Marea

After seven months of living on top of this restaurant and pining for a bite of the cuisine within, my wife and I finally got a chance to check it out.

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I had heard insane things about this joint: “Best restaurant in the city;” “Best Italian food in the country,” and so on. The place has been awarded two Michelin stars, and with a four-course price fix menu at $99/pp, it was a no-brainer that we’d hit this place up.

First off, excellent fucking martini – one of the best in town actually, garnished with three perfectly soft Castelvetrano olives.

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And amazing table breads like fresh olive or black pepper focaccia:

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First was an amuse of smoked fish on a sesame cracker. This was a nice bite:

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My wife started with six oysters, one of each available variety; two from Massachusetts, two from Washington, one from Rhode Island, and one from Virginia. She preferred the two from Massachusetts. They were served with a balsamic mignonette that cut the fishy flavor of the west coast jammies, and the other sauce was a bright citrus motherfucker that I liked a lot.

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I had the grilled octopus with smoked potatoes. This was really nice and soft, with a great char flavor, though I HAVE had better grilled octopus around town.

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For the pasta dishes, we tried the red wine braised octopus fusilli with bone marrow. This was a little heavy, but full of flavor. The octopus wasn’t up to snuff in this dish, which was depressing, but the pasta itself was perfect.

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The winner of the pasta dishes was this gramigna (small, extra long, curly, elbow style pasta) with wild boar sausage and savoy cabbage. It was lighter than you might expect, perfectly dressed, perfectly seasoned, and absolutely fucking delicious – especially with the addition of some bread crumb crunchy shits on top. I could eat vats of this, and THIS ALONE is why I can get behind their two star Michelin rating. Amazing plate of pasta.

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For the entrees we had duck breast and steak. Let’s start with them duck titties.

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The duck was served with a crispy polenta, which was nice but lacked a little flavor. The greens were overly tart, as if overdone to cook the bitterness out of the broccoli rabe (which was a little overcooked anyhow). The duck itself was nicely cooked, but after digging into my steak for a bit I really couldn’t take the iron-rich, blood-riddled, gamey flavor of the duck for too long. It was good and everything, nice crispy skin, etc. I just couldn’t go there, because I was busy with this:

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It was cooked nicely to medium rare.

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This is a sirloin, 50-day dry-aged, served with braised romaine lettuce and a fucking wonderfully fatty bone marrow panzanella bread. I sometimes dislike the grain and texture of this cut, but I really didn’t have any other choice for beef. I’ve had better strip or sirloin preparations elsewhere, and I suspect this cut was not from the “NY-Strip” side of a proper porterhouse. Perhaps it was from the T-bone area, which is less desirable (hence the 50-day dry-aging, to give it a boost). In any case, I ate all of it, so there’s that.

Dessert was nice, but there was some unexpected tartness in my wife’s panna cotta (from the green apple, not the roasted pineapple sorbet). Despite the tartness, this was still the better of the two desserts that we sampled, in my opinion.

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I had the lemon tort, with which I totally expected the tartness. It had a cheesecake texture, and I loved how the ginger, citrus, and cinnamon gelato cut the lemon flavor.

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When the bill came, there was a small amuse of candies to try. A passion fruit marshmallow, a tart white chocolate sort of thingy (which I didn’t like), and a white grape granulated sugar gelatin (also very tart). Actually, I wasn’t really a fan of any of these, now that I think about it.

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In sum, we will definitely be coming back to try some more stuff, particularly the fish items, which, maybe, we should have gone with on this first visit. We’ll definitely sample more pasta dishes as well. Some of those things must really shine, and I suppose that’s why they received two Michelin stars. Otherwise I’m sort of baffled.

UPDATE: 6/25/16

My wife and I cashed in some OpenTable rewards points to the tune of $70, which we used toward dinner here. This time we stuck strictly to pasta and fish, with the exception of dessert.

First, we had this lovely crab meat paccheri pasta, which was the big winner for the night. The sauce was a rich butter and tomato concoction that I went wild for.

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This tagliolini with clams and calamari was nicely executed as well, with a texture and shape that was similar to ramen. Other than that it was a classic riff on a white clam sauce dish. Very nice.

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For the fish courses, we had halibut and monk fish, both roasted. The halibut was served on a bet of sautéed spinach and topped with shaved water chestnuts and an olive. The fish itself was just slightly overcooked, but I didn’t mind because the spinach and water chestnuts added that moisture back in.

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The monk fish was similar in texture to catfish. Nice and hearty, with a snap that almost resembles lobster meat. This was served with beans, trumpet mushrooms and hazelnuts. While I liked this a lot, my wife wasn’t a huge fan of the flavors. We both liked the halibut better in any case.

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For dessert we had blueberry doughnuts, or bombolini. These were absolutely delicious. They were stuffed with blueberry filling, and dusted with blueberry sugar. They came with lemon curd and honey for dipping. Only downside is that this order, which came with five “munchkin” or “doughnut hole” sized doughnuts, was a pricey $14.

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MAREA
240 Central Park S.
New York, NY 10019

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