As “il mare” means “sea” in Italian, Marea, a restaurant located on Central Park South, definitely owns up to its title. Marea is a hotspot for delicious Italian seafood, pasta and other dishes and is another one of the Altamarea Group‘s eateries located in Manhattan along with Ai Fiori, Osteria Morini and Nicoletta.
Marea is inspired by the sea with a menu consisting of raw “crudo,” oysters, seasonal fish dishes, and several pastas with ingredients that can only be found in the ocean. There are still some dishes without seafood, but for the most part, Marea seems to revolve around its name.
Marea is classy and sophisticated with a beautiful bar that looks like the inside of an oyster and a modernly elegant dining room. I felt awkward trying to capture photos of people eating their meals, so I will provide you with photos of the atmosphere that I spotted on other sites.
I was fortunate enough to be treated to dinner at Marea by my lovely parents over the weekend. We started the meal off with a bottle of Palari Faro 2006, which pleasantly surprised my father and I because we had never tried it before. It was viscous but not as full-bodied as a Cabernet and had a color similar to a Pinot Noir.
To start, we ordered the renowned Lobster Burrata and the full-sized Tortelli (lobster ravioli with chanterelles) for the table along with the Cuttlefish crudo for myself and the Zuppa (chestunut soup) for my mother.
Out of the appetizers, the Lobster Burrata stole the show with its extremely creamy texture accompanied by tender, cooked to perfection, pieces of Nova Scotia lobster on top.
The Tortelli was the second favorite of the table with lobster-stuffed ravioli and chanterelle mushrooms smothered in a butter sauce. To my surprise, the full-sized plate of ravioli made for a great appetizer for the table and was not overly rich.
The Tortelli and Lobster Buratta are two of the most popular dishes at Marea, so I obviously had to try them. However, my mother and I took the plunge with two other dishes that we had not heard much about and they both had acquired tastes.
I decided to try the Seppia, which is Cuttlefish crudo (for anyone who does not know, “Crudo al Taglio” is sliced raw fish and shellfish) because I had never had cuttlefish before. I knew it would be served raw, and I was surprised to see that it was served in the form of tagliatelle noodles with bottarga (Mediterranean fish roe) on top of a slice of cucumber. If you like sushi, the Seppia is an interesting dish to try because it has a unique soft texture unlike that of squid and octopus. The cuttlefish tagliatelle had a tangy flavor and the bottarga provided some extra saltiness. This dish is more for the exploratory diner or sushi lover instead of the traditional Italian diner.
The Zuppa, chestnut soup with grilled chiodini, calamari, saba and pickled shallots, was creamy and hearty with a prominent smoky flavor. If you do not like smoky foods, this soup is not for you. This dish was okay, and because I am not a smoky food lover, it was not all that exciting for me. However, it had a great texture and the squid was very tender with a bit of a lemony flavor, which was nice.
When it came to our entrées, I ordered the famous Fusilli with red wine braised octopus and bone marrow infused tomato sauce, my father ordered the Bistecca, and my mother ordered the Mare risotto. My mother is a very picky eater and only wanted a creamy, traditional Italian dish. When she saw someone else’s risotto go by, it looked very creamy, so she picked her entrée based off of that.
The Fusilli with red wine braised octopus and bone marrow infused tomato sauce was delectable. The bone marrow added a silky texture to the tomato sauce and a buttery, yet sweet taste to the dish. The octopus was easy to bite and mixed well with the intense flavor provided by the marrow and sauce. It was definitely a winner.
The Bistecca, one of the two meat entrées on the menu was hands down one of the best sirloins I have ever had. It was a grilled creekstone 50-day dry aged sirloin with braised romaine and bone marrow panzanella (panzanella is an Italian salad with bread and vegetables). The steak was lightly crisp on the outside and cooked medium-rare. This sirloin was one of the best steaks I have had in New York thus far and I highly recommend it to the occasional Marea diner who is not in the mood for seafood.
The final entrée was pretty disappointing. As I mentioned earlier, my mother ordered the Mare risotto with shrimp, lobster, scallops and rouget because she saw it and thought it would be a nice creamy, classic Italian dish. This dish may look creamy, but its taste does not agree with its looks. The sauce was bland and bitter and did not give the dish the rich taste that we had hoped for. It was something about the sauce that made this dish unsavory, but one thing was decided amongst the table: it was not what we expected.
At the end of the meal, we were brought an outstanding complimentary dessert from the chef that consisted of white chocolate gelato and a chocolate block with chocolate and salted caramel mousse. It was gone within minutes.
What it comes down to is that Marea has some extremely outstanding and popular dishes that can take any diner’s breath away, but the rest are pretty standard.
- Extensive wine list
- Primarily seafood based menu
- Additional Raw Fish/Shellfish selection
- Recommended/popular dishes: Ricci (Sea Urchin), Polipo (Grilled Octopus), Astice (Lobster Burrata), Tortelli (Lobster Raviolli), Spaghetti, Bistecca and Fusilli
Note: If you want more of a casual, traditional Italian meal, Osteria Morini is run by the same chef (Michael White) and has some delicious dishes that will leave you wanting more. Check out Osteria Morini’s Soho menus here.