Marea, New York
Michelin stars: 2
Addr: 240 Central Park S., New York, NY 10019
Type of cuisine: (Their contemporary version of) Italian cuisine .
Widely known as one of NYC’s best Italian restaurants, celebrated for its homemade handmade pasta dishes (some of the best in the country, according to NSE ) , Marea is situated in Manhattan. They offer what is more accurately their contemporary take (refined, small portions) on Italian cuisine, with combinations of ingredients that are not always traditionally Italian (cheese and seafood, to take an example) but the fundamentals of Italian cooking are never too far.
What we ate:
Gnochetti, ruby shrimp, chilies, rosemary. properly rendered consistency (to the tooth) of the pasta , the chilies not too hot, which was a good idea as to add an extra layer of flavor without the distracting (unecessary) piquancy, the ruby shrimp not a serious challenger to some of the far more delicious shrimps of the mediterannea but the overall is tasty and well executed. I could not fault this dish, I could not fault one single dish of this entire meal, actually …BUT in comparison to other 2 Michelin star Italian meals that I had elsewhere a 7/10 would be a fair rating (what would it take to score this dish with a higher rating? A sauce that’s spectacular as I have enjoyed at plenty of other Italian restaurants. This one was great. Just not supremely delicious.
Tagliata – creekstone farms sirloin, bone marrow panzanella, braised romaine. / the sirloin seasoned exquisitely, their take on the bread and tomatoes panzanella salad a good idea …but time and again I could not stop thinking about how dazzling this entire meal would have been with produce as spectacular as what can sometimes be found in some parts of Italy. 7/10
Polipo / octopus – I had octopus a tad more remarkable than this (meaning with bolder maritime flavor) , in North America, but this was of really good quality, the seasoning enticing , it had an ideal chewy consistency (enough firmness to remind ourselves that this is octopus, and not a jellyfish but also tender enough for proper enjoyable chew). 7.5 /10
PANNA COTTA – sicilian pistachio panna cotta, raspberry , rhubarb rose granita as well as a bit of aniseed. This was fine, rather than dazzling, panaccotta (had the pistachio flavor been more expressive and the taste a tad richer, I would call it “dazzling” instead of “fine…BUT expressive pistacchio flavor would clash with flavors of raspberry and rose granita…so instead of the pistachio flavor, use something else that you can easily pair with the rest ). Still …, a fair 7/10
SORBETTI blood peach, apricot, strawberry balsamic – Sorbetti were excellent even by fine sorbetti standards in Italy. The suggestion that sorbetti are better in Italy is oftently a fabrication of the mind. In North America, there are sorbetti that are as good and this is one perfect example of just that 9/10
PROS: Marea does what it takes, in light of what we are accustomed to in North America…to deserve its accolades – nothing to fault here, not extravagant but tasteful contemporary interior, great service.
CONS: However great the ingredients – and great they are at Marea (by North American standards), it would take the finer ingredients of some parts of Italy ………AND a sense to make food taste extraordinary for me to understand the shower of raves on Marea.
Verdict: An 8/10 by the standards of Contemporary Italian cuisine in North America ..SO NOT to be compared to my ratings of places like, to take an example, Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia in Milan — a two star Michelin too — which would, with no doubt be a 10/10 in my books if it was in NYC. We are in a completely different set of expectations …) – But a 7.5/10 when I compare it to the 2 Michelin star Italian food I had elsewhere (Michelin star is international, so I believe that is fair to also assess Marea against the 2 star Michelin food found outside of North America ). I am ignorant about many cuisines (Brazilian, Romanian, etc) , but Italian, French, most African / Asian /Carribean cuisines are food that I have patiently mastered/familiarized myself with and cooked for decades. By familiarizing myself with I mean …learning from those in the know, the Moms and Pops and NOT by watching food shows on TV or following recipes 0n the web. So, I know what I need to expect from such food. From Italian food, I expect the most (perfecting the simple texture of your pasta or risotto, pulling off superb flavors ) from the least (simple/ classic combinations of ingredients). Of this lunch at Marea, I saw no evidence of perfected textures and the sort of dazzling flavors I came to expect, at times, from some other 2 star Michelin offering Italian food, but there was nothing to fault neither, and the food is certainly really good by Italian upmarket restaurant standards in North America, though, not peerless by those same standards —).