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Lunch at Marea - possibly best meal of 2011 (with photos)

Cheeryvisage | Sep 6, 201102:48 PM

There hasn't been many reviews of Marea recently. Over the weekend, I just had what could possibly be my best meal of the year.

I went for lunch yesterday. My request for a table by a window was honored and I was led to a nice sunny spot with a good view of the dining room.

It took me some time to deliberate over my selections. I was trying to figure out whether I should do the lunch prix-fixe with add-ons, or just go with the tasting menu. My server Melissa was most patient explaining the tasting menu to me and despite my numerous questions, she had no issues running to the kitchen to check whether my proposals would be permitted. Upon discovering the tasting menu wasn't to my liking after all and deciding to do the prix-fixe with add-ons instead, I felt bad about having made her run back and forth over my hypothetical tasting menu choices. The entire time, Melissa was incredibly kind and gracious about it all. Very impressive.

My choices were the following:

1. Astice - nova scotia lobster, burrata, eggplant al funghetto, basil
What a wonderful starter to the meal. The tender chunks of lobster meat paired perfectly with the creamy burrata. The cherry tomatoes were juicy and sweet and together with the basil, provided excellent flavor and textural balance to the dish. Delicious, light, and refreshing.

2. Polipo - grilled octopus, smoked potatoes, pickled red onion, chilies, tonnato
Astounding. This was my first time eating octopus and it far exceeded my expectations. I couldn't believe how tender, meaty, and satisfying it tasted. The potatoes had the most beautiful, enticing smoky scent and oh dear, was fantastic when eaten together with the octopus and the tonnato sauce. I was so pleased that my first experience with octopus was so successful.

3. Fusilli - red wine braised octopus, bone marrow
Of course I had to order this. This dish completely lived up to its hype! The first thing that hit my tongue was the ultra-umami basil-and-tomato sauce. The strands of house made fusilli were delightfuly toothsome, oh my. The bone marrow cubes, so rich and decadent, were like eating soft butter. Having already had the octopus validated in the previous dish, I bit into the sauce-laden tentacles with enthusiasm. So good. This dish made me literally sigh out loud in pleasure. There were still quite a bit of the delicious sauce left after I finished everything else, so I asked for more bread to wipe the plate clean.

4. Affogato - zabaglione gelato, espresso, and amaro
I'm not a coffee person, yet I love coffee flavored sweets. I was pleased when a runner finished up this dessert at the table because I saw the glass contained three scoops of gelato. Yes! The Affogato tasted like coffee ice cream, but one hundred times more awesome. I was very happy about the high ratio of ice cream in this dessert (90% ice cream and 10% coffee and alcohol). It was just enough to give the gelato a lovely coffee flavor and a hint of the bitter amaro kick. Excellent.

I've seen some complaints about Marea's portion size. For me, by the time the meal ended, I was in food coma. I have an average appetite for a female. Honestly, I'd have been perfectly happy with just an appetizer, a pasta, and maybe a dessert. It was really a perfect meal experience. For once this year, I had absolutely nothing to pick on at a fine dining restaurant. Everything about the meal, the food, service, and ambiance, just came together perfectly.

I will definitely return.

240 Central Park South, New York, NY 10019

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