It's that time of year in New York when restaurants around Lincoln Center fill with people patronizing the arts - from opera to ballet and other cultural events. The "hip" restaurants may be below 14th street, (according to some) but that doesn't mean the Upper West Side around Lincoln Center is barren of good restaurants either. Marea is a perfect example. The name means "tide" in Italian, and that's a clue that it's a seafood restaurant - a very good seafood restaurant - and one of my favorites in Manhattan, along with Esca and Le Bernardin. The menu does post an offering or two for meat lovers, but the star is the seafood, guided by Chef Michael White.
White is executive chef and co-owner of the Altamarea Group, a collection of restaurants that includes Osteria Morini in New York's Soho neighborhood and another one of the same name in Bernardsville, New Jersey. White's reach extends further into New Jersey with Due Mari in New Brunswick and as far away as Hong Kong with his restaurant Al Molo.
Marea, which is located on Central Park South, is at the former site of San Domenico. White, in fact, cut his culinary teeth at the original San Domenico in Imola, Italy, in the Emilia Romagna region.
Dinner at Marea does not come cheap, but it's worth a splurge every once in a while when the food is this good.
We sat down and were immediately presented with an amuse bouche to take the edge off our appetites:
bits of smoked salmon atop herbed rice crackers smeared with crème fraiche and a radish slice.
Crudo (raw seafood), served in a variety of ways, features prominently as a starter, as do a selection of oysters and caviar. But we skipped ahead to the antipasti, including these:
grilled octopus with smoked potatoes, pickled red onions, radish and chilies.
warm mediterranean red prawn, porcini, sunchoke, prawn sugo:
slow poached egg, cuttlefish, pine nuts, with a smoky swath of olive paste swished across the plate.
We moved on to the pasta, which is a specialty here - all homemade, of course. They were all toothsome to the bite - and delicious. Here are a couple of examples, and I'm sorry to say I forgot some of the ingredients in this dish, but it was packed with flavor - linguini with lobster and cabbage (yes, cabbage - who'd have thunk?) and a crunchy topping:
Tagliolini with manila clams, calamari and peperoncini:
Main courses were equally well prepared and inventive: scallops with potato puree, fried chickpea, brussel sprouts, golden raisins and pickled mustard
a moist and thick piece of halibut in a broth with clams, peppers and celery.
The first time I ate here we ordered dessert. I can't tell you the specifics but there was chocolate and coffee and ice cream too and it was divine. See for yourself. The presentation also was beautiful.
But even if you skip dessert, they'll bring some mignardises to the table to satiate your sweet tooth. In this case, it was biscotti and small cream puffs flecked with gold leaf.
On another occasion, it was these little bites:
There are plenty of other restaurants besides Marea in the Lincoln Center area, too. Here are a few where I've eaten over the years.
Cafe Fiorello - On Broadway, right across the street from Lincoln Center and my old standby. I love everything on the menu, except the pizzas, which are huge flatbreads that could serve two people. They seem very popular, but I'm partial to Neapolitan style pizza. If you find a spot at the bar, you can make your dinner from the vast antipasti on display and can scoot in and out in a half hour. Warning: very noisy when full.
La Boite En Bois - charming French restaurant on 68th St. near Columbus Ave. Always delicious, with pre-theatre pre-fixe at very reasonable prices and not usually noisy either.
Boulud Sud - Also across the street from Lincoln Center on Broadway - near Fiorello. Pricey, but delicious and elegant food. Right in front of the restaurant is Bar Boulud, a less expensive bistro and wine bar.
Lincoln - Fine dining with contemporary Italian food - and quiet - in a location that couldn't be more convenient - right on the Lincoln Center campus. pricey.
Picholine - The food is delicious, the decor is lovely but the service was a little too "precious" the night we were there, with waiters hovering over us so closely we felt conspicuous. Not the feeling you want when you're paying a lot of money for dinner.
The Leopard - At the former site of "Cafe Des Artistes" - 1 West 67th St.) and even better than the old restaurant. Wonderful Italian food in a beautiful setting (they kept the old murals thankfully). Also pricey.
- P.J.Clarke's - Low cost alternative with great burgers. West 63rd - just a hop and skip from L.C.
So tell me, what are some of your favorite spots that I missed here in the Lincoln Center area? Let us know in the comment section of the blog.