Marea, New York.

September 2011.

Pretty close to perfect, and the price was not unreasonable ($200 with a nice bottle of wine). Portions were tiny. My geoduck starter was crunchy and loaded with olive oil flavor, and then grilled mackerel paled alongside its fabulously sour lentil accompanying vegetable.

Overall 9.0

February 2016

Recalling the above, we returned here for a birthday celebration. We had the impression that the place had physically enlarged, although the back room (where we were eventually seated) may have existed before and we didn’t notice it. This was a busy weekday evening, we got lost on the subway and were late so we called ahead.

The harried gentlemen at the front seemed to ignore that and without making eye contact ordered a minion to take us to our table and snapped at her when she headed in the wrong direction. We were seated in a back corner which suited us fine because it was quiet.

Our waiter was civil but definitely moving at warp speed, not bothering to hide a corporate priority of turning over the tables. A tiny simple amuse-bouche on a toothpick arrived. We ordered cocktails and looked over the menu.

It’s still definitely a fishy place, and so we descended into the white side of the impressive and lengthy wine list, chatted with the young somellier in a suit, and settled on a Sicilian item that looked like a relative bargain among the high-end Burgundies. Glancing at the reds, I didn’t see any of my favourite producers which would tend to mean either that they are flying over my head, or bottles had been chosen to minimize cost and maximize vineyard names. At any rate the little one we chose was no hell, maybe a wee bit below expectation for the price.

The food was delicious. Raw mackerel and shrimp perfectly fresh and set up with ideal seasoning that kept the fish flavour up front. We continued with pastas, both of them excellent. A red shrimp focused the delicate shellfish flavour, and an octopus penne was just dazzling with a hint of crustacean shell in the stock and garlic and white wine present but unobtrusive.

A fourflushing couple next to us insisted there was no point in coming to this place unless you have dessert so we did and were relatively disappointed.

I discovered only after reserving that this Marea now boasts two Michelin stars. The price was highish as expected, but less than I imagined with that Michelin rating, mid-$300 range Canadian after tip. Michael White is listed as both chef and owner. It feels this time as though he’s absolutely on his game in the kitchen, but is having some trouble pulling things together in the front end. The lovely dignified quiet atmosphere of two years ago is eclipsed, although last time it was lunch.

Food 9.3, service 6.9, atmosphere 7.3, value… well you could say it’s worth the money just for the wonderful food but starting somewhere below this price I’m looking not to be patronized and rushed.

 

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 30 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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