Monday, March 25, 2013

make it MAREA for inventive Italian-American superb seafood in NYC (3-23-13)

In NYC for two nights with Samuel heading to a couple of Broadway
shows, we decided to try MAREA ( where uber-chef
Michael White opened on Central Park South in the fairly small space
previously occupied by the ill-fated San Domenico.
His seven years in Italy paid off for sure and you get a wonderful
flavor using local ingredients and the highest quality seafood. There
are meat dishes for sure and you could completely skip all the fish,
but what for when the place is called MAREA (Mare being "sea" in
I adore the gorgeous silver gilt place setting plates and china by
Ginori and began to fear the prices, but when the menu arrived I was
thrilled to see a 4-course menu (you choose what you want) for $99.00,
and the wine list offers many rare treats at wonderful prices for this
NYC Relais et Chateaux spot, most of which have few wines under
Samuel decided on the PANSOTTI, a ricotta filed ravioli in a smooth
rich Basil Pesto sauce and gobbled it up with many swipes of the yummy
crusty white bread. The focaccia was less impressive with nice olives,
but a bit oily.
Our server Charles, who was very helpful and negotiating us through
the large menu offered a sprite, juice, fun drink for Samuel, I called
it non-alcoholic Long Island Ice Tea as it seemed to have everything
in it.
We ordered a bottle of Verdicchio di Castilli di Jesi 2009 Sao Paolo
PIEVALTA which was two years in steel with a soft mineral finish and a
great flavor to go with the superb seafood.
Amuses arrived in the form of a Celery Root Panna Cotta topped with
Calamari, Chilis and Grapefruit. It was hard to pick up the wobbly
gelee square with the fork provided; a spoon would have been better,
but it was tasty and fun.
We ordered the PANZEROTTI from the listings called "to share" and
adored the Smoked Eggplant Fritters, but even though Sam adored
fritters the week before, he would have none of this eggplant one. The
dipping sauce was a rich ricotta with bottarga and was the consistency
of whipped yogurt.

We now entered our $99 menu choices and this allows you to start with
a crudo, oysters or appetizer. The crudos looked amazing but between
these and the oysters the novelty of the appetizers entranced us:
Will's TARTALETTA was a flaky pastry crust filled with Periwinkles,
caramelized onion, Marsala wine, Cherry Mostarda and Capers. It came
room temperature, which we were later informed was proper, but the
server failed to offer us both clean knives at first (they eventually
did) which we found odd.
My ASTICE is one of the signature dishes and I can clearly see why.
Chock full of Nova Scotia LOBSTER with creamy rich BURRATA smeared all
over the plate in a half moon then topped with small rectangles of
pickled eggplant al funghetto there are also wonderful green basil
seeds which appear like the inside of a green tomato jelly throughout
the dish for bright color contrast.

We moved on to the pasta course (you can then choose meat or fish and
then dessert) and did superbly well with our suggestions from Charles.
Some of the dishes (like the Astice and the Casoncelli) do have
surcharges on the $99, but are well worth the splurge. Will had (again
sadly a bit too room temperature) the CASONCELLI which are bacccala
(cod) ravioli with black trumpet mushrooms, baby leeks, black truffle
jus and an amazing smothering of shaved black truffles covering the
entire plate! My FUSILLI came with red wine braised Octopus and bone
marrow for intense flavor. Even Samuel thought the sauce and the pasta
were superb, although he was not interested in tasting the octopus.

We moved on to a superb bottle of red suggested by one of the roving
sommeliers. Francesco was most helpful and guided us to Le MURAGLIE
from EZIO VOYAT in Val d'Aosta which was oddly bottled in a tall
fluted bottle and simply labled as Vino de tavolo.....this was an
intense earthy red which worked wonderfully with both our intense and
huge portions of fish dishes that followed:
ROMBO was a beautiful Holland Turbot filet with a superb sauce of red
wine sugo loaded with tasty savoy cabbage, hedgehog mushrooms and
several sour cherries as well as a potato puree.
SPIGOLA NERA is local black sea bass with a divine fregola sarda,
cipollini onions, broccoli rabe, roasted carrots and balsamic.
Both dishes sported the crunchiest of fish skin that were truly
divine, the turbot almost like a crispy duck with a thin layer of fish
fat underneath. The preparations and sides were superb and the fish
excellent. Paired with that earthy wine, this was a treat.
We enjoyed this wine for some while and then decided to review the
dessert options.
Samuel was immediately attracted to BUDINO di MANDORLA which was
described as
White Chocolate, Almond crema, orange blossom, lemon curd and blood
orange. When I told him it was a white chocolate "sausage" he changed
his mind and I then explained how it was a play on words, like his
"chocolate ravioli" in St. Barths. He said ok, and I ordered the
CROSTATA di MIRTILLI based on Charles' recommendation (even over the
cheeses) as it was a tart of huckleberries with ricotta cream
underneath, candied squash squares and a slash of Sicilian pistachio
serving as a glue for the tart to the plate; atop was a luscious scoop
of lemon sorbet.
Will opted for the STRATI di CIOCCOLATO which was the lightest of the
three with a Dark Chocolate Crema, Salted Caramel Mousse, Coffee
Crumble all assembled into a beautiful layered cake-bar with gold leaf
on top and a scoop of Fior di Latte Gelato.

Samuel bit into his "budino" which looked more like a slab of pure
white chocolate than a slice of sausage and it was way too sweet and
rich for any of us. I had a bite of each and then let him finish my
diving huckleberry tart as he said it was the best. I ate the yummy
orange blossom and blood orange with the lemon curd, but other then
the fruit, this dish was just too intense. Will's treat was just right
and we all ended up happy in the end, especially when they brought out
an extra dessert--the BOMBOLINI, fried donuts with chocolate sauce and
spice honey sauce, both of which were great, the latter reminding me
oh so much of Sopaipillas!

Next came the after-desserts with each of us getting a Blood Orange
Gelee, Passion Fruit Cream Puff, Coffee Chocolate Ganache
Tart(intense) and a divine Dark Chocolate Caramel, which we had to get
an extra for Samuel as he adored these so much.

I can't stress how amazing a deal this is at $99.00 per person(adult 4
course menu) and we will definitely return to MAREA again to savor the
many flavors of the sea.