Since not many people have mentioned this place, I figure I'll start a thread on it.
How many people have been there? We went last night for the first time. We actually tried to go on their first or second night, and were quoted a wait of over an hour, and decided to pass.
We got there around 9 and it were seated in the nearly full room. Decor is minimal; poured concrete floor (I think), etc. The noise level was fairly high though not overbearing.
We ordered the shredded chicken to share for a starter, which was excellent ($9 I think). A good portion size, and we were tempted to pick up the bowl and drink the dressing. (Well... I was. DGF being more refined was probably not so afflicted). It was addictive.
For our next course she got a soup that I think had berkshire pork, country ham and maybe some beef ($12, or similar). I don't remember exactly because I can't seem to find that exact menu item online. The broth was amazing. It reminded me of some very fine ramen broths: richly flavored, with a deep porky essence while still having a nice clean flavor. It was porky without being "intensely piggy." It was a hit.
I got the Cha Ca Catfish noodle bowl (maybe $13). Uh oh. This was the only stinker of the night. Actually, it wasn't so bad. But it was *tiny*. It came with two very small pieces of nicely fried catfish, and not NEARLY enough rice noodles. Seriously, it was maybe a half cup of cooked noodles. And not really much in the way of a dressing, though there was an undercurrent of dill, which was nice. There were some sort of sauteed greens--probably scallions and some sort of pleasantly bitter greens, possibly collards. But they were gritty. Ugh! Wash your greens better! Seriously, there's no excuse for that.
The service was casual and pleasant. No complaints.
I'm not going to engage in the bogus argument about being able to go to <whatever ethnic enclave> and get the same <whichever ethnic food> for half the price. "Why should I go to Marea for pasta with seafood when I can go to Olive Garden and get Linguine with Clams for 9.95??" See? It's a bogus argument. I believe they're doing something different than slinging exotic flavored slop. They're using high quality ingredients and they make a lot of things in house, and they buy meat and produce from reputable suppliers.
However, the bill for the three aforementioned dishes along with two pints of beer came to around $60 including tax and tip. It's not the price that I object to, necessarily. It's that those three dishes were not nearly enough. Maybe we didn't understand the ordering process, or maybe our server should have said "you may want more food."
I feel like we shouldn't leave hungry after apparently ordering a starter and two "mains" at an assertively casual restaurant.
We'll definitely go back, but we'll either wait til we're not very hungry or we'll be prepared to order maybe 4-5 dishes for two. Or possibly just not get the catfish again. In reality, that was the only elf-sized dish.