Carefully sourced, meticulously prepared fish and seafood take center stage at this well-pedigreed restaurant. Large picture windows in the dining room offer expansive views of Central Park South, and silver-dipped shells on pedestals decorate the dining room. No expense is spared in importing the very best of the ocean's bounty, beginning with raw crudo dishes—think scallops with orange, wild fennel, and arugula—that is becoming the restaurant's signature.
You'd be remiss, though, if you skipped the pastas that made chef Michael White famous. They're served here in lusty iterations like rich fusilli with octopus and bone marrow and spaghetti with sea urchin. Whole fish like roasted turbot and salt-baked snapper are equally showstopping. Service is flawless.
Oct 31, 2011
My spouse and I had first heard of Marea from a friend of ours who lives in the city (it’s the favorite Manhattan restaurant of our friend). Then we started to read about the restaurant in various magazines and online forums, and when we saw it highlighted on an episode of Top Chef and learned about the amazing ricci appetizer, we really wanted to go. We made a reservation for a prime time, 8:00 on a Saturday evening in early October 2011, using
Open Table. The restaurant atmosphere is very comfortable, with the main dining room sunken a few steps from the street level. Restrooms are on the basement level, and I didn’t see any provisions made for someone who is handicapped, although I’m sure there was some other alternative available. Jackets are ties are not mandatory for men, however, many men were wearing one or the other. There is a large bar area should you arrive early and want to have a drink while you wait for your table. The tables are fairly close together in the dining room, yet we didn’t feel uncomfortable or as if we had to whisper for fear of being overhead by the nearest tables. Service was efficient but not overbearing. We didn’t care for the bread service – we prefer using butter on our bread to dipping it in or spreading it with olive oil (however fine that olive oil may be), but the food was excellent otherwise. The amuse-bouche was a “shooter” glass of tasty pea soup. We each chose the 4-course prix fixe option, which I believe was priced in the $90 range. We shared the signature appetizer dish, ricci (which is a crostini topped with sea urchin uni topped with somewhat liquified lardo), which is served for the table, not per person. It was priced at $15 for the table; I’m not sure what happens when you have four or six companions; I would think the price would be incremental but nothing was stated as such. I had a crudo tasting as my appetizer (even though there was a supplemental charge of $6), allowing the chef to choose the three dishes (but you could have chosen on your own, too). Allowing the chef to choose for me was the wisest choice that I made all evening - the quality of the fish was superb, and the garnish/accompaniments were perfect! Left to my own devices for the pasta course and the entrée, I probably could have chosen more adventurously. The Marea menu is so extensive, that it quickly became evident that I should have done a bit of research prior to my visit. I’m not a frequent eater of fish (I didn’t even realize that I liked fish until I dined at Le Bernardin a few years ago!), so some of the menu items and ingredients were unfamiliar to me. I chose a risotto dish with mushrooms and Romano cheese, followed by the capesante (scallop) entree. I found the cheese to be overpowering in the risotto, and although the entree was tasty, I though some components (figs and eggplant with olives, I believe) were overwhelming and I wasn’t completely sure how the ingredients worked together. I’m not a food expert, but I do cook, read cookbooks and food magazines, watch a lot of food-related TV shows, and of course, I like fine dining – my favorite restaurants are Per Se, Momofuku Ko, The French Laundry, Alinea, so I like to think I know a little about food, but like I said, I didn’t see how the components in the scallop dish related. My spouse’s choices were much more adventurous. and thus, much more successful - I preferred his pasta course (fusilli with octopus and bone marrow) and entree course (halibut) to mine (he also had the oyster tasting, which I didn’t sample). Dessert for my spouse was the cheese tasting (which was great) and for me, the panna cotta at the recommendation of the waiter, which was superb. It is clear to me that when I relied on the chef and the waiter to choose dishes for me, the results were excellent and different than when I made some “safe” choices on my own. The bill was delivered with some tasty mignardises, which was a nice, sweet way to end the meal. Overall, we had a great meal at Marea: the food was tasty, the total bill didn’t break the bank (unlike some of those other restaurants that I mentioned), and it the restaurant is somewhere that diners can return to more often than those other restaurants because of the extensive menu and numerous choices. A delicious meal in comfortable surroundings!