Marea

240 Central Park South on 59th Street
212/582.5100
$256 for two people, with drinks, without tip
wheelchair patron may dine on street level
♥ ♥ ♥

I’m still thinking of those firm, yet pillowy, cicatelli. After Convivio and Mailiano, I think I’m convinced that when it comes to putting my money down for a great meal in New York City, handmade pasta has got to be a part of it.

The cocoon-shaped cicatelli sat on a very clean but rich seafood broth. Delicate mussels mimicked the pasta’s shape and provided the dish with the saltiness it needed. The summer squash pieces, also sliced so none of them were bigger than the pasta or the mussels, were tender. I’ve never been to Italy, but if this is the kind of dish locals eat along the coast, I might just pack up my shit and move there. If this is Chef Michael White’s creation alone, then I might just invite him to move in with me.

Decadence was the theme from the minute we sat down to eat. We started with Marea’s famous uni topped with a cellophane of melted lardo. If I have to pick a dish that would give me a happy heart attack, I think I found what would easily beat roasted pork belly. This is probably one of the reasons why Marea has just been named Best New Restaurant of 2010 by the James Beard Foundation.

We took it down a notch by breaking the richness with marinated sardines and then crudo tastings of snapper, geoduck, cuttlefish (sliced like tagliatelle), tuna, mackerel and fluke. The citrus and chili oil in all of them subtly cleaned our palates. They exhibited a different kind of decadence: controlled and unassuming.

A plate of morel mushrooms were next. Behold these mushrooms that cost an arm and a leg! I’ve never had them served to me whole, so I carefully sliced them to savor their earthy flavor in every bite.

To cap our meal, we also split the bouillabaisse. There was nothing that could have stopped me from sucking on that butterflied and seared langostine. There was also nothing that could have stopped me from slurping the seafood broth with that large soup spoon and then tilting the bowl to its side to scoop more. Even if Marea is about decadence of the sea, I think this bowl of simplicity says a lot about what seafood can become when sourced from the freshest and the best, and then handled by a pro.

We finished our martinis and old-fashioneds plus our glasses of white wine. I informed the waiter that the panna cotta with rhubarb compote sounded like the perfect ending to our inspiring meal but that there was just no room in our tummies for it. A small plate of petit fours were served while we contently sighed, and to our surprise, our waiter brought us the panna cotta anyway. Eh, there was an extra serving in the kitchen, he said with a smile. I forgot about not having that extra room: you don’t say no when you get something complementary from Michael White’s kitchen; you don’t say no when you get the chance to eat at Marea.

Related post/s:
Convivio is a sister restaurant