Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Last night Alex and I dined at Marea for the first time. While the food was amazing, the restaurant itself was something of a mixed bag for me. First of all, we were the only people there not over the age of 35 and wearing a full suit to dinner. We were also the only table that quietly drank our $40 bottle of wine, while other tables were yelling about how delicious their magnum of '45 Latour was or how the table was sharing a nice bottle of Cristal with their crudo. For the record, the table of 6 seated near us probably went through at least $10,000 worth of wine with their dinner, including that bottle of '45 Latour and an '82 Cheval. All in all, the average patron at Marea last night was so far out of our league it's not even funny. I wouldn't say that I was uncomfortable dining there, but I will say that as I walked to the bathroom it was an interesting trip through the crowded dining room. Oh and I saw Jeffrey Steingarten there (author of The Man Who Ate Everything and frequent guest judge on Iron Chef America), so that was kind of fun, but again pointed out just how out of place we were.
Out of place or not, I was determined to enjoy my meal. And I did. And I tried to take pictures, but the lighting was so dim in the corner where we were seated, with weird shadows being thrown across our table, that the pictures are even more terrible than usual. I refuse to use the flash when taking pictures at a restaurant because it can be so distracting to other diners, plus the plate tends to reflect so much light that the entire dish is washed out. I also refuse to use my nice DSLR because I find that equally distracting to other diners. So I tried, but I apologize. Do not judge the food by the quality of my admittedly terrible photographs.
More after the jump!
Everything was lovely - with flavors ranging from incredibly delicate (the Astice), to very robust (the Fusilli). We did the recommended 4-course prix fixe for $89 a person, which is pricey, but considering many of the pastas were $25 and up, and the antipasto and crudo ranged from $15-$25, not to mention the $14 desserts and the $35-$45 entrees, it would be hard to charge anything less without sacrificing the quality of some of the seafood. And from my experience, the quality of the seafood here was outrageous.
My favorite dishes of the evening were the Ricci (toasted baguette topped with sea urchin, lardo and sea salt), the Astice (salad of Nova Scotia lobster, burrata, eggplant al funghetto and basil) - pictured above, and the Fusilli (topped with red wine braised octopus and bone marrow). The Astice was perhaps my favorite dish of the night and was an amazing blend of creamy burrata, sweet (as well as perfectly cooked) lobster, with the delicate, yet flavorful bursts of basil seeds. The Ricci was everything you could possibly expect of a marriage of two incredibly luscious ingredients - sweet, briny sea urchin, and deeply rich, warm lardo. Other delights included my sauteed John Dory (served with brussels sprouts, pancetta) - pictured above, the Pistachio dessert (chocolate and pistachio cake served with a large pistachio sugar shard, pistachio gelato and candied stewed kumquats) - pictured below, and the Gianduja dessert (cocoa nib crema, hazelnut chocolate and fior di latte gelato). That fior di latte gelato, which tasted like mildly sweet and buttery farm-fresh milk was absolutely amazing. While the sea scallops in the scallop entree were perfectly cooked and seasoned, the white beans and oxtail-stuffed braised kumquats just didn't seem to mesh together. And I found the Salsiccia (seafood sausage) - pictured below, and the Ferratini (pasta with Manila clams and fresh chilis in a white wine-based sauce) to be a little lacking as well. Don't get me wrong, both dishes were very good but neither of them were quite the same caliber as the rest of the meal.