Best splurge in a bad economy: Marea

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Comfort food was the order of the year, as wallets thinned and New York diners took to pizza, burgers and other cheap-eats hallmarks. But one chef stayed the fine-dining course: Michael White, whose extravagant, spectacular shrine to Italian seafood was the year's most worthy indulgence. Spend you shall, and with great rewards: crostini topped with velvety sea urchin and petals of translucent lardo, fusilli spiraled around chunks of octopus in a bone-marrow--enriched sauce. Sure, you may no longer be flush, but the food at Marea is rich enough to make up for it. Marea 240 Central Park South between Seventh Ave and Broadway (212-582-5100)

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