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Sea Urchin and Steak at Marea


I went back to Marea last week to sample two of the dishes mentioned in Sam Sifton’s three-star love letter.

I don’t know how Marea’s menu will evolve, but there is one item that will never come off. Not after this:

The very first item on the menu at Marea is ricci, a piece of warm toast slathered with sea urchin roe, blanketed in a thin sheet of lardo, and dotted with sea salt. It offers exactly the sensation as kissing an extremely attractive person for the first time — a bolt of surprise and pleasure combined. The salt and fat give way to primal sweetness and combine in deeply agreeable ways. The feeling lingers on the tongue and vibrates through the body. Not bad at $14 a throw — and there are two on each plate.

Well…I had it. Yes, it is very good. But no, it isn’t as good as a first kiss. My body did not vibrate in deeply agreeable ways.

Then came the steak, or perhaps I should say, the “Creekstone Farms 50-day dry-aged sirloin,” which according to Sifton, “would do epic battle with the beef at any steakhouse in town.”

Yes, it is an excellent slab of meat, served on the bone for good measure. What Marea lacks is the 2,000 degree ovens the better steakhouses have. So there is no exterior char, just the faint hint of cross-hatching. It’s a decent escape-hatch dish for the non-fish-eater in your party, but for $47 you’ll do better at restaurants that make their living at steak.

I’d thrown my diet to the wind anyway, so I figured one last cheat wouldn’t do much harm. Affogato ($13) doesn’t do much calorie damage—or so I imagined. It’s zabaglione gelato, espresso, and amaro: dessert and coffee combined in one glass.

I dined at the bar, where service is friendly. The bartenders told me they’d had plenty of laughs over Sifton’d description of the sea urchin toast, but everyone at the restaurant was relieved to have their three stars.

At some point I’ll be back to sample more of the pastas and fish. Sifton’s idea of visiting for the steak is just nutty. For now, we stand by the two stars we’ve awarded on two prior visits.

Marea (240 Central Park West between Seventh Avenue & Broadway, West Midtown)

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