If you’ve been keeping track, I was recently in NYC for the thanksgiving holiday. Like most cities, NYC has a great restaurant scene that I must take advantage of whenever I head back to the east coast. This past trip I was privileged enough to go to a restaurant called Marea with my mom. I would consider this to be Italian, seafood driven, restaurant that an adventurous eater should at least go to once. It would be a waste to go to a restaurant like Marea when you only eat spaghetti and meatballs. Marea’s menu was large enough to have a variety to choose from but small enough to not get overwhelmed. The staff was great and much attuned to what was going on around in the restaurant, but it seemed like they had more staff than people eating there. I almost felt like I was watching people in a train station trying to make it to their next transfer. The venue itself was designed in a simplistic way with orchards, a dark wood paneled wall and strong but delicate lighting. Some places put all their effort into the way their space looks instead of concentrating more on the quality of their food and I didn’t find it to be so at Marea.
Me and my mom decided to do the price fixed menu in order to try an array of things that drew our attention, and of course we shared everything! The price fixed menu is a four course meal divided into the following categories: Crudo, Ostriche, or Antipasto / Pasta / Pesce or Carne / Dolce.
I have pictures of everything, so I figured I would take you on a culinary slide show with my commentary along the way :)
First our meal started with your choice of bread, and I chose the olive focaccia which was moist enough that oil was not needed and had just the right amount of green olive in it to make it stand out without being overwhelming.
Next was an Amuse Bouche, which was a sliver of butternut squash, toasted BS seed and pine nut in a vinegary wine broth. Honestly I could have lived without this.
For the Crudo, Ostriche or Antipasti portion:
(a) VONGOLE geoduck clam, fresh chilies, lemon, hearts of palm
It was presented beautifully and the fish tasted very fresh and went well with the lemon, the texture was perfect. I thought it was a great dish to start because it got your senses going without pushing them too far to be spoiled.
(b) UOVO (pronounced woah-vo) slow poached egg, chicken oysters, wild mushrooms, polenta, parmigiano
This was SOOOO good. This might be one of the most eclectic dish I’ve ever had. It was so beautifully arranged in the bowl I was afraid to ruin it by cracking the egg. Once I got over that and cracked the egg and took my first bight, my taste buds were practically smiling.
The craziest part of the dish was the chicken oysters. It was the first time I have ever had one of those and I found out why. Apparently my mother loved them so much that she would always eat them before the chicken would even get to the table! Honestly I don’t blame her. They are so rich in flavor and this one in particular was fried crisp on one side so it contrasted nicely with the softness of the chicken. This whole dish made my eyes bulge out of my head, it was sweet, rich, and perfect for winter!
For the Pasta portion:
(a) ORECCHIETTE spot prawns, chilies, rosemary
Obviously another yummy dish, the picture alone can tell you it was tasty. The sauce was sweet, maybe from the tomatoes being so fresh I’m not sure. What I loved most about the dish was a kick it had without being too spicy to not taste all the garlic and tomatoes involved. The sweet and spicy kept my palette entertained through every bite. The prawns were cooked to perfection. I often find that most places over cook fish and make them tougher than they should be but these were moist with the perfect balance of crunch.
(b) FUSILLI red wine braised octopus, bone marrow
Interesting! Most people I know steer clear of bone marrow and octopus… clearly my mother is not one of those. Growing up she would always love the bone marrow from the bones when we made cholent and nothing has changed.
This dish was surprising in that the octopus was second to the bone marrow. I barely tasted the octopus and could have had this dish without it and been equally as happy. The sauce was rich in flavor and in color and was topped with some type of breadcrumbs. The breadcrumbs added a nice texture to the pasta; it made something that is naturally soft have a little spunk. It’s a must order!
All the pastas we had were cooked to perfection and were paired nicely with each sauce to make sure they absorbed everything nicely.
For the Pesce or Carne portion ( we both got fish)
This portion we decided to have our waitress decide what we would get. I love doing this because most of the time waiter and waitresses never get asked to just “surprise us”. They are happy because they get to give you what they think is the best and you get to be surprised.
(a) SAN PIETRO seared new zealand john dory, roasted sunchoke, pickled chiodini, apple, housemade sanguinaccio
The fish I felt was not the strong suit of all our meals but still very tasty. I liked how the fish was seared on one side, something that the chef clearly enjoys doing. The fish wasn’t too dry and the accompaniments made a good companion. For the lightness of the fish it was nice having something a little heartier to be paired alongside, like the mushrooms.
(b) CAPESANTE roasted sea scallops, chestnut ragu, porcini, braised celery
Yes, the scallops were cooked to perfection and I have to say I was really full by this point so it was somewhat difficult to enjoy it. The chestnuts were an interesting flavor to be thrown in the mix with scallops; they were soft which went nicely with the scallops while adding an earthy balance to the ocean of it all.
Something I didn’t enjoy was the celery root. When is this fad over? Everywhere I go things are served with celery this or celery that. I think it’s time for chefs to put this to rest; it doesn’t make a chef stand out. It’s not “in” anymore because now everyone serves it. Like most trends it’s gotten overplayed and personally I’m bored with it.
For the Dolce portion:
(a) GIANDUJA cocoa nib crema, hazelnut chocolate, fior di latte gelato
Look how amazing the desert is prepared. I love getting dessert when a pastry chef handles them and they aren’t just reheated in a microwave. You can taste the richness of the chocolate layered on top of more chocolate mousse.
I think my favorite thing about this dessert was what laid underneath the gelato. It was a hyped up better version of the crunchies in carvels cakes. I love adding crunch to something smooth and this did just that. It gave the gelato a stronger taste when eaten together that I wanted to go back in for more.
(b) AFFOGATO zabaglione gelato, espresso and amaro
So this was a cross between dessert and coffee as you can see. It comes over with just the ice cream in the mug and then they pour the hot espresso and amaro over the ice cream creating a conflicting temperate coffee milkshake. It was strong and sweet from the gelato and its eaten with a spoon but I could have had a straw with it as well. Such an interesting take on what I consider a coffee milkshake.
Overall Marea is a delicious adventure that I was so happy to be a part of, so thanks mom for bringing me along for the ride!
Marea : $$$$