Marea, NYC 3

April 25, 2011

Marea was somewhat controversial when it opened in May, 2009. We found it quite disappointing when we went two months later, but we had a good meal at a small lunch in 2010. We were also encouraged by its two Michelin stars and its Zagat rating near the top in both the Italian and seafood categories. So we were quite curious what we would find when Linda and I went for dinner with John on March 29, 2011. The question was heightened as we had experienced disappointment at Marea chef Michael White’s Ai Fiori the week before.

We arrived early and enjoyed glasses of prosecco at the bar. We were seated at the exact time of our reservation at a cozy table for three in a little nook. (This was the other table in the nook, also for three.)

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We ordered two of Marea’s “…e per cominciare” appetizers; the brandade was offered by the house. 

RICCI
sea urchin, lardo, sea salt

This was incredibly good. The delicious richness of the sea urchin was enhanced by the coating of pork fat and sea salt.
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BACCALA
house made salt cod brandade, crostini

The brandade was fresh, light and tasted of the cod. The crunchy, warm crostini were the perfect foil.
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ZEPPOLE
seaweed, shrimp and chickpea fritters

These were very hot when served. They resembled the accras de morue of the French Antilles, but with a more refined flavor. 

The menu has à la carte prices, but the rational option is four courses chosen from the menu for $89, an amazing bargain.  We ordered a bottle of 2009 Noname Altavia Vermentino/Viognier; we enjoy Ligurian wines as well as those two grapes. It had good varietal flavors, but was a bit thin.

The bread basket was passed and we all chose the rosemary foccaccia, which was fresh warm and very good. The amuse-gueule was a nice little glass of lobster custard with chopped vegetables.
 
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Linda’s first course was
UOVO
slow poached egg, snow crab, leeks, cardoon, bagna cauda

She said that it was an unusual, but very good, combination with plenty of crab to go with the perfectly cooked egg.
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John started with
ASTICE
nova scotia lobster, burrata, eggplant al funghetto, basil

The lobster was nicely cooked to bring out its flavor. The other ingredients were a surprising combination, but worked well.
 

I had
POLIPO
grilled octopus, smoked potatoes, pickled red onion, chilies, tonnato

The octopus had been heavily charred, enhancing its good flavor without making it tough or dry. The other ingredients had definite tastes which went well in small quantities. 
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John’s risotto was
MARE
shrimp, lobster, scallops, rouget

This risotto brought out the seafood flavors.
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At this point, the wine director came by to see how things were going. We said that we would like a second wine that was a bit more robust. He proposed a 2009 Massican “Gemina,” an Italian-style blend of 60% Viognier from the Russian River Valley, 20% Ribola Gialla from Napa Valley and 20% Chardonnay from Carneros. We enjoyed it. 
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Linda and my pasta was
SPAGHETTI
crab, santa barbara sea urchin, basil

Fortunately our attentive waiter asked us if we wanted this dish to be spicy. Marea’s record on us in Open Table showed that Linda cannot eat spicy foods. This showed the restaurant’s attention to clients and their preferences. Red pepper flakes are a normal part of this dish, even though they are not mentioned on the menu. We declined them and enjoyed the crab and fresh tomato flavor made more luscious by the sea urchin in the background. 

Linda’s main course was
BRANZINO
seared local striped bass, hen of the woods mushrooms, potatoes, artichokes, charred onion, salmoriglio
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She said that the searing gave the bass a nice, added flavor. The combination with the vegetables was good.
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John and my main was
IPPOGLOSSO
herb crusted east coast halibut, broccoli rabe, soppressata, royal trumpet mushroom, cipolini


The halibut was nicely enhanced by the herb crust. The little cubes of spicy salami added a porky, peppery richness without being too assertive.
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Linda had vanilla and hazelnut gelato for dessert. Good.
 
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John had the
NOCCIOLA PRALINATO
hazelnut dark chocolate
lemon, mint.

Nice.
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My dessert was the
CROSTATA DI CIOCCOLATO
milk chocolate ganache, amaretto cream
coffee gelato

Good.

We finished with a little tray of excellent mignardises.
 
The meal was consistently excellent, placing Marea near the top of both seafood and Italian restaurants in New York in our opinion.  The service was attentive, personal and efficient without being overdone. We did not feel as though we were in a big, vibrant, trendy mid-town New York restaurant, even though we were.

 

Bravo Michael White.

http://www.marea-nyc.com

To see our post on our lunch at Marea in December 2010 click here.

To see our post on our dinner at Marea in July 2009 click here.

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2 Responses to “Marea, NYC 3”

  1. Sam Spektor Says:

    Michael,

    I’m sure your meal was excellent as you said.

    With all due respect, however, many of the dishes would never be found in an Italian restaurant in Italy, except places like Piazza Duomo in Alba, which as an Italian friend (an owner of a barolo vineyard in La Morra) said to us this weekend,” it is only there because Ceretto can take his American and Japanese buyers to a two star Michelin. It is not the way Italians eat in Piemonte.”

    This food at Marea is “made up” Italian. The shame is that White knows better, but his clientele does not and so this passes for an Italian restaurant in New York.

    All those ingredients in one dish. That’s because as so often is the case in the U.S., the ingredients are lacking in intense flavor, particularly fish and shellfish and vegetables (you saw what Robert said yesterday about La Pinetta and Lorenzo). Halibut and soppressata? And, three other ingredients!!!

    And the wine. You wanted a second bottle “more robust.” So rather than something from Friuli or the Alto Adige the wine director recommends an “Italian style” (exactly what does that mean?) of three varietals including 60% Viognier. Can’t think of many decent Italian whites that are made from Viognier… in fact I can’t think of even one.

    As I mentioned to you, go to La Pinetta in Marina di Bibbona or closer to you Muraglia- Conchiglia d’Oro in Varigotti, to see what a great Italian fish meal is all about.

    Best,

    Sam

    • Michael Says:

      Sam,
      Of course you are right. I just take it as normal that in the US, including New York, an “Italian” restaurant will be a noticably different American version. The same will be true for “French” or “Japanese” or whatever, except, perhaps for some little restaurants in immigrant neighborhoods. We are just used to that and don’t even think of mentioning it in our blog, although perhaps we should for our readers outside the US. I don’t agree with you completely on the quality of ingredients, but, aside from authenticity, by absolute standards, one should not expect the same quality of cuisine in the US as in Italy, France, Japan etc. Alas.


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