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BryanZ

Marea, Michael White Seafood on the Park

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It's expensive and the menu is huge.  A possible four-star contender?

This restaurant is a three-star candidate, not a four-star candidate. Everything that is known about this place suggests that it is not attempting to provide the coddling and luxury that all of the current four-star restaurants offer. Although clearly not a "cheap eat," it isn't expensive enough to be able to duplicate (or even attempt to duplicate) the level of cooking and presentation at, say, Le Bernardin.

Although Bruni is about as uninterested in traditional luxury as anybody, he has been a stickler for maintaining those amenities—along, of course, with practically flawless cooking—at the four-star level. He has not yet awarded four stars to any restaurant because it was "good, considering the price." He has done that at the two and three-star levels, but not four.

Another problem is that because the menu is so large, it is liable to have some significant soft-spots—practically always the downfall of large menus. Re-read Bruni's review of Del Posto, and you'll see what I mean.

This is not to say that Bruni will dislike Marea. To the contrary, he has taken a shine to Michael White's cooking already at two different restaurants, Alto and Convivio. But by its design this restaurant simply doesn't seem geared to four stars. Had it opened in a better economy, it very well might have been. But I think White and owner Chris Cannon are hedging their bets, and so it is not quite as ambitious as it otherwise could have been.


Edited by weinoo (log)

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It's Italian, and has ambitions, which automatically guarantees a three from the Bruni. They would really have to be horrible to get a 2, but a 4 star would also seem near impossible if that's not their aspirations from the start.

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They should proofread that menu before Frank gets there.

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They should proofread that menu before Frank gets there.

No need to worry about that now. Instead they should worry whether the next NYT food critic likes Italian as much as Bruni does.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Another problem is that because the menu is so large, it is liable to have some significant soft-spots—practically always the downfall of large menus.

Agreed. This one could easily stand to be cut in half.

They should proofread that menu before Frank gets there.

Yeah, I try to keep an open mind. But I think I'll pass on peas and proschitto.


Edited by tupac17616 (log)

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Had lunch there on Wednesday. Was very much looking forward to it, especially after seeing (reading) all the hype on Grub Street.

Boy, what a disappointment.

The non-descript façade already turned me off: how can anything this talked-about seem so unstylish?

The service was bad beyond words. Can't count how many times I had to wave my hands to try to get someone's attention. I have to cut them some slack - it was, after all, their FIRST day open for lunch. But still, with all those servers you'd think they'd figure out how to communicate with each other! Finished my Ligurian beer and never had anyone ask if I'd like anything else, until I - after trying to flag down 3 guys - finally got one server to come to my table so I could order wine. Geez.

The music really bothered me. Pop-rock. In a formal dining room filled with dressed-up people in their 40s - 60s. The two just didn't go together.

The (tough and cold) bread came with neither oil nor butter. I've seen this done at other places but... come on, how 'bout a little extra-virgin?

Just so this isn't all negative, I did appreciate one nice touch: for now, they're offering 20% off - a "soft opening deal" of sorts. Nice idea.

Will post my comments on the food, with photos, shortly.


Alexandra Forbes

Brazilian food and travel writer, @aleforbes on Twitter

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I figured I should try 2 apps and one main. Here is the list of mains, not sure

if you can read it:

gallery_36345_6635_24216.jpg

As I said before, our bread was only so-so and did not come with oil or butter. I had lunch at The Modern the day before, where both the bread and the butter were exceptional, so I couldn't help feeling let down...

The fluke crudo was nice. Can't think of anything more illuminating to say. I'd add

a pinch of fleur de sel if I had it at the table...

gallery_36345_6635_4431.jpg

This was delicious. Morels from Oregon stuffed with shrimp and lardo, and a tiny bit of wild watercress.

gallery_36345_6635_4006.jpg

Then came the main course: seaweed marinated east coast halibut, spring vegetables, manila clams, sopressata

....

I felt guilty about not enjoying this dish. Was I not attuned to the subtleties going on? After all, I was at a fish restaurant of a famous chef. Which has been written about extensively. Surely this man REALLY knows his fish. And yet.... why did it seem so boring? The broth, too subtle. The seaweed taste of the marinade, nowhere to be found. The carrots, too al dente to be cut with a spoon, too big to fit in the mouth whole. The fish, just ever so slightly overcooked.

Overall, the dish was... oh dear God... BLAND. There. I said it. Something I'd eat at a spa. Nice. Pretty. Bland. And no spoon to scoop up the broth with. Sigh...

gallery_36345_6635_2816.jpg

Go figure: the best part of the meal was dessert. Or desserts, in the plural. Chef sent out 3 of them.

First up: 3 cubes of cloud-like zuchini cake topped with lemon cream, and a quenelle of frozen yogurt. Tart and sweet, creamy and soft. Delish. Loved the churros-like fried zuchini garnish.

gallery_36345_6635_5007.jpg

Another great dessert: cocoa nib cream, chocolate and hazelnut tarte, and, on the side, fior di latte ice cream. Perfection. Especially for gianduja lovers like me. :)

gallery_36345_6635_6146.jpg

And the third one contained that tired coconut-pineaple combo that every single chef seems to feel obliged to use. Still, it was delicious: a fluffyt ricotta cheesecake topped with cooked and diced pineaple and coconut icecream on the side.

gallery_36345_6635_1920.jpg

Even the mignardises were yummy: lemon curd and meringue in tiny pastry cups that fell apart to the touch, and little chocolate-strawberry cakes that mimicked the Italian flag.

gallery_36345_6635_7922.jpg

Still, the the excellent desserts were not enough to make the meal feel right. Too many mishaps - especially with service... Overall, I'd say I won't be going back.


Edited by AlexForbes (log)

Alexandra Forbes

Brazilian food and travel writer, @aleforbes on Twitter

Official Website

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I ate at Marea tonight, and I have to agree with the gathering consensus: while the food is fine, the service is a total joke.

Let's start with the food. I wasn't all that hungry, and I was eating alone, and so I didn't order all that much, just three courses. I started with the stuffed morels, which are described and pictured above, and enjoyed them, despite the fact that they were arranged with less care than one might expect at a place like this one. After the morels, I proceeded to the fusilli with grilled octopus and bone marrow, which was a very pleasant dish. The pasta was cooked properly. If I had a complaint, ti would be that the octopus was cut into morsels that were a bit large for the mouth. I concluded my meal with the chocolate dessert with creme and chocolate nibs. It, too, was quite good. Indeed, all in all, I would return to Marea if food was my sole object (although I will note that one table next to me was complaining about the fact that someone's swordfish was overcooked).

But Marea's decent food comes with hugely problematic service. And here I'm a bit at a loss, for, as another contributer has noted above, there are plenty of uniformed bodies in the space to oversee the room. To the staff's credit, my sparkling water glass was perpetually refilled. However, my waiter was so busy chatting with one of his fellows that I (and other tables) had to wait almost indefinitely to get his attention. In fact, I basically had to flag this waiter down. What is more, if I actually had needed anything, like a glass of wine, during the course of my meal, I would have been unable to get anyone to help me. In any case, when I was finished with my savory courses, a longish wait ensued before I got either the dessert menu or was permitted to order from it, and having finally finished my dessert, I struggled to get the check (my own waiter was apparently preoccupied elsewhere, so I had to ask a busser).

Perhaps the least pleasant moment in the evening was when I got my bill, for nobody remembered to bring the petits fours that all the tables around me had received with their own. I should mention that other tables were grumbling about the service, so my experience was hardly unique.

In any case, I would seriously warn anyone who didn't have too much time on their hands to avoid Marea until its made some critical organizational changes. Somebody needs to talk to the waiters at this restaurant and get them on the ball. If that doesn't happen soon, its hard to imagine that the restaurant will take off.


Edited by ckkgourmet (log)

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Are the four stuffed morels really $21? Are they bigger than the typical morel, or some such? Just struck me as a little enthusiastic on the pricing.

More generally, what do people think about the value that Marea offers?

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Portions did seem a bit slight for the price. If I had received advice about how to order (which, of course, I did not), I would have probably been told that one needs to order at least four courses. The primi are really primi at Marea. You'll need more than the pasta to leave full.

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Portions did seem a bit slight for the price. If I had received advice about how to order (which, of course, I did not), I would have probably been told that one needs to order at least four courses. The primi are really primi at Marea. You'll need more than the pasta to leave full.

i would agree with you about the small portions but it is central park south. if you are concerned about value, you shouldn't be eating in midtown.

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i would agree with you about the small portions but it is central park south.  if you are concerned about value, you shouldn't be eating in midtown.

That paints midtown with too broad a brush. Even on CPS, there are expectations that a restaurant violates at its peril.

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i would agree with you about the small portions but it is central park south.  if you are concerned about value, you shouldn't be eating in midtown.

That paints midtown with too broad a brush. Even on CPS, there are expectations that a restaurant violates at its peril.

you are 100% right about that so i take that back. anyway, i think the price/value at marea is about what i expected with respect to the location and type of cuisine. the portions of the crudo and primi are definitely smallish.

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FYI - Marea is now offering a $34 (two course) lunch. Additional courses are $17.

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Actually, I had forgotten to mention in my report that when I went they were offering 20% off all the food prices, since they were still in "soft opening". That deal must be over by now.

but the menu prices are as follows (a small sampling)

Oregon morels, shrimp and lardo, 17

crudi, 10-21

white wines by the glass, 9 - 18

desserts - 12- 14


Alexandra Forbes

Brazilian food and travel writer, @aleforbes on Twitter

Official Website

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Has anyone dined here recently? This would appear to be the leading contender for Bruni's next four-star, yet there isn't much being said about it on this thread...

For what it's worth, Alan Richman very much enjoyed his experience at Marea - his review can be found here.

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Has anyone dined here recently?  This would appear to be the leading contender for Bruni's next four-star, yet there isn't much being said about it on this thread...

For what it's worth, Alan Richman very much enjoyed his experience at Marea - his review can be found here.

"Four stars?!" You must be joking. We dined at Marea last night and it was quite ordinary. The famous octopus, bone marrow sauce on the fusilli is basically tomato. There was no evident sea urchin in the crab sea urchin spaghetti. Marea seems to be a comfort food restaurant, like Convivio, but better located. The clientele reflected that also.


Michael

www.epicures.wordpress.com

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"Four stars?!" You must be joking. We dined at Marea last night and it was quite ordinary. The famous octopus, bone marrow sauce on the fusilli is basically tomato. There was no evident sea urchin in the crab sea urchin spaghetti. Marea seems to be a comfort food restaurant, like Convivio, but better located. The clientele reflected that also.

I also found it quite ordinary, not because it's a "comfort food restaurant," but because it is uneven. The ambition is clearly at a higher level than Convivio, but the menu is too long. It is practically impossible for a restaurant, right out of the gate, to offer so many selections without some of them being mediocre.

But a four-star rating is clearly in play. I think Ryan Sutton is the best critic in NYC right now, and he gave it four stars for Bloomberg last week:

Marea, in the old San Domenico space on Central Park South, is precisely what some say New York doesn’t need amid a recession: an extravagant, expensive restaurant. I say it’s exactly what we need during a recession: an outstanding restaurant.
Alan Richman doesn't do stars, but he said if he did, Marea would get four:
The question is not whether Marea is a very good restaurant. It’s at least that. What I (and others) are wondering is whether Frank Bruni might like it enough to award four stars, punctuating his reign as Times critic, which ends next month. He’s been by far the flashiest writer to hold the position, and perhaps the most ambitious. He’s put his mark on every one of New York’s four-star restaurants (Per Se, Masa, Le Bernardin, Jean-Georges, and Daniel). All too often top ratings linger for years, critics coming and going without updating them.

What I’m thinking is that he might want to do even more: become the first Times critic to give four stars to an Italian restaurant. He is perceived to be particularly appreciative of restaurants from the country where he once served as the New York Times Rome bureau chief. And he clearly admires the cooking of White, as does most of New York.

Based on my one visit, I am more inclined to agree with Adam Platt, who gave a very weak three stars, but Sutton and Richman are two of the best, and one must bear in mind Bruni's well known bias in favor of Italian restaurants. Awarding an undeserved fourth star on his way out the door would be the perfect capstone to Bruni's career.

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Haha, sorry - I was just going off of reviews that I had seen online...however, based on this thread, the experiences eGulleteers are having are far different than those being had by critics, etc.

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I really wouldn't write it off your list. When I ate there about three weeks ago, every dish was faultless, and most went beyond that and into the realm of amazing. Very far from ordinary.

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"Four stars?!" You must be joking. We dined at Marea last night and it was quite ordinary. The famous octopus, bone marrow sauce on the fusilli is basically tomato. There was no evident sea urchin in the crab sea urchin spaghetti. Marea seems to be a comfort food restaurant, like Convivio, but better located. The clientele reflected that also.

Based on the critics' reviews and these last few comments, I guess I'm not joking...any chance we could get a description or thoughts on why your experience was so poor? Was it an off night, or was the service and food just outright bad? Thanks!

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