Celebrating a milestone birthday at one of our favorite restaurants, Marea, without one bit of remorse.
It’s my opinion that birthdays, anniversaries, or any other special event that comes once a year deserves to be celebrated in style. Warning: Thinking like this may lead you to spend a small fortune on a celebratory meal or consume more calories in one dish than you should consume over the course of an entire day. But in my book, celebrations are guilt-free. And I may have read once, somewhere, that pasta served with seafood is less calorific than pasta alone. Maybe.
It was Jerry’s birthday last night and we dined at Chef Michael White’s Marea with our son, Andrew, one of our guilty pleasures that has become a family tradition. Located on Central Park South, just off Columbus Circle and across from Central Park in the site that one housed Tony May’s San Domenico, it’s so close to Andrew’s apartment that it’s an especially easy lure. The room is gracious and relaxed, the service seamless, and the food is always as beautifully plated and served as it is delicious.
In Italian, “marea” means “tide.” This is one of the few restaurants we know in the city that showcases a wide array of seasonal fresh fish and seafood, and homemade pastas. Our waiter, Kent, was exceptionally patient and knowledgeable in explaining our choices on the menu.
The amuse bouche set the tone. They were whimsical miniature profiteroles filled with smoked trout and marscarpone cheese.
Whenever I find foie gras on the menu, I go for it. The Hudson Valley foie gras was complemented with cured mackerel, porcini mushrooms, and delicious apricots.
Both the sourdough bread and warm, light focaccia were addictive.
The server poured chilled pistachio soup over grilled calamari, radish and smoked trout roe, a perfect choice for a summer evening.
One of the signature not-to-be-missed dishes is the fusilli pasta in a red sauce with wine-braised octopus and bone marrow. It always is perfectly cooked and flavored.
My main course was a piece of striped bass, composed with zucchini, braised leeks and grilled cherries. Who knew you could grill cherries?
The seared scallops came with oyster mushrooms, grilled endives, and pickled shallots.
We sampled two of the desserts: affogato, vanilla gelato with espresso and Amaro (an Italian bitter)—and the bombolini (donut puffs) that came with strawberry and vanilla dipping sauces.
The plate of sweets was the last indulgence of the evening.
The $99 per person Prix Fixe menu includes a choice of a first course, pasta, meat or fish dish and dessert. Pricey, yes. Worth the price, truly. In addition to many other awards, Marea has received two Michelin stars and since our last visit has been recognized by Relais & Chateaux as part of its elite group of Grand Chef Gourmand.
On a scale of 1-10, we give Marea a 10. Good company coupled with an interesting and inventive meal are the perfect recipe for an evening celebrated in style. Happy Birthday to a wonderful husband, father and travel partner, Jerry!
More about Chef Michael White: Chef Michael White of Alta Marea Restaurant Group
Previously in the Chicago Tribune: Toss in brunch to fuel a stroll in Central Park
IF YOU GO:
Marea, 240 Central Park South, NYC, 212-582-5100
Marea-NYC.com, (reservations can be made on OpenTable.com; to avoid disappointment, book in advance)