Marea translates to “tide” in Italian, which explains the seafood-centric menu and feeling of tranquil elegance in both atmosphere and décor. With a pair of Michelin Stars and a series of other culinary praises under its belt, this Italian restaurant is a bit pretentious yet maintains an understated charm, whereas restaurants of a similar caliber might strive for over-the-top opulence.
The space is divided into two sections: the main dining room and a back lounge area, which was added last year due to the restaurant’s heavy amount of foot traffic. Despite having the same white table cloths and decorative accents, the lounge has a less special feel to it; though perhaps that could be rectified with equally as attentive service. Marea’s high-end Italian counterpart, Del Posto, might be more grandiose in nature and “only” boast one Michelin Star, but in our opinion, doesn’t miss a beat when it comes to making all patrons feel like VIPs.
If you don’t have a palate for fish, steer clear as pretty much every plate contains a sea creature of sort. That said, the cuisine is far from ordinary and might intimidate even those who grew up on Italian food. The selection of seafood and intricacies of each dish could very well be unlike anything else in NYC, which might explain the mixed reviews from the average diner. We recommend sticking to their signature dishes, and if you’re into oysters, they offer a very fine variety from the east and west coasts. Our absolute favorites? The lobster and burrata antipasti, and their famous Fusilli was absolutely to die for. Don’t let the octopus and bone marrow scare you – this pasta dish will knock your socks off, we promise.
Marea’s Central Park South location and pricey menu makes it a popular choice for those with expense accounts, Europeans, hotel guests at the nearby Essex House or Plaza, and sophisticated New Yorkers seeking a fine dining experience in a chic modern setting. Patrons lean more on the older side, likely because they have the means to spend, but young couples can also be found celebrating a special occasion.
Reservations in the main dining room are more difficult to obtain than in the lounge, but we think worth the trouble. For dinner, the $97 four course prix fixe menu (choice of crudo, oysters or antipasti/pasta/entree/dessert) is recommended, however less-so in the lounge area. For a slightly better “bargain,” try going for lunch – they offer a two course prix fixe for $45 a person. Private dining space is available, inquire by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
A la carte, crudos & antipastis from about $18-27; Pastas average around $30; Fish & meat entrees from $41-54; Whole fish start at $49/pound.
May 22, 2012