240 Central Park South,

New York, NY 10019-1457

Tel: (212) 582-5100

October 2009

I can't think of too many chefs doing better work in New York these days than Michael White. Marea, which is set in the space once occupied by San Domenico at 240 Central Park South, is White’s newest venture with Chris Cannon, his partner at sister restaurants Alto and Convivio.

White's menu at Marea is mostly fish and seafood, with vast choices of crudo, oysters, pastas and main courses. There is no need to fret if fish and seafood aren't your thing. On a recent visit I saw a fellow diner enjoying what looked like a spectacular steak. The wine list is extensive and well-chosen, with plenty of fairly priced coastal whites that won’t break the bank. Readers in search of trophy wines will find them, but they aren’t the focus here. The spacious room beautifully appointed and the ambience features the casual elegance that is the hallmark of Italian style. These are some of the highlights of several recent meals, all of which were outstanding.

Michael White’s cooking is characterized by bold, extroverted flavors, often in unusual combinations. The crostino with sea urchin and lardo is a perfect example of a dish that works beautifully. Readers should not miss the crudos, which can be ordered as single portions or in tasting flights of three. Either way, they are divine. I am partial to blue marlin with sturgeon caviar and mussel vinaigrette, which is full of bright, clean flavors. Among the antipasti, the Nova Scotia Lobster with burrata, eggplant and basil is utterly divine. A number of dishes such as the grilled octopus starter and Hawaiian swordfish combine sweet and savory elements, a style that in Italy is most common on the western coast of Sicily. Those dishes worked less well for my palate, but that is a matter of personal taste.

The main attractions at Marea are without question the pastas, all of which are homemade. White’s Lobster ravioli with chanterelles and asparagus reflects the rich, textured cooking that readers will recognize from Alto and Convivio. The fusilli with red wine braised octopus and bone marrow has quickly become a signature and with good reason – it is extraordinary. Readers looking for a dish to pair with a hearty red wine will find a perfect foil here. The Ferratini with manila clams is a brighter, more typical pasta but it, too, is loaded with personality.

Among the main courses I adore the Adriatic seafood soup, which is full of tasty fish and crustaceans. It is the type of rustic dish that takes on an additional level of finesse at Marea. The quality of the raw materials is simply fabulous.

I am generally not a fan of Champagne in half-bottles, but the pricing of Krug’s NV is very attractive these days. This appears to be a very recent disgorgement, as the wine is fresh, perfumed and bright. Cedric Bouchard’s Blanc de Noirs La Parcelle is stunning beyond words. Apples, pears, flowers and sweet spices are some of the nuances that flow from this complex, nuanced Champagne. This is one of the best bottles of this vintage I have had.

Lafon’s 2006 Meursault Clos de la Barre is pretty, delicate and perfumed, but it doesn’t have enough body to stand up to much of the food on this menu. Perhaps I expected too much, but this is a decidedly simple wine. Trimbach's 2001 Riesling Frederick Emile isn’t a powerhouse but its intense minerality is perfect with our crudo and some of the lighter pastas. Grapefruit, minerals and dried flowers linger on the finish. Luciano Sandrone’s 1999 Barolo Le Vigne is off the charts. Still a touch young, it has come together beautifully in recent years and is beginning to enter its early peak of maturity. Sweet, silky and perfumed, it is the perfect match to some of our richer dishes.


Crostini with sea urchin and lardo

Blue marlin with sturgeon caviar and mussel vinaigrette

Long Island fluke with lemon thyme and olio nuovo

Pacific langoustines with Murray River pink salt

Nova Scotia lobster with burrata, eggplant al funghetto and basil

Grilled octopus, insalata di riso, fava, yellow tomato

Fusilli with red wine braised octopus and bone marrow

Lobster ravioli, chanterelles, asparagus

Ferratini with manila clams, calamari, hot chiles

Grilled Hawaiian swordfish, charred yellow peaches, baby eggplant, almonds

Adriatic seafood soup, clams, langoustine, scallop, spot prawns, snapper 



Krug (half-bottle)



Cedric Bouchard Inflorescence Blanc de Noirs La Parcelle



Domaine Lafon Meursault Clos de la Barre



Trimbach Riesling Frederick Emile



Luciano Sandrone Barolo Le Vigne


[Photo and credit: Marea, New York]

 --Antonio Galloni