We had asked for recommendations for a non-French resto to spend a $500 voucher, and went to Marea last night. We both ordered the 6 course menu del mar, which I think was $125 per person, and added wines for $85.
Bread selection was nice, with a foccacia with olives that I could have eaten a loaf of. Perfect with champagne...
I had asked to not be given a raw/crudo course, and was assured that that was fine. We started with a small bite of salmon tartare (the only raw thing I enjoy) which was stunning. Then came the sea urchin crostata which was delicious, albeit with a very strange texture. The taste of the sea stayed in my mouth for a few hours! I assume that all of these were considered amuse bouche.
The first course came out as a crudo plate for my husband, along with a trio of oysters. He really enjoyed the oysters plate, and the preparation of the fish was beautiful, but felt that it was really lacking in taste or umph. I was given a small plate with 3 croutons of anchovies and salsa verde; it was rich and delicious, with anchovies complementing rather than overpowering the dish, but I felt that this not a real course substitution.
Second course was the lobster with burrata, eggplant and basil. The eggplant had been pickled/marinated and was really the element that brought this dish to another level of taste. A lovely surprise, and one that I will reconstruct at home.
Next we were served the grilled octopus with potatoes. Perfectly cooked to a lovely smokiness, with crispy white and purple potatoes and tonnato sauce.
Our pasta course was the fusili with bone marrow sauce, prepared with shrimp/langoustine instead of octopus. This was superb, perfect pasta swimming in the tomato sauce that was at first light until the strength of the bone marrow arrived .... Shrimp had been poached I believe, perfectly cooked.
Next was seared scallops with fiddlehead ferns, garlic scapes, grapes and polenta. This was thoroughly satisfying comfort food, with polenta so fine it was sauce-like, but loaded with creamy flavor. Scallops were seared with a perfect crust tinged with sea salt...
Dessert was semifreddo with hazelnuts, very good.
We had asked for mostly white wines, and they offered a nice variety: A nice chardonnay italian brut to start, then a white, Greek Thalassitis (quite nice but too light for the oysters it matched) , a medium bodied rose from Tuscany, a smoky italian white (with grilled octopus, very good match) , a Meursault, and a lighter italian dessert wine. None of the wines was a fantastic match, and in fact our server may not have known which courses were coming as she first served me a wine that was to match the yellowtail and cherries and then they served me the anchovy toasts instead, so perhaps there was some miscommunication. Pours were very generous!
The staff were gracious and welcoming. Service was correct, but two of the servers had very difficult accents so it was hard to understand what they were serving, not necessarily good with a tasting menu. I have lived around the world and speak several languages, and was surprised to encounter this in NYC.
We really enjoyed the meal, our first foray into the NYC dining scene. It was a very NY experience, which is a good thing, but very different to our last 15 years in Europe.
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