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Marea, Michael White Seafood on the Park


BryanZ
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...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!

As I've only been once, I can't say whether it was an off night or a typical night. Service was excellent, except that there was an extremely long pause between the primi and the secondi. There was no amuse-bouche, and the petits-fours were pretty anemic for a place purporting to aspire to four stars.

There was something "off" about practically all the savory courses. Grilled octopus was rubbery. Sturgeon tasted like a dry sponge. Seafood with speck and smoked cod had no cod that we could detect. Another pasta arrived not warm enough, and though the description promised chilies, there was just one lonely chili. In a number of the dishes, we found the ingredients poorly calibrated and/or lazily plated. Desserts were just fine, but they were fairly routine interpretations of classics (cheesecake; panna cotta).

The preview menu had something like 85 items, not counting desserts, which I knew immediately would be a problem. You can't serve 85 things, especially in a brand new place, without some of them being let-downs. The menu should have been about half that long.

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My cynical response to the question of why the published critics have a different reaction on Marea than many of us on this website do: The critics have been recognized and treated differently!

To be fair, I've only been once, and it was at the beginning. BUT I have never found Michael White's food to be 4-star worthy no matter where I've tried his stuff (and I have been to his other establishments many times). He's a 2 or 3-star talent, if you ask me.

Besides, I think Marae probably already has contracted Del Posto Syndrome (DPS), i.e. performs only when it has to.

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My cynical response to the question of why the published critics have a different reaction on Marea than many of us on this website do: The critics have been recognized and treated differently!
The critics' reviews have generally tracked reports of other diners: mostly positive, with the occasional off-note. I would say it's pretty consistent. Edited by oakapple (log)
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As mentioned upthread, I did not enjoy Marea the first time. A couple of dishes were over-cooked, another was served cold, and even the correctly prepared dishes seemed below the level of a purported four-star restaurant. I don't normally give second chances, but after reading all the glowing reviews I was willing to try Marea again, which I did last night.

Marea was much better this time. I still do not see a case for four stars, but on the strength of this visit I would give three. Strangely enough, my friend and I rated the savory courses in the same order: pastas best, followed by antipasti, and then entrées. But we were very happy with everything, so it is all relative.

The amuse-bouche was, I believe, a sliver of house-made salmon, served on a skewer. Last time, we didn't get an amuse, which I am fairly certain was a mistake.

I loved the risotto with asparagus and mushrooms,, which had a rich, buttery taste. Then again, when you add so much cream and butter it's hard to go wrong. Scallop crudo had a bright, lively flavor. Hawaiian swordfish was just fine, but it seemed like a dish I could get at Tribeca Grill. Mind you, I like Tribeca Grill, but no one has suggested it is a four-star restaurant.

Marea doesn't seem to take many chances with desserts, but they've been excellent on both visits. Last night, we shared a pineapple panna cotta. The petits-fours very good, but again, compared to other restaurants, Marea is solidly in three-star territory.

I like the wine program here, especially the abundance of bottles under $50. The sommelier directed us to a bottle of Loire Muscadet for just $43.

The spacing of the courses was better than the last visit. The whole meal stretched out over three hours, but I never really noticed the passage of time. The restaurant was full, but I had no trouble getting an 8:15 p.m. reservation on two days' notice. We arrived a half-hour early and were seated immediately.

I don't have the knack for spotting celebrities, but the political pundit David Gergen was at the table next to ours. CNN broadcasts from the Time-Warner Center, a short walk away. I am assuming he's a regular, as he was in and out of there very quickly, which one wouldn't be likely to do on a first visit. Chef White appeared at his table about a nanosecond after he sat down.

Edited by oakapple (log)
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By chance, has anyone who has been to Marea ordered the "whole fish", which they price by the pound?

A few years back when Michael White was still at Fiamma, we ordered the "whole roast branzino".

The fish came out headless. When I expressed disappointment to the server (I would hardly call it a complaint) that the head was not present for the visual presentation, for the tender morsels to be found in the cheeks, and that it had been presented as "whole", the server said "Our typical customer doesn't want to see the head, so the chef just automatically removes it" With a shrug of the shoulders, the server turned and walked away. Just wondering if it's any different now.

Mark A. Bauman

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I went last night and my friend and I had the pink sea bream. It was brought to the table by our server uncooked but whole, so we could see it (I jokingly asked for its name). It was cooked and brought back to our table after it was filleted, with each of our portion's on individual plates.

It was terrific, by the way!

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By chance, has anyone who has been to Marea ordered the "whole fish", which they price by the pound?

A few years back when Michael White was still at Fiamma, we ordered the "whole roast branzino".

The fish came out headless. When I expressed disappointment to the server (I would hardly call it a complaint) that the head was not present for the visual presentation, for the tender morsels to be found in the cheeks, and that it had been presented as "whole", the server said "Our typical customer doesn't want to see the head, so the chef just automatically removes it" With a shrug of the shoulders, the server turned and walked away. Just wondering if it's any different now.

thatss called "Bad service." if this is really what happened. even if it wasn't, that was your impression, and it sounds like they've got some attitude.

for a restaurant of marea's caliber, he should have went to the kitchen and got you a whole branzino head and presented it to your table with flourish. you did ask for it.

it comes to the danny meyer idea that you can't teach people to care, you can only teach technical service.

Edited by Wemedge (log)
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By chance, has anyone who has been to Marea ordered the "whole fish", which they price by the pound?

A few years back when Michael White was still at Fiamma, we ordered the "whole roast branzino".

The fish came out headless...

thats called "Bad service." if this is really what happened. even if it wasn't, that was your impression, and it sounds like they've got some attitude.

for a restaurant of marea's caliber, he should have went to the kitchen and got you a whole branzino head and presented it to your table with flourish. you did ask for it.

Just to be clear, I think the OP was referring to an incident at Fiamma, not at Marea. Michael White hasn't been at Fiamma for a long time.
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That's correct. That incident was at Fiamma. As mentioned, I didn't complain or make a stink about it- that's not my style. At least at Marea, it appeared that the presented the whole fish prior to cooking, then they presented the filets at service, which would be fine.

Mark A. Bauman

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 3 weeks later...

Anyone else find it interesting that Bruni praised Marea's pasta ("The fusilli with tomato, octopus and bone marrow at Marea is a revelation") in one of his final columns, praised the Chef ("and an example of what makes Michael White such an inventive, intuitive master of pasta"), yet didn't review them when he had ample time to do so?

I get the feeling he would have had to give them an unfavorable star rating if he had been forced to file (for various issues discussed), but chose not to - hoping they would get a chance to iron out the kinks. That he didn't want to hurt them?

Anyone else have another interpretation?

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Sounds about right to me. And based on early reports it seems that there's still a lot of variability in the experience that diners can have. We've always known that Bruni has kept abreast with blog chatter, but in the recent weeks he's been more forthcoming about how plugged in he was to the rest of the critical sphere, professional and amateur. Perhaps divergent opinions of his own and of others made him pass.

Edited by BryanZ (log)
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Here's Bruni on the reasons he did not review Marea:

Regarding Marea, I don't want to say what I thought about a meal there, because I want Sam to make that determination. I did have a lot of thoughts about it, beyond whether it was good or bad, and I would have loved to have reviewed it. It was clear to me that I might be raising Eleven Madison to four stars—I very much wanted to do that on a personal level. I felt very strongly about that. I thought they deserved it. If the editors had said to me, "We really want you to review Marea," I would have done it. I basically said, "Here's my plan for my last four reviews," with the arguments for and against various choices. And I gave the arguments for and against Marea, and they said, "Why don't you skip Marea?" And if I had said, "No no no, I must!" they're respectful enough that they would have said yes. And I'm kind of bummed, because whether it's a two- or three- or four-star restaurant, I'm happy to say I enjoyed my meal there enough that I would have looked forward to going back.

He has said elsewhere that he didn't want to be seen as exiting with a big cymbal crash. After he had determined that there was no way Marea could get four stars (an easy call, IMO), he figured that one big splash in his final month (i.e., 4* at EMP) was enough.

I would not presume that skipping Marea was an act of kindness towards a restaurant destined to get two stars. Although opinions of this place haven't all been rapturous, Alan Richman (among others) thought it deserved four stars. I could quite easily imagine it getting the trifecta from Bruni.

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We tried this place last week for my wife's birthday. We're basic five ingredient Italian diners, don't usually go for fancy, and even worse, I'm a vegetarian at a fish place. The fried peppers I had to start could have been any tapas place in the city, the addition of lemon was a tiny change and underplayed. I think it was the only veggie starter offered. My wife had a crab appetizer that was in her words "too messed with".

I've heard that Michael White is an amazing pasta guy, so the Pansotti with stinging nettle pesto was quite a letdown. It doesn't help that I think that Pansotti are large thin ravioli with a healthy dose of greens inside them and a walnut sauce, and these were more like Capelletti or something with a runny ricotta filling in a dark murky pasty green sauce (the menu did describe the dish accurately, other than the name Pansotti). Sure stinging nettle sounds cool on a menu, but why bother if it isn't going to be delicious? It also doesn't help that the Pansotti at Babbo (which I've never seen there before) blew me away a few weeks ago (Babbo consistently impresses me on every third or fourth visit).

I can't remember the deserts.

Four stars? Not in any world I can imagine.

Edited by davythefatboy (log)
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Mike Peed reviews Marea in this week's New Yorker. Not sure what to make of the review... He spends too much time trying to be funny and not enough words on whether what he ate was good or not. Lobster salad with burrata and eggplant? "Springy" and "healthful". Seafood soup? Mussels, clams etc came in a "weak tomato sauce". Spinosi pasta with langoustine? Came with one of the langoustine's eyeballs. Zuchini cake? "Splendid". Many lines are devoted to explaining the huge cost of FEDEXing all the seafood in from all over and how the place cost Michael White and his partner 4.5 million.

After a second read, my impression is that he didn't think much of Marea - but didn't really want to say it, for fear of dissing a chef that all his peers seem to put on a pedestal.

Edited by AlexForbes (log)

Alexandra Forbes

Brazilian food and travel writer, @aleforbes on Twitter

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Best thing to do here is to sit at the bar or at the crudo counter and order 2 or so crudo dishes (most are pretty outstanding) and a glass of wine. Maybe a pasta too, depending on time of day, but you can try some of White's best dishes without spend loads of time/money here if you don't commit to a full-on dinner.

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  • 4 weeks later...
  • 1 month later...

So with the three star review and some more recent feedback I figured it would be a good time to try Marea last night. My mother was in town and for some reason I had spaced out and not made a reservation at the bar room at the Modern (our first choice). So after we found that restaurant packed I gave Marea a call and they said that they had plenty of space at the crudo bar. Overall I am mixed about my experience at Marea. While the dishes I selected (Lobster Burrata, Fusilli with octupus and marrow, and the John Dory) were good and in some cases excellent, my mother's dishes (Ouvo, Risotto Mare, and the Dover Sole) were less inspiring and in the case of the Risotto downright bad. And this brought up the major issue of the night, service. I'm not sure if it was because we were sitting at the crudo bar or because of our server but I thought service was really weak and really not acceptable for a restaurant at that price point.

So the first issue occurred with our pre dinner drinks. While my wine was served promptly, my mother's cocktail did not appear until after the second course and after I specifically asked about it. The waiter brought it to her without so much as an apology. Furthermore my water was not refilled for pretty much the entire night. The runner appeared with the water jug at the beginning of the meal and then right before dessert ignoring all the times he came by with bread and saw my empty water glass sitting there.

Finally, the thing that really ruined our experience. I am not sure that this is entirely a service issue but the way the Risotto was handled was very poor. Upon receiving her Risotto, my mother had an uncomfortable look on her face and when I asked her the problem she said the risotto was incredibly undercooked. Thinking that she was exaggerating I tasted a little bit of it and much to my shock and dismay the Risotto was so undercooked that if the chef were to pass it off as rice it would still be very much not ready. When we sent it back (something we hardly ever do) the waiters response, after checking with the chef (who tasted) it was that is how the chef makes it. Now, I am a huge fan of Chef White (who I am not sure was in the kitchen) but I laughed out loud when I heard this. The dish was so bad that I heard it crunch in my mouth when I tasted it. Then the waiter offered to bring the dish back out to the table a ridiculous offer after the chef and who knows who else tasted the dish. Finally the waiter offered to bring out another pasta but after we left the restaurant we became convinced that he had added on that pasta course as an extra (something I did not see on the itemized receipt but I didn't look that closely at.

In all, given these issues I doubt I will be back to this restaurant anytime soon.

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I've been to Marea four times now. I've never had any service issues, but the food is uneven, and at its best is never spectacular.

There are three Chris Cannon/Michael White restaurants in Manhattan, each with three NYT stars. The four-course prix fixe is $59 at Convivio, $79 at Alto, and $89 at Marea. We visited Convivio last week and found it better than Marea, and it's $40 less.

Based on a persusal of the online menus, the style of cuisine seems to be roughly equivalent at all three places. It's not like comparing Perry St. vs. Jean Georges, or Café Boulud vs. Daniel, where there is a pronounced difference. All three offer a Creekstone Farms sirloin, but the prices are $35, $41, and $47 respectively, with Marea being the most expensive.

Although Marea was supposed to be Michael White's shot a four-star place, I don't think it approaches that. You can have three-star food here if you order well and if the kitchen doesn't fall into a funk. But of course, it should not be that way.

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Although Marea was supposed to be Michael White's shot a four-star place, I don't think it approaches that. You can have three-star food here if you order well and if the kitchen doesn't fall into a funk. But of course, it should not be that way.

you should never have to "order well" to get three star food... what ever you order should be up to standards, or it's not three star... btw risotto was crunchy, why does everyone need to taste it, it wasn't done right so cook it correctly, simple solution, no need for a panel to determine whether it was cooked right, the table thought it wasn't, and thats all that matters!

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