Marea has a large ground-floor dining room and bar looking out over Central Park. It specialises in Italian seafood, with a four course menu costing US 89. The 17 page wine lists majors on Italy, as might be expected, organised mostly by style. Jermann Capo Martino 2007 was listed at USD 240 compared to a retail price of around USD 60. A bargain was Cuvee Frederich Emile 2001 at USD 85 for a wine that will set you back about USD 65 in the shops. Ridge Montebello 1990 was listed at USD 460 for a wine that will cost at least USD 170 to buy retail.
White sourdough bread was dried out, almost stale and a seven grain bread was uninspiring (12/20); these were bought in from the Sullivan Street Bakery. Better was an olive foccacia actually made by the kitchen, which looked dry in appearance but was moist enough, and had good olive taste and nice soft texture (16/20). An amuse-bouche of parsnip soup had good parsnip taste and was seasoned well, topped with a piece of fried parsnip and having a grilled shrimp lurking at the bottom of the cup (16/20).
“Scampi” was not what I was expecting (perhaps a language barrier issue here). There were indeed langoustines, but raw and served on ice with “Murray River pink salt” (this tasted like, well, salt) and a few cucumber slices to add colour. The shellfish were good in themselves, and the dish was certainly a light introduction to a meal (15/20). This was much better than a pasta dish “cavatelli” with gulf shrimps, chilli and rosemary, which sounded like a lovely combination. It doubtless would have been except that the rosemary was missing in action and the pasta was seriously undercooked, while the shrimps had that unmistakeable whiff of iodine, which suggests that they were not well selected (12/20 if I am kind).
A risotto of shellfish had properly cooked rice, with a good quality stock whose flavours had nicely absorbed into the rice. A mix of mushrooms was used, and I suspect that they were cooked together despite their different sizes, since some were cooked well and others were mushy (15/20). Striped bass was line-caught and had very good taste, being nicely timed. It was served with “beluga lentils” (black lentils that are the US equivalent of puy lentils) though the broccoli rabe and cipollini agrodolce (sweet onions) lacked a little seasoning for me (16/20).
Zabaglione ice cream with amaro (a herbal liquer) was topped with espresso as an affogato dessert, and worked quite well. The ice cream really did taste of the elements of zabaglione, not just of marsala (15/20). Caramelised apple with walnut cream and an apple sorbet had a nicely made sorbet and a sensible combination of flavours (15/20). Coffee was very good, and so it should be at a steep $8. The bill, with a moderate wine, was $136 per person.
Overall I found the meal quite enjoyable except for the dodgy pasta starter, and just about worth its single Michelin star, at least by the lax standards that the New York Michelin guide appears to adopt at times. The main problem is that it is expensive for food at this level, the menu costing much the same at the time of writing as the significantly superior Eleven Madison Park, for example.
Further reviews: 29th Aug 2017