photo credit: Liz Clayman
A movie is more likely to make you cry if you’re watching it on an airplane. It’s happened to all of us—one minute you’re fully engaged in Nicolas Cage’s endearing relationship with his pet truffle pig, and before you know it, you’re looking out the window, shedding tears at a very high altitude.
A pasta dish is most likely to make you feel something if you’re eating it at Marea. You might not cry, but when you take your first bite of bone marrow fusilli, you’ll feel like the main character in a coming-of-age movie who finally realizes what was missing all along. This fine-dining restaurant near Columbus Circle is one of our favorite places to eat pasta in NYC, simply because the options go way beyond usual suspects like linguine and clams or a frutti di mare spaghetti.
The headliner of Marea’s menu is the octopus and bone marrow fusilli. With tender octopus, bone marrow, and a red wine-spiked tomato sauce that gets a boost from some garlicky breadcrumbs, this is one of the top pasta dishes in NYC. Like almost all the pastas on the menu, the fusilli is perfectly cooked and needs to be on your table. Even if you just came here to have that dish and a glass of wine at the bar, you'd have a meal that would probably occupy your thoughts at least once a week.
The smaller dishes and larger mains don’t hit quite the same highs as the pasta. The astice with burrata, lobster, and glowing green basil seeds is a delicious albeit small portion of fish and cheese. The sea bass has a perfect crust with some rich cippolini onions hiding underneath, but fails to stick out among other fish entrees across town. Will you be disappointed ordering the non-pasta dishes? Maybe only if you don’t want to pay $55 for a pretty-good hunk of sea bass or almost $40 for a lobster and cheese appetizer.
That’s another thing: the prices. Obviously, this is a fine-dining restaurant in Midtown, and the seafood is high-quality, but the prices across the board ($30+ for appetizers, $40+ for pastas, $50+ for mains) make this restaurant somewhat inaccessible. Not only are reservations hard to come by, but the overall experience falls short of nearby Le Bernardin (which is a tall order considering it’s our highest-rated restaurant in NYC). And yet, even though this is a fine dining spot where you’ll see lots of people in suits, have an elegant but tiny amuse bouche, and probably talk with the somm unprompted about the grape types of Lazio, it doesn’t feel over the top.
So stick with the pasta, and any client or date will be impressed. Our biggest piece of advice when coming here is to share a bunch of pastas with one other person. They’ll split each serving into two separate portions, and, in our experience, it seems like you get a little extra. At Marea, even getting a few bonus fusilli is good enough to bring anybody to tears.
There are a lot of interesting options on Marea’s crudo list, and all of them contain some impeccable seafood. Get the sampler so you can try all of the offerings.
Lobster and burrata make a gorgeous pair. Add some fragrant and very green basil seeds, and you have an appetizer you probably won’t find on any other menu in the city. The tiny portion will cost almost $40 though.
The main event at Marea, and in the discussion for the best pasta dish in the city. The octopus is perfectly cooked, the bone marrow has seamlessly melted into the tangy tomato sauce, and the garlicky breadcrumbs provide both crunch and zing. If you don’t order this dish, you will hurt our feelings. (Also, you’ll be missing out.)
Another great pasta dish, this time a filled one. The squid ink ravioli come stuffed with lobster and topped with grated bottarga. This stuffed lobster pasta kicks the ass out of the one from Carbone, plus it’s not as expensive and you get a bigger portion. Order this with the fusilli and you’ll have a delightful meal.
There’s some crispy, crispy skin on this sea bass. Persimmon, brown butter, and cippolini onions are in the mix, and while this fish dish is solid, it won’t wow you like the pastas do.