: 240 Central Park South New York, NY

Phone: 212-582-5100

If you have read my posting on the Convivio restaurant in Tudor City, you'll know that Gan and I (as well as many of our yaokui friends) are big fans of Convivio and its chef/owner Michael White. We kept going back to Convivio for its consistently well executed and reasonably priced Southern Italian fare that we almost neglected his newly opened, already awarded one Michelin star seafood restaurant Marea, until now. While Convivio serves Southern Italian dishes and his other restaurant, Alto does Northern Italian, Marea serves mainly seafood with a limited selections of meat dishes for the carnivores out there. Some people compared Marea to Le Bernardin, but I feel although Marea serves exceptional seafood, it is no Le Bernardin. You can clearly see the 2 Michelin star gaps between Le Bernardin and Marea in its consistency across the menu. Having said that, the single Michelin star which Marea had garnered is certainly well deserved and had provided itself a great platform to continue to improve. Note: If you're feeling sorry for chef Michael White, don't. He's one of the most successful restaurateurs in the city, with a total of 4 Michelin Stars (2 for Alto, 1 for Convivio and 1 for Marea). To put it in perspective, legendary New York City chefs Eric Ripert only has a total of 3, Daniel Boulud has a total of 4, and Mario Batali has a total of 2. Tom Collicchio has 0.

OSTRICHE east and west coast oysters served with morellino mignonette & cucumber-lemon vinegar. Not part of menu

Just like Convivio, Marea has a rather utilitarian menu which is divided into crudo, ostriche, antipasti, pasta, secondi di pesce and carne. You can order dishes a la carte or the recommended $89 Four Course Prix Fixe which includes a choice each from the Crudo, Ostriche, or Antipasto (Appetizer) / Pasta / Pesce or Carne (Entree) / Dolce (Desert) section. I recommend going with the four course prix fix, which is always a good value in Michael White's restaurants. But be mindful that the portions of some dishes at Marea can be much bigger than the ones at Convivio. I didn't know that and ordered some of the heaviest dishes on the menu, ended up having a tough time finishing everything on the plate.

UOVO slow poached egg, crispy monkfish cheeks, wild mushrooms, garlic chips

SPAGHETTI crab, santa barbara sea urchin, basil

BRODETTO DI PESCE adriatic seafood soup, clams, langoustine, scallop, spot prawns, snapper

I had Uovo, which is a slow poached egg with crispy monkfish cheeks, wild mushrooms and garlic chips; spaghetti with crab, santa barbara sea urchin; and a huge bowl of brodetto di pesce for main entree. Among these three dishes, monkfish cheeks antipasti and crab and sea urchin spaghetti were my favorites. I like that they play with contrast in texture in this dish -- crispy monkfish cheeks paired with a smooth and runny poached egg. And oh my god, the spaghetti with crab and sea urchin was insane! Michael White is a pasta god. His handmade pastas are officially my favorite pastas especially those served with sea urchin!

ASTICE nova scotia lobster, burrata, eggplant al funghetto, basil

FERRATINI manila clams, calamari, hot chilies

SCAMPI langoustine (new zealand) seared

AFFOGATO zabaglione gelato, espresso and amaro

Gan ordered Astice, which is nova scotia lobster, burrata, eggplant al funghetto and basil which he thought was really fresh and appetizing. He wasn't too crazy about his pasta dish Ferratini with manila clams, calamari and hot chilies. The dish was too light and a little bland in flavor even though the brightly colored red chili was in abundance. His order of seared New Zealand Langoustine scampi was somewhat of a disappointment. Slightly overcooked and with little meat to chew on. For dessert, I love Michael White's Affogato at Convivio and both Gan and I ordered that in Marea as well. It's like a higher end version of the same dolce dish in Convivio. A perfect Italian palate cleanser to finish up the meal.

ZUPPA lobster and butternut squash soup, porcini mushrooms, brown butter (other dishes ordered by the table)

BRANZINO seared wild striped bass, marinated salsify, roasted brussel sprouts, fresh pancetta, saba (other dishes ordered by the table)

PANNA COTTA vanilla bean panna cotta, lemon verbena sauce, blueberry sorbet (other dishes ordered by the table)

Marea is definitely more expensive and extravagant than Convivio and it's a daring venture when times are not that great. But just like the Romans do not build their empire by being conservative, Michael White is charging ahead with expansion of his own empire in the NYC culinary world. After being rewarded with the various accolades within just a year of its opening, and already gaining loyal customers, I think Chris Cannon and Michael White had done it again. Oh how I wish I have an expense account like the real food critics out there!

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