Birthday at Marea

Oh my lucky stars!

I finally dined at the two-starred Michelin/Relais & Chateaux elite group member, best Italian/seafood centric restaurant and crown jewel of the Altamarea Group empire.

For an early birthday celebration, my boyfriend surprised me on August 15th with dinner at Marea! It's the one Michael White restaurant I've been wanting to go to for a longest time.  Tears of joy. Ohhh, tears of joy!

We both opted for the $99 four course prix-fixe dinner which consisted of a choice of crudo, oysters or antipasto, pasta, meat or fish, and dessert. There was a fantastic Italian white wine that we enjoyed as well, but I forgot which of my top three we selected - but I can tell you that it was an excellent complement to every dish.

On to the meal...

Amuse Bouche - Cubed, raw bluefin tuna

This was to prepare out palates for what's to come...seafood and all great things by Michael White & his talented team.


From the fine selection of crudo, I chose the maccarello - pacific horse mackerel, tomato, garbanzo, meyer lemon; cannolichi - marinated razor clams, baby fennel, peperoncino, and the branzino - local wild striped bass, sturgeon caviar, mussel vinaigrette. I was amazed when I first tried the crudo at Michael White's Costata in SoHo after hearing many great things about his crudo in general, and of course at Marea with its emphasis on coastal cuisine of Italy, I expected it to be out of this world. And, it was! The best way to describe it - you will really taste the freshness and refreshing flavors of the ocean. My favorite was the first one on the left - the pacific horse mackerel. The meyer lemon, tomato, and garbanzo made my taste buds dance. I loved it.


Fusilli with Red Wine Braised Octopus and Bone Marrow

This was by far the BEST pasta I've eaten in all of NYC (until my trip to Emilia-Romagna, Italy that is, but Michael White exquisitely created a fantastic dish here). The perfectly al dente fusilli pasta and rich flavor of bone marrow with tender and chewy octopus was an A+++ in my book. I could have had more if that was an option. 


Grilled Cobia, Market Beans, Octopus Bacon,  Heirloom Tomatoes, and Kale Pesto

I was told that cobia is similar in taste to Spanish mackerel, so if I liked that, then I'd be happy with this fish. Since I am always game to try something new, I chose it and couldn't get enough of it. Its white firm flesh took on the flavors of the kale pesto really well and tasted great with the market beans and heirloom tomatoes. No strong fishy flavor at all!


Bomboloni - Italian Doughnuts filled with Lemon Verbena + Caramelized White Chocolate, and Strawberry Jam to dip them in.

These warm delightful bites and the "Happy Birthday" chocolate greeting were an excellent finish to a memorable meal. I was stuffed and very, very happy. Four courses over two hours plus a bottle of wine really add up, and all that food hits you with food coma at the end, but it's worth it. My boyfriend succeeded in carefully planning this sneaky and awesome surprise -- it totally made my night. That's another A+++ in my book! 

When you visit Marea, you'll find great a la carte offerings as well as a prix-fixe lunch option on weekdays, a prix fixe dinner option during evenings, and a prix fixe brunch menu on the weekends.  See ALL photos from Marea on my Flickr here.

240 Central Park South
New York, NY 10019
(212) 582-5100




Celebration at WD~50

For my boyfriend's birthday, I surprised him with a celebratory dinner at WD~50. On the way there, I didn't want him know the direction we were traveling in. So we hopped in a cab, and I blindfolded him with my scarf. When we arrived, he couldn't believe his eyes. I think it was also because he got car sick, but it was worth it!

It was awesome seeing my friend, Reggie Soang, the Sous Chef, run the kitchen from the view at the Chef's Table.  I was hoping to see Chef Sam Henderson in action as Chef de Cuisine, but I think she was off that night.

Let's dive right in. We chose the tasting menu - 13 items of which 4 were desserts.  Instead of wine pairings, I opted for a bottle of Coteaux du Loir 'Eparses' Domaine de Bellivière 2010, a nice Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley to accompany our meal. Not sure I could have handle all those different alcohols in one sitting.

Course #1 - Oyster in its "Shell," Preserved Lemon, Snow Pea, and Hazelnut

The shell was edible, because it wasn't even an oyster shell. How cool is that? Made me think twice about it before I ate it.  "How is this possible? Edible shell? An oyster shell is hard and definitely something that you can't eat." Well, I was fooled! This "shell" was delicious!


Course #2 - Egg Yolk-Mashed Potato Ravioli, Caviar, and Cucumber

I made sure to cover that potato ravioli with generous coats of caviar. What an artistic display.  If this wasn't food, then it could definitely be a stand-alone art piece!

Course #3 - Avocado Pea Soup, Smoked Crab, and Pistachio 

WIth these three great foods combined, the result is a refreshing soup with striking flavors. Don't be fooled by the crab - it was tender and juicy. 

Course #4 - Charred Chicken Liver, Szechuan, Injera, Melon 

Wow. Each course continued to impress us! The intricate design and arrangement of the ingredients in this one was aesthetically pleasing to both the eyes and the palate.  For those of you wondering what injera is - it's an Ethiopian flatbread simliar to a crepe.  It's in here somewhere! I think it's next to the melon in the back of the photo. I remembered it being crunchy and toasted like a chip. 

Course #5 - Shrimp Grits with Pickled Jalapeno & Veal Brisket (for me)

Wish I could tell you how much my boyfriend enjoyed the grits.  I didn't taste it since I'm allergic t shrimp. My dish was substituted for veal brisket.  It was tasty, but I was distracted by the shrimp grits. It looked and smelled so good!

Course #6 - Bloodless Sausage, Smoked Marcona, Lily Bulb, Mushroom

We were told that the sausage is made from either rhubarb or beets (can't remember), and is vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free.  I'll eat anything I'm not allergic to, so it's win-win-win for me! I really enjoyed this dish. The sausage was light and chewy but not chewiness of the tough kind.

Course #7 - Black Bass, Parsnip, Pickled Ginger, Nori Mustard

Between courses 6-7, we started to get full, but that didn't stop us continuing our dinner! Seriously, the black bass was fantastic.  Slightly larger than the size of nigiri sushi and it melts in your mouth. 

Course #8 - Pork Collar, Poppy Seed, Red Bell Pepper, Tamarind

The pork was perfect. Two bites, too quick. I could have eaten another piece. That's what my gluttonous side thought.

Course #9 - Cured Duck Breast, Curds-N-Whey, Sweet Potato, and Rice Noodles

Another favorite of the evening! It wouldn't be complete with a fine tasting duck. The fried rice noodle added more texture, crunch, and beauty to this dish.  Not only were we amused by presentation and how to eat it, we loved the rich flavors of the duck breast and delicate meat. 

Time for dessert!

Courses 10-13 below with photos (click to enlarge).

  • Oat Meringue, Banana, Strawberry Yeast
  • Verbena Mousse, Rhubarb, Buckwheat, Camelina Oil
  • Ovaltine Cake, Marcona Almond, Cardamom, Sheep's Milk
  • Cookie Dough Ice Cream

And finally, a special mini birthday treat - popcorn ice cream cake. 

Thanks to Pastry Chef Malcolm for preparing this! 

I loved it. I loved it all. Chef Wylie Dufresne, you are an amazingly talented and creative man! My birthday surprise was a success. 

With it's final season approaching fast WD~50 will be introducing a new tasting menu that it'll be serving until it's last day on November 30th. So sad, I know. I'm hoping to go back and try the new menu as well as the vault menu ( which features favorite dishes from past tasting menus). If you're not looking to indulge in the either of the tasting menus, you can always sit at the bar and enjoy any two dishes (even dessert) for $25. Quite the deal, I'd say.

Maybe WD~50 will open up somewhere else in the city one day, in a non-hostile, rent rising environment.  I really hope so!

50 Clinton Street 
New York, NY 10002
(212) 477-2900

All Eyes on Sakamai

A sake lounge and restaurant in the Lower East Side, Sakamai serves fantastic Japanese food, cocktails, and Japanese craft beer. It's the place you'll want to take guests or a date to when you're looking for a unique and cozy place.

Quite a presentation!

Quite a presentation!

When you sit down, instead of asking for drinks first, you MUST order this. The “Egg on egg on egg” is sea urchin, American sturgeon caviar over a bed of fluffy scrambled eggs.  Not only is it beautiful in appearance, the combination of flavors and textures is phenomenal, sensory experience.

From left to right following the first photo is the uni crostini (torched uni with Parmeggiano Reggiano flakes), Foie Gras Chawan Mushi (with dashi glaze), Tasmanian Ocean Trout with a mushroom rice pot (this is part of a larger dish and a seasonal dessert. The trout dish was part of a larger dish or pot, and it takes 50 minutes to prep and cook. The Uonuma Koshihikari rice, ikura, mitsuba and Tokyo scallions were carefully taken from the original dish and intricately assembled into the smaller serving bowls seen above. I recommend that you try this dish if you enjoy a good fish and are looking for something on the more “traditional” Japanese side.  We had a bottle of sake to go with our dinner. Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo of the bottle that was kept on ice for us. 

With most, if not all dishes, drink sake.  Refer to the detailed guide for all tasting notes or ask the server for help with your taste profile and his/her recommended food pairings. The cocktails at Sakamai were created by mixing master Shingo Gokan from cocktail den Angel's Share in East Village. If you've been to Angel's Share before, you'll recognize the high-quality craftsmanship and refreshing taste of the cocktails here that are reminiscient of the ones at the popular Japanese speakeasy. 

For my first complete meal here, there wasn't any part of dinner I didn't love. So if you enjoy Japanese cuisine and sake especially, then you’ll have a great time dining here as well. To find out how intriguing it really is, you'll have to go out and try it. 

157 Ludlow Street, New York, NY 10002 
(646) 590-0684