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Barcelona & San Sebastian

Here’s a run down and guide for all the food I had in Barcelona and San Sebastian. If you followed a link here for a specific restaurant, just scroll down until you see the restaurant name in bold – I did a bulk review here for all of them. In summary, here are my top dishes of the trip:

  • Mountain and Sea Fideua; Xiringuito Escriba (BCN)
  • Grilled Prawns; Xiringuito Escriba (BCN)
  • Roasted Piquillo Peppers; Lomo Alto (BCN)
  • Mussels in Tiger Sauce; La Mejillonera (SS)
  • Ham, Cheese, Sardine & Candied Pistachio Pintxos; Txalupa (SS)
  • Ham & Mushroom Sailboat Pintxos; Karrika Taberna (SS)
  • Cheesecake; La Vina (SS)
  • Potato Tortilla; Bar Nestor (SS)
  • Cream Puff; Izar Pasteleria (SS)
  • Iberico Pork Shoulder; Kokotxa (SS)
  • Suckling Lamb; El Asador de Aranda (BCN)
  • Suckling Pig Tacos; Hoja Santa (BCN)
  • Vanilla Custard Filled Churro; Random Churro Truck (BCN)

You might notice that the reviews go from BCN to SS and then back to BCN. Very astute of you. That’s because I wrote these in semi-timeline order. We travelled to BCN first, then spent a few days in SS before returning to BCN to finish the trip. In any case, read on and salivate.

TAPAS SIN FRONTERAS (BCN)

We ate here, which was across the street from our AirBnB, to kill some time before check-in on day one of the trip. We got some paella, salumi, and anchovies. Everything here was just mediocre. Not the best way to start the trip, but at least there was some jamon iberico involved.

XIRINGUITO ESCRIBA (BCN)

This beachside paella joint was slammed! There’s a great open-air dining room that overlooks the beach along the Mediterranean Sea, and, as you might imagine, the seafood here is amazing.

The “mountain and sea” paella was visually the star of the show here. Check it out:

 

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But the version that’s made with pasta (fideua) tasted better and had better texture.

We also had some ceviche, guacamole, “pan con tomate,” Galician style octopus and grilled head-on prawns to start.

The prawns were amazing, and one of my top dishes of the entire trip.

The ceviche was just okay, but the guac, the tomato bread and the octopus were all excellent. In fact, that octopus was a close contender for another top dish of the trip. This place was just incredible over all.

Another standout starter was the jamon “air bag.” The crispy cracker-bread pillow gets broken and you eat the ham with it. Awesome.

 

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The highlight of dessert was the pistachio cake with orange sorbet. So delicious!

The other selections weren’t too shabby either, one being a multi-layered combo of dolce de leche and tiramisu, and the other a classic puff pastry and cream combo.

In sum, Xiringuito Escriba is a “must go” spot if you’re looking to eat at the beach in Barcelona.

LOMO ALTO (BCN)

I came across this spot in my research for all things meaty in Barcelona.

This place is all about the beef! Dry-aged, “vaca vieja” (old cow) to be specific. The old cows, some as old as eight years at slaughter, are dry aged for months here, on site. Typically this type of meat is turned into burgers in the US, but here in Spain it is a sought after delicacy.

They offer 12 different breeds of beef to choose from.

Pro tip: say no to the bread. They will automatically bring out bread portions for each person at the table and then charge you upwards of four euro per head at the end. We got them to remove the charge since it was pretty much all stale and we barely touched it. The olives, however, were awesome.

We started with some very meaty items. Tartare, carpaccio and beef tongue. This was a great way to get to know the flavor of dry-aged dairy and old ox meat, which is what these were prepared from. Bold, savory, unique. I really liked all of these, and they came with a pair of nice spiralized potato chip things.

The croquettes were nice as well.

The steak we had was a rib chop from an 8yr old dairy cow that was dry aged for 90 days:

 

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Here’s a quick video of the presentation and slicing:

 

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Some scraps left after eating:

This had some of the most interesting and unique flavor from the dry aging. It tasted like blue cheese. The texture was a little bit aggressive – not tough, but more chewing involved. Some folks love that. Over all I’d say this was an 8/10.

The steak came with roasted piquillo peppers, fries and a salad. The best part of this entire meal was the dish of peppers! They were amazing, and oddly enough a top dish of the trip.

This place is heaven for folks who love dry aged beef, and who also love Spanish beef. A definite must try if that fits your bill. I personally like US beef better, but “when in Rome” … (or, in this case, “when in Barcelona”).

VARIOUS PINTXOS & BARS (SS)

La Mejillonera

This San Sebastian pintxos joint specialized in mussels and served them something like five or six different ways.

The door handle is even a mussel.

We arrived just as they opened, and as a general matter I found that this is the best way to eat pintxos: Get there early, before the crowds and while the pintxos are freshly made and not collecting bacteria as they sit out on the counter, sans sneeze guards and subject to all kinds of touching.

We tried two mussel dishes: Spicy “tiger” sauce, and wine/herb sauce. Both were incredible, but the spicy tiger sauce (orange/red) was a bit better. Great for bread dipping.

We also had fried calamari two ways: one with shishito peppers and one with a bravas style spicy, creamy sauce. Both excellent.

This unique place was the first and one of our best stops in San Sebastian. It’s definitely worth a stop on your pintxos crawl.

La Vina

At this place, you need to focus your attention on the cheesecake.

It’s fantastic. Rich, creamy, and delicious.

One order gets you two slivers, so if you’re planning to hit a bunch of places for tapas/pintxos, you can just get a single order to share among two or three people.

Bar Martinez

This is one spot that every guidebook will tell you is great.

We enjoyed it, but it was mostly more of the same type stuff that you see at other places. In my opinion, it can be skipped.

Txalupa

This joint had one of my favorite bites of the trip: A ham, cheese, sardine and candied pistachio crumble pintxos bite. It blew me away.

Izar Pasteleria

When you need a sweet fix, hit this little shop and get the cream puff. I picked the one that looked like a hot dog shaped bun. It was one of the best bites of the trip.

These pine nut clusters were great as well.

Loco Polo

If you need a cold sweet fix, this is your place. They have various flavors of ice cream pops, and you can have them dip the pops into various flavors of chocolate and then sprinkled with various toppings. I went with an oreo ice cream pop, dipped in dark chocolate and then hit with crushed waffle cone bits. Awesome.

Karrika Taberna

We hit this spot on a whim before lunch on our last day in San Sebastian and tried a handful of pintxos that looked unique and different from the standard pieces we kept seeing all over the place. Turned out to be a great decision, as that sailboat looking thing (ham and stuffed mushroom) turned out to be one of my favorite pintxos of the trip. Also a great place to have a spritz.

Kutixik

This little spot is essentially a deli/meat shop with some dry goods products for sale as well, but they have a window on the street side where they sell meat cones and sandwiches.

Of course I picked up a cone of ham to walk around with and snack on. The aged flavor was immense on this ham! So good.

 

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Urgulleko Polborina

My new favorite bar in the world sits on top of Monte Urgull in San Sebastian and overlooks Santa Clara Island and Bahia La Concha. The walk there is half the fun, and the bar itself is in an isolated nook of the castle/battlements of Castillo Monte Urgul. Take a look:

 

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Bare Bare

Talk about AVERAGE! Everything here was just meh, but this place is always on pintxos lists for tourists. Pass.

MARINELA (SS)

We ate dinner at this seafood joint along the docks.

This was a mediocre meal, but there were a few highlights that were good. This side of asparagus was not fresh. It was canned or pickled.

The grilled octopus was one of the highlights here. It was cooked nicely and had some spicy flavored potatoes with it.

The grilled squid skewers were okay. Nothing special, but not bad by any means.

These prawns were good as well, but not nearly on the same level as Xiringuito Escriba.

The bay scallops were pretty, but a little overcooked.

I enjoyed the baked langoustines though.

BAR NESTOR (SS)

This place is iconic in San Sebastian for all of the main items they serve. Get there at 11:45am and wait to reserve your slice of potato tortilla at 12pm, when Nestor opens the window and starts taking names (they only have 12 slices a day).

It’s one of the best things I ate on the trip. Crispy, gooey, delicious.

Come back at 1pm when they open and sit for a meal. You can reserve a table or spot at the bar when you give Nestor your name for the tortilla. Once seated, they’ll bring out a pair of steaks for you to choose from.

Say yes to the tomatoes; they’re fucking amazing.

Say yes to the peppers; they’re great, too.

The steak itself is 8/10. There’s not as much dry-aged flavor as Lomo Alto in BCN, despite the restaurant and street smelling intensely “dry-agey” and beefy-delicious. That aroma – that Spanish “vaca vieja” – is unique and intoxicating. It doesn’t always translate to flavor, but this cut was more tender and had a better crust than Lomo Alto, so it evened out.

Two slices of potato tortilla, tomatoes, peppers, steak, and two glasses of wine: €63.80.

What an experience! Here’s a short video of the process.

 

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KOKOTXA (SS)

We did the market tasting menu at this Michelin-starred restaurant. It started off with some fancy breadsticks.

Then a trio of snacks – seaweed cake, creamy fish puff and a relatively flavorless bite of something that I can’t seem to remember at the moment (the orange thing).

This white tuna ceviche was fresh and delicious.

I really enjoyed this grilled calamari dish as well.

Kokotxa means cheek in basque, and this hake cheek was a delicious bite for the restaurant namesake.

The crispy skin hake filet was great as well – probably one of the best bites of the meal.

But the star of the meal for me was the iberico pork shoulder, and it was mainly why we chose the market tasting menu instead of the chef’s tasting menu (it wasn’t on that menu). One of the best dishes of the entire trip right here. I wanted three more plates.

The two desserts were both good, and both featured interestingly flavored and balanced sorbets.

Petit fours for the finish:

I definitely recommend Kokotxa if you are in San Sebastian and looking to change up the diet from pintxos. It’s one of the cheaper Michelin-starred places in the area too.

TXULETA (SS)

Our final meal in San Sebastian was this chop house. We started with foie gras, lomo (cured pork loin) and roasted piquillo peppers. The foie and peppers were mediocre but the lomo was outstanding.

Another “txuleta” (chop/steak in basque, and the restaurant’s namesake) was consumed here as well. This one had less aged flavor than both Bar Nestor and Lomo Alto, but it was nice and tender. In fact, it was more tender than both of the others, so we evened out again at an 8/10.

Having loved the hake cheeks from Kokotxa the night prior, we went in on two styles of them here as well. Bad move. Should have gotten more meat. The fried ones weren’t as battered or seasoned as I expected, and they were also a little soggy (not crisp). The sauced ones were even worse – they were slimy and seemed almost undercooked.

DINNER AT HOME (BCN)

One of my favorite things about travel in Europe is just hitting the local supermarket (Mercadona) and snacking at home for a meal. High quality stuff for very cheap!

 

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EL ASADOR DE ARANDA (BCN)

This place specializes in suckling lamb, as well as beef chops. We went big on a feast here so let me get into it right away.

Excellent marinated olives and gherkins came to the table.

This beef bresaola with arugula, tomato juice and truffle was awesome.

The roasted piquillo peppers were just okay – not on the Lomo Alto level.

Awesome cheese platter – hard to choose a favorite among four great selections.

This crispy blood sausage was incredible. Awesome texture and crunch, really nicely cooked, and not greasy like many tend to be.

This fried egg dish was fun as well, though I didn’t eat much of it. I was saving room for all the meat.

Hot stone beef!

This cut comes out sliced thin and ready for searing. If I had to guess, this was some part of the chuck.

The meat sizzles away and creates an awesome aroma at your table.

A nice crust develops. 8/10.

Check out the video:

 

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We also got an extra strip steak just for fun… Another 8/10.

…And some lamb ribs as well. These were incredible! I would have called this the best dish of the night if it weren’t for the next one…

The real star here was the 1/4 suckling lamb; a leg:

This crispy skin, fork tender beauty is fall-off-the-bone soft. Simply put, it’s the best lamb I’ve ever had. This dish is reason enough to book your trip to Spain. Skip the vaca vieja and get this!

For dessert, us adults decided to eat some of what was meant to be for the kids. Ice cream in the shape of a dick, and some chocolate cake with whipped cream and ice cream.

This bottle of sweet licorice flavored amaro type liquor came out with the bill. Very nice digestif.

What a meal! This place is a must on your trip to Spain.

HOJA SANTA (BCN)

Hoja Santa customized a tasting menu for us based on a handful of things we were interested in and pointed out to the waiter on their a la carte menu. This Michelin-starred restaurant ended up being the best all-around meal of the trip.

Here’s what we had:

Trio of snacks: gastronomic/spherized olives and peaches, along with a Caesar salad tostada with chicken skin.

Trio of solid cocktails: michelada, mezcal and margarita foam ball. So cool.

Corn tamales.

Ceviche with catch of the day white tuna and octopus.

Trio of tacos: conchinita pibil taco puff, beef brisket taco with jalapeño tortilla, and bone marrow with sesame tortilla. All awesome, but the brisket with jalapeño tortilla was incredible. One of the best bites of the meal.

Foie gras mole with thin crispy bread and some sort of quinoa meatball things.

Arabic lamb tacos with tomatillo, avocado and sour cream sauce, radish, limes and crispy flour tortillas. These were incredible, and almost shaped up to be the best bite of the meal if it wasn’t for the final savory dish.

Check out how tender this meat was!

One of my lamb rib tacos:

The final savory bite, and best part of the meal – possibly even the best dish of the trip – were these suckling pig rib tacos with cilantro cream, herbaceous pig drippings sauce, pickled cabbage, lime and fresh corn tortillas with pig stamps on them.

Here’s a video of the process.

 

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THAT CRISPY SKIN! You can actually hear it…

Dessert was a frozen orange foam with amaranth, custard and some kind of tahini-like sesame butter.

And finally, and most impressively, corn ice cream with goat cheese, caramel and chocolate truffles. One of the better sweet bites of the trip.

I highly recommend Hoja Santa – you should definitely hit this spot on your trip to BCN.

RANDOM CHURRO VENDOR

These stuffed churros from a churro cart by the famous Gaudi park “Park Guell” (near the Alfonso X metro stop) were awesome. One vanilla custard (best), one dolce de leche (second best) and one chocolate.

Holy fuck I think that about does it! What a ridiculous amount of great food. I hope you take some of my recs if you ever make it over to BCN or SS. Salud!

Le Bernardin

I took my wife to Le Berdardin for her birthday this year.

First, let me say that they make some great cocktails here. We tried four altogether. They averaged around $20 each.

The bread service here is spectacular. Almost as good as my favorite spot for pre-dinner bread, Marea.

The amuse of raw seafood preparations was probably my favorite part of the meal, and it wasn’t even one of the seven tasting menu courses.

And this kampachi crudo with dried olives was amazing. So flavorful yet so simple.

The crab cake of peekytoe and dungeoness with lobster shell broth was really nice. This place knows what they’re doing around seafood.

The halibut with dashi and radish was nice…

But the Faroe Islands salmon with mushroom and black truffle sauce stole the show in terms of fish filet dishes here.

Our next entree was a surf and turf of wahu (Hawaiian white tuna) and wagyu. The portion was very small, but I didn’t mind so much at course five.

We had a ton of desserts here. First was the coconut sorbet with coconut meringue.

Then a chocolate gelato and chocolate cake thing with gold leaf and meringue sticks.

Then a complimentary chocolate mousse cake thing for my wife’s birthday, of course with more gold leaf.

And then petit fours.

Honestly, I would have preferred more amuse crudos from the start of the meal over this sweet shit. But everything was nice nonetheless.

The bill was big, but luckily I had a $150 gift certificate to use from a very generous friend of mine.

I probably wouldn’t go back, but I would definitely recommend this place for someone who is looking for an impressive night out with their spouse.

LE BERNARDIN
155 W 51st St
New York, NY 10019

Tim Ho Wan

Michelin star winning dim sum joint Tim Ho Wan opened up a second NYC location in Hell’s Kitchen last week, and my wife and I gave it a shot for her sister’s birthday. I found the experience to be pretty standard, to be honest. They’re known for their pork buns, which are very good by all objective measures, but not really my thing. Too sweet. Here’s a photo dump of all the stuff we had. My favorites were the fried milk sticks (dessert) and the rice roll wraps.

TIM HO WAN
610 9th Ave
New York, NY 10036

Indian Accent

I finally had the opportunity to eat at Indian Accent when a gang of us food maniacs came in for a quadruple date.

This place has been on my radar for a while, and I had heard it was one of the city’s best Indian restaurants.

We all opted to all get the four course meal rather than do the full chef’s tasting menu. But, first off, the cocktails here are fantastic. There’s spice, interesting flavor combinations, and a lot of really inventive riffs on old classics.

The meal starts with some amuse type offerings.

Above is a garam masala spiced pumpkin soup along with some blue cheese bread puffs (and a pair of our drinks). Below is the revealing of a nice fried beet root bite.

My first course: a collection of crab claws cooked in butter-pepper-garlic sauce with cauliflower. These were so rich and flavorful. Very bold, assertive flavors that I really loved.

My wife’s first course: the mathri trio, consisting of smoked eggplant bharta, duck khurchan and chicken khurchan. The duck one was definitely our favorite of the three, with chicken close behind.

My second course: sweet pickle ribs with sun-dried mango and onion seeds. Amazing flavor on these babies, and super tender. I’ve had Indian flavored “BBQ” before but this was much better. It had sweetness, spice, acidity… just really nicely balanced.

My wife’s second course: pathar beef kebab with bone marrow nihari. This was really interesting and had a pouring element to the dish presentation. I think, however, the ribs were way better.

My third course: ghee roast lamb with roomali roti pancakes. This was essentially like the Indian version of peking duck, in which the diner assembles his “tacos” and eats.

Here’s the set up:

That’s the roasted lamb meat on the left, cucumbers and sauces in the center, and pancakes on the right. In the upper center is an accompaniment that I chose for this course, which was essentially a stuffed naan type bread called kulcha. Mine was stuffed with pastrami and mustard grain (there were many other choices).

Here’s a closer look at the succulent roasted lamb meat:

And one of the little fuckers all assembled and ready to eat:

This shit was amazing, and I definitely feel like I picked the winning dish of the night (although a few others also ordered this).

My wife’s third course: braised lamb in a prune korma sauce with rajasthani pearl millet khichdi.

Not sure if you can see it but the cilantro leaf baked into the wafer cracker thing was pretty impressive and beautiful. The lamb was cooked for something like six hours and became incredibly tender and remained juicy. Great dish.

My dessert: doda barfi treacle tart with vanilla bean ice cream.

This was perfect. The tart on the bottom was similar to a toffee cake, or a cross between a cake and a crumble. Awesome.

My wife’s dessert: cheeni ki roti with marshmallows and old monk ice cream (rum raisin).

Beautiful plating, again, and really unique flavors. This was essentially like a disassembled pastry tart meets s’mores.

I also tasted a bite of the meethe chawal, which is sweet rice with almond milk and barberries. I said could have easily been a breakfast item as well as dessert. It was similar to oatmeal in taste and texture, only dry rather than like porridge.

Then some after dinner snacks came to the table:

And the chef gave us a brief tour of the kitchen:

And he finished us off with a scoop of mango sorbet right there in the kitchen. Very nice.

INDIAN ACCENT
123 W 56th St
New York, NY 10019

Andanada

NOTE: THIS PLACE IS NOW CLOSED

Tabelog hosted another press dinner with a collection of about 30 NYC food bloggers, influential instagrammers and publication writers. This time the event kicked off at Andanada, a Spanish tapas joint on the upper west side.

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Michelin rated chef Manuel Berganza popped off a string of really tasty bites in this multi-course tapas tasting in a rustic yet upscale setting that elevates tavern food to the fine-dining  level.

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Since there’s a lot to talk about, I’m just going to get right down to business and tell you what we ate. Read on:

First was this shot of warm butternut squash cream. It was velvety smooth, but I think it could have used just a small hit of salt.

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This cleverly displayed flower pot of purple endive was a nice fresh snack. Endive is traditionally served before or after meals to aid in digestion. It was served with a blue cheese spread.

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Next was this little manchego cheese stuffed “puff” airbag of flatbread that included a little hit of quince fruit jam as well. Beautiful presentation and a delicious bite!

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Table bread consists of a very nice foccacia style bread (but without the annoying herbs and oily toppings). This was addicting!

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This next item was one of my favorites of the night. It was a soft boiled quail egg served on a fried potato nest with chicken liver pate. SO DELICIOUS! The crunch of the potato nest, the ooze of the egg yolk and the richness of the pate made for a really dynamic bite.

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These little guys are creamy mushroom duxelle croquettes with a marinated mushroom cap on top. They burst with flavor!

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These are potatoes. My guess is something like fingerling, since the shape is small and round. They’re fried to a crisp and then served with three sauces: a garlic aioli, a spicy sauce and a sweet sauce. I preferred the aioli (also went nicely on the bread), but I think the potatoes could have benefited from a hit of salt right after they came out of the fryer.

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Next was fried (but not heavily breaded) calamari with eggplant mousse. The calamari was incredibly tender and perfectly cooked. The eggplant I could skip, because I am generally not a fan of eggplant, but I did like the texture of the mousse much better than the flesh of the actual vegetable itself.

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My other favorite dish was this octopus terrine, which was served over whipped potato foam and broccoli rabe puree. SO TENDER. This went fast and seemed to be a favorite with everyone else as well. I considered asking for a second plate.

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These fried artichokes don’t look glamorous, but they taste great. They were crispy outside, soft inside and nicely accented with shaved manchego cheese and a cream sauce.

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Another great item was the salmon tartare potato salad. In addition to the raw diced salmon on top, there was peas, salmon roe, hard boiled egg and (obviously) potato within. Very interesting take on traditional salmon tartare.

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A Spanish classic is “albondigas,” or meatballs. These were accompanied by pickled celery, carrot puree and trinxat: a mashed potato item typically married with cabbage and pork.

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Another big crowd pleaser, and staple Spanish classic, is paella. This seafood paella was our final savory course. It had a great crispy texture to the rice, from sticking to the bottom of the pan while cooking. It came with clams, mussels, scallops, shrimp and fish. Very nicely executed.

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The first dessert I tasted was this caramelized egg yolk flan with citrus gel, green apples and dried meringue. The texture was super smooth and creamy. If you’re a fan of custards, you’ll love this.

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The other dessert was my favorite of the two: almond cake with raspberries and olive oil gelato. This was perfect for me. It wasn’t too sweet to the point of being overpowering, and the cake was moist without being too dense. The gelato was a great accent to a great cake. I highly recommend this if you’re undecided on dessert.

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To sum up, I haven’t been to that many tapas places. Maybe half a dozen over the course of my adulthood? Maybe ten? While I am no expert, I think this comes in on the upper end of the few that I’ve tried to date. This joint is located near my apartment as well, so I’m sure I’ll be back again soon.

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