Like the classical Schubert song Ave Maria, this restaurant, at 240 Central Park South, serenades me and indulges my passion for seafood. It furthermore brings me back to the start of my love affair with shrimp, with clams and absolutely anything else from the ocean and sea.
Even when I was just a little girl, a lobster dinner was a beloved treat reserved for special occasions, and when on a summer beach jaunt, clams on the half shell doused with hot sauce was a hit the spot choice. While many my age would be eating burgers and fries, I would bravely challenge my taste buds with spectacularly fresh delights gleaned from the sea.
So I walk into this dining spot and the lyrics ring true.
Ave Maria… Gratia plena. “Full of grace”, with a deliberate seafood emphasis and an airy contemporary feel.
First the atmosphere sets the mood, playing on the theme with conch shells lining the window ledges and matte earth toned nooks and booths, softened with throw pillows. Proper clothed tables cast a nice balance of seriousness in honor of the culinary masterpieces about to be served.
From business lunches, to obvious romantic trysts, this room allows for all diners with a common passion; their seafood rich menu. Chefs Michael White and Jared Gadbaw (the Chef Di Cucina) offer preparations which accent seafood with Italian influence and their unique interpretations of Mediterranean coastal cuisine. The menu is a culinary bible of choices, making use of fresh catches sourced from waters worldwide. For those who require no frills, start with a varietal platter of raw oysters paired with a nice glass of effervescent Prosecco from Veneto, Italy.
Come with an appetite and be sure to order one of their seafood-focused pasta dishes, like their risotto with shrimp, lobster, scallop and bass, in the style of paella atop a creamy rice. If looking to keep things simple but flavorful, try the grilled octopus, smoked potatoes, pickled red onion and chilies, itself with a bang, but certainly not overpowering.
Suffice it to say, in all of my years of being a seafood fan, I thought that I had tasted it all.
Not the case.
At Marea, I enjoyed my virgin sampling of razor clams marinated in fennel and peperoncino. For Branzino lovers, the local wild striped bass with roasted eggplant, fava beans and grilled ramps with apricot mustard is delicious. At the end of the meal, my favorite course was the razors hands down.
For me it wasn’t just about the stretched sultry body of these clams, resting juicy and tender in their matching shell shapes, like bikini clad sunbathers on the beach. The length of these treasures translates to a larger sized clam and at the end of the day being the seafood lover that I am, simply and splendidly it meant…
More clams for me.