated extremely. With 3 courses, we had only spent 90 minutes in the restaurant, considerably less time compared to the standard lunch in Paris. No wonder there were a large number of people in suits there. But even if you have no business to conduct except that of pleasure, dining at Marea is pretty much worth your while.
Marea – 240 Central Park South New York, NY 10019