|Spaghetti - Fresh-Cut Seminola Pasta, Crab, Santa Barbara Sea Urchin, Basil|
Thanksgiving is a time of reflection and appreciation. With the current state of the world -- political unrest, economic instability, etc. -- I am thankful for a bunch of things. I'm thankful for having such a loving and supportive family. I'm thankful for my awesome friends. I'm thankful for my health, happiness, and overall well-being. And, despite all of my bitching and moaning, I'm thankful for the opportunity to attend medical school and to ultimately have the honor of becoming a physician. As the preclinical part of the curriculum winds down, I am experiencing a mixture of excitement and anxiety over the prospect of hitting the wards for clerkships -- excitement because I'll be doing a lot more "doctoring" rather than sitting through lectures, anxiety because I feel unprepared and am scared of screwing up big-time. To the best of my knowledge, killing a patient during clerkships isn't something that residency programs are looking for. Amid all of this upcoming change, one small fact hasn't been lost on me -- namely, the fact that I will no longer be able to take advantage of the fantastic lunch prix fixe deals offered at restaurants throughout the city.
My affinity for lunch prix fixes is no secret, as my ventures to places like Del Posto, Bouley, 15 East, and Motorino reflect. So with only a couple more weeks when I can take as long of a lunch break as I'd like, I visited Marea with my brother last week to check out Michael White's seafood mecca. Garnering two Michelin stars, the restaurant gives off a pretty classy, trendy vibe inside with a sleek dining room. As is the case at most classy restaurants that we visit, my brother and I were far and away the youngest diners, though the crowd leaned more heavily towards businessmen and executives rather than the elderly couples and retirees that filled Bouley's dining room.
|Astice - Nova Scotia Lobster, Burrata, Eggplant al Funghetto, Basil|
For lunch, Marea offers a two-course business lunch. For the first course, I ordered the Astice, which was comprised of lobster, burrata, eggplant, and basil. While I'm usually not one to spring for dishes that require a supplemental fee, $6 didn't seem like an unreasonable supplement, and the allure of lobster was just too great. The lobster was perfectly cooked and, surprisingly, paired great with the burrata, a tangy cheese which Wikipedia describes as a fresh cheese made from mozzarella and cream.
|Polipo - Grilled Octopus, Smoked Potatoes, Pickled Red Onion, Chilies, Tonnato|
While the lobster was tasty enough, my brother's first course, the Polipo, was the clear winner. Consisting of grilled octopus, smoked potatoes, pickled red onions, chilies, and tonnato, the dish was quite a show-stopper in terms of aesthetics. The octopus was incredibly tender, and there was a pervasive smokiness about the whole plate which really appealed to me.
For our second courses, we knew that we had to try Chef White's highly lauded pastas. We picked the two pasta dishes that seem to garner the most hype and acclaim: the Spaghetti and Fusilli. The Spaghetti (pictured above), described as fresh cut semolina pasta, crab, sea urchin, and basil, was incredible. While I couldn't find any big chunks of sea urchin, I could most certainly taste it all throughout the dish, as the intense fishiness really came through. Held together by just enough of the cream-based sauce to coat the pasta, this dish was my favorite of the two pastas.
|Fusilli - Durum Wheat Pasta, Red Wine-Braised Octopus, Bone Marrow|
Of course, to say that I liked the Spaghetti more is no slight to the Fusilli; it's kinda like asking a parent to pick their favorite child. Comprised of durum wheat pasta, red wine braised octopus, and bone marrow, the dish was generously portioned, especially with the octopus. The sauce, richer and creamier than your standard tomato-based sauce due to the addition of the bone marrow, also packed a bit of a kick that hits at the end.
Along with the bread service (the olive focaccia was particularly noteworthy) and mignardises that came with the check, lunch at Marea was an enjoyable experience. While $42 is certainly not cheap for lunch, the quality of both the ingredients and the cooking are more than enough to justify the price. If you are looking to treat yourself to a nice lunch near Columbus Circle, I'd suggest you check out Marea. You'll be thankful for doing so.
240 Central Park South
New York, NY 10019