Despite the fact that I’m so painfully full, I can’t resist professing how completely blown away I am by my meal at Marea tonight. It has been almost a year to the day since my inaugural visit with my friends Sophia and Sara, but Chef Michael White’s inventiveness, sheer skill, and ability to successfully yet respectfully break the boundaries of italian cuisine has only gotten better. And the space, service, and sophisticated clientele couldn’t be better matched with the caliber of food – don’t expect to kick back and relax at this place. From scoring a 6pm reservation, to being seated at the table, to ordering, to figuring out every possible fleck of $100 per ounce ingredient on your plate, the experience at Marea is serious business.
With such a long list of descriptive menu options, the four-course pre-fixe menu is the best way to go at a $40 per entree restaurant like Marea. For $90, you have a choice of antipasti, pasta, pesce or carne, and dessert, which not only makes the most economical sense, but also helps to narrow things down for the indecisive like me. I for once went with my instinct and picked the first things that caught my eye: tuna crudo (supplemental), white asparagus soup with smoked trout and chervil, tagliatelle with nova scotia lobster and coral (who know coral was edible?), and hudson valley baby chicken with a number of things that took a backseat to the copious shavings of fresh black truffle.
Every single bite was noteworthy, but the most ridiculous and shockingly delicious dish was the one that completely distracted me from all conversation: the luxurious, velvety, decadent lobster tagliatelle. With long, silky, golden noodles coated in a shiny and subtly-buttery seafood-saffron sauce, these flakey chunks of fresh lobster could not have been more beautifully paired. With dishes such as the famous lobster and burrata antipasti and the bone marrow octopus fusili, Chef Michael White balances very carefully, yet close to perfectly, on the very fine line between luscious and over-the-top rich.
While I’m not one prone to ordering chicken, the description of the crispy chicken served with my favorite thing in the world (truffles) was not an option to miss. And I made no mistake, either; the meat was tender, perfectly seasoned, and uniquely paired with soshito peppers and cippolini onions.
For dessert, we ordered a selection of ice creams and sorbets for the table, which were generously portioned for such a high end restaurant but nothing noteworthy. The chocolate crostata however was beautifully presented and the perfect option for a die hard chocolate and coffee combo fan.
And, as if we had room for more, we were served tiny yet personally un-enticing mignardises.
With so many courses, you run the risk of getting full very quickly. In order to prevent this, the time between meals needs to be long enough not to rush the process but short enough that your hunger lingers and fullness isn’t realized. My one complaint about Marea is that it missed on this precision – by the time our pastas appeared, we were already on the way to max-capacity, and after 15 minutes of waiting for our final course, we were close to turning it away.
Regardless, the food at Marea is undeniably off the chain. At one point in the night my co-worker Morgan posed the question, “what is the best food you’ve had in the past few years?” I struggled to answer this at the time, but after a cab ride of reflection I can honestly say that Marea goes home with the gold. And I say that with confidence even with the deprecation of their homemade muffin-for-morning-after end of the night give-aways.
Location: 240 Central Park S