(Warning: I’m still cringing at how much I ate during the NYC trip. This post might lack excitement).
Marea is a two-Michelin-starrred Italian/seafood restaurant overlooking the south of Central Park. If standing outside the restaurant on a breezy, sunny day, you will certainly entice yourself with smell of fresh horse poo from sightseeing horse carriages (I did). The restaurant was otherworldly from that. Casual-elegant. Fast-paced service. You can aim to be there in order to be seen.
The food did not let me down. I ordered the five-course tasting menu at $75 (which on reflection I shouldn’t have). The amuse of three kinds of raw fish was okay. Langoustine was springy and fresh; fluke was nicely scented with thyme but bland (I’m not a big fan of fluke in general so I might be talking bullshit); tuna was complimented well with crispy Jerusalem artichoke. The basic salad of tomato, basil and burrata was upgraded with gently boiled lobster, a luxury to the eyes but redundant for the taste bud. The burrata was brilliantly sourced and served at a precise temperature for unforgettable buttery-ness; the tomatoes were expertly blanched; I also liked the extra touches of basil chlorophyll and crunchy basil seeds. Freshly cut semolina pasta made pals with naturally sweet crab and naturally sweeter sea urchin. The latter was cooked, with a touch of basil, to dissolve and form a creamy sauce – the tour de force of my meal at Marea and I highly recommend you go order this dish (as an A La Carte option). I still remembered the rich velvety depth (of sweet, musty sea urchin and tender crab meat) that glazed my tongue. Pan fried sea bass was not as inspiring but an enjoyable plate of food. The firm sea bass was strengthened by polenta in chilli and red wine jus (which tasted a little like well aged balsamic vinegar). Trumpet royale mushrooms was meaty. The desserts arrived a duo on one plate. On the left stood doughnut, chocolate, coffee ice cream and ginger (nice – tasted exactly like the description); on the right carrot cake, tangy carrot sorbet and white chocolate (nicer – and tasted exactly like the description. The other star of the meal (after the pasta) was, interestingly enough, the petit four, specifically the lemon meringue. The meringue (prepared Italian style) was expertly aerated and weightless; the “lemon” had a great depth of acidity; the tart base was carefully sweetened and crumbled at first bite.
A very balanced meal. Nothing to dislike. There were two things that were definitely worth a detour. But, instead of ordering a tasting menu, you might want to go for a two-or-three-course meal ^_^
Mary’s Fish Camp
In charming and tasteful West Village was another renowned seafood spot in NYC, Mary’s Fish Camp. The seafood here was done New England-style (I deducted but might be wrong). The place was not big (a counter seating around 10 and 6-7 odd tables) and the ambiance was unpretentiously low-key and strictly not the place to be seen at. (Anonymity was best when I gobbled down a very large Po Boy). The queue – yes, QUEUE – started well before the restaurant’s opening hours and when I went the dining room was filled up in half an hour or so. (Imagine Barrafina).
I started with Crayfish Beignets served with green chilli salsa ($11). The beignets were fluffed and grease-free. It was such a shame that they could have tasted less of beignets and more of crayfish. The chilli salsa was impressively smokey and had a mild kick (reminding me of Thai-style grilled chilli relish from the North). Prawns with chilli de Arbol ($14) were what anybody should want to eat. The prawns were oven roasted with the heads intact, meaning I sucked the juicy head dry. The chilli de Arbol and garlic oil infusion was a devil – so hot and raunchy I could do with more bread to sponge it up. My only concern was that two of my prawns were rather limp. The meal ended with this main event of Fish Camp Po Boy ($14). Plump, deep-fried aphrodisiacs (AKA oysters) in a ciabiatta bun with sliced pickled gherkin, creme fraiche and a slap of Sriracha-style hot sauce. The vinegar acidity coupled with heat was a climax in my mouth; the various crunch (from shredded iceberg lettuce, gherkin, oyster, bread) worked my jaws well; and the naturally seasalt-y note from the oyster did not find itself lost in such a big-flavoured concoction. Loved it!
Like Marea, I can easily recommend Mary’s Fish Camp, depending what scene and what take on seafood you are after. And oh! GT went to Mary’s Fish Camp as well. We didn’t plan to order completely different dishes, so that you can have more photos to drool at here…
RATING: 4 for both/5
240 Central Park South
New York 10019
Tel. + 1 212 582 5100
MARY’S FISH CAMP
64 Charles Street
New York 10014
Tel: + 1 646 486 2185