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Dinner at Marea (long). Best 3 star restaurant?

fooder | Oct 1, 200909:51 PM

Marea was the last big restaurant meal of my mom's vacation http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/648592

As usual, pictures can be found on the post on my blog http://ramblingsandgamblings.blogspot...

I remember when Bruni was retiring that there was speculation that Marea would be his 4 star swansong. While the service is very good, the decor is elegant, the food is wonderful, and the prices are expensive but not ridiculous, I just don't think it is or strives to be a 4 star restaurant. As much as I love the food there, I just don't see it as a "destination dining" type of place. The composed dishes lean more towards simple than complex, and there's no grand tasting menu like the ones at all the 4 star places. That being said, it's my favorite non 4 star restaurant.

For our dinner, we had the 4 course prix fixe and added a few dishes.

The amuse was a piece of house cured salmon that came with a melon broth. The salmon was tasty and the melon broth was very refreshing and very clean. A terrific combination.

We added the crostini with sea urchin, lardo, and sea salt. Tasty and heavy, exactly as expected. However, I asked for a wedge of lemon and squeezed some lemon juice on top. I thought this really brought out the flavors and gave it a vibrancy while taking away some of the heaviness.

For our first courses, we had the marlin crudo with caviar and cream and the lobster with creamy burrata. The marlin tasted very fresh and the sweet well cooked lobster went really well with the creamy burrata.

We also added a crudo of pacific jack mackerel with eggplant caponata. The fish was wonderful with a firm yet melty texture. It did not have a lot of that strong fish taste that I usually associate with the mackerel family. I found the eggplant caponata unnecessary.

For our pasta courses, we had the tagliatelle with king crab and the lobster ravioli. The king crab was fresh and sweet and the overall dish was very simple. Too simple, one could say. The lobster ravioli is still the best version of the dish that I've had, and the mushrooms and asparagus accompanying it provided a great texture balance.

We also added the signature fusilli with red wine braised octopus and bone marrow. It's tasty, rich, and hearty. In fact, I find that the first few bites are better than the last few bites because it is so heavy. The fusilli is so dense that it reminds me of cavatelli, one of my favorite types of pasta.

The seafood soup is accompanied by a large selection of perfectly cooked seafood, including langoustine, prawn, clam, mussel, scallop, and fish. The broth itself was flavorful and I could taste many of the individual components, such as prawn, clam, and scallop.

The branzino with pancetta and brussel sprouts was a revelation. The perfectly cooked branzino had such an amazing flavor. It was unlike any other seabass that I've eaten before. The pancetta and brussel sprouts were ok.

For dessert, we had the affogato with zabaglione gelato and the torrone gelato with cocoa cake and sour cherry compote.

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