Anyone who spends most of their days cooking for others will attest to this: nothing beats going out to eat.
As a restaurant industry professional, it's probably my ultimate favorite pastime. I understand every step that goes into the diner's experience; from polished silverware, an interesting menu, my server's knowledge, to the music playing in the background. I know the thought and time that goes into every aspect of a restaurant dining room and I appreciate it more than I could put into words. And because of this, I thoroughly delight in my experience.
For my boyfriend's birthday this year, we studied menus, surveyed websites, and paneled friends to come up with our reservations at Marea. Since our move to New York City from California, I was aware of the dessert selection at Marea and eager to try each one of them. My boyfriend, a faithful Italian, was eager for the pasta, plain and simple. None of our expectations were disappointed.
It's quite possible that my favorite part of this restaurant was the bar. Sadly, er, or not really, we sat in the dining room, and I made a mental note to come in one day after work and enjoy the ocean-esque atmosphere of the bar. The dining room as well, had a calm, peaceful atmosphere, with soft, lyric-less music, playing in the background. With a room full of businessmen and women, I can understand the call for such an oasis.
For my beverage, I chose the Silenzio cocktail, made with buffalo trace bourbon, yellow chartreuse, cocchi rosa, and lemon. I'm a sucker for anything that includes bourbon and chartreuse so the decision was quite simple. My cocktail was refreshing, not too sweet, not too alcoholic. Perfect for a summer night.
We were also given a selection of three types of bread: seven grain, focaccia, and white. I tried both the seven grain and focaccia that evening. Surprisingly, the seven grain was my favorite. Both flavorful, nutty, and chewy, it was perfect to soak up all the leftover juice on my plate.
Instructed by friends as to what items to order, our menu browsing was fast and painless.
For our first courses we chose the Astice, which included nova scotia lobster, burrata, eggplant, and basil(the leaf and seeds). Lobster...burrata... can I please have ten of these? We also ordered the Sgombro (which I simply pointed to the menu and said "that one, please"), with confit yellowtail, grilled cherries, eggplant, celery, and lime cucumbers. I expected to fall in love with the lobster. I honestly thought I would lick the plate clean. But the yellowtail dish was far and away my favorite of the evening. Perhaps my favorite dish in New York. The textures and flavors gave my mouth a joy ride. Grilled cherries, really? Perfection.
For our second courses we ordered the pasta, of course. Which, sadly, upon smelling, I ate too quickly to photograph. We chose the Fusilli with red wine braised octopus and bone marrow (!!!) and the Funghi risotto. When (yes, when) you go here, order the Fusilli. If you don't you'll get a whiff of the tables around you while they enjoy this dish, and you will cry with remorse. Everything was perfect, the octopus added the greatest texture and flavor and the pasta was almost fun to eat. The risotto, was also delicious and cooked to perfection, but totally overshadowed by the Fusilli. I can still smell that dish and remember the flavors so well.
Finally, dessert, oh my! I knew exactly what I wanted for this course and the server did not even have to show a menu. The Semifreddo di Nocciolla with hazelnuts, dark chocolate glaze, grapefruit, and anise mascarpone. These are all some of my favorite flavors, and I never would have thrown them into one dish. But did they every pull together and make quite an impact on my tongue! This dessert was rich, while refreshing at the same time. Nothing about it was sweet, which is my one request for dessert: not too sweet!
The second dessert was the Budino di Pignoli, with white chocolate pinenut crema, lavender, cassis, and apricot sorbet. This was a little sweeter than the first dessert, but just as refreshing and diverse. The white chocolate was not overpowering and the apricot sorbet was tangy and smooth. I loved the addition of the blackberries for some extra texture with the dish.
To finish everything off, we enjoyed a glass of fernet branca, which is, in my opinion, the perfect digestif. And were also given cream puff mignardi's filled with mocha cream.
Nothing about this meal was heavy or dense and everything left us feeling jubilant and satisfied. Whether you stop in at the bar, or make a reservation for the dining room, I felt, despite having two Michelin stars, Marea is quite accessible to any variety of diner, and it would be such a mistake not to go. For a birthday celebration, it certainly fulfilled its duties.