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Marea & Picholine, New York.

April 13, 2012

The Michelin-star dining continued the next day 03 April 2012 right after that superb dinner at Per Se. After having spent the morning re-acquainting myself with the Metropolitan Museum’s wonderful collection of the Impressionists, I walked down Fifth Ave around the perimeter of Central Park to Marea, a chic and elegant 2 Michelin-star establishment to meet Kieron and some of the usual suspects who had, coincidentally, flown in from Singapore. We had two wines over a 2-course lunch, starting with a Ruinart Blanc de Blancs NV that exuded crisp citrus, smoky with plenty of almond and other nutty overtones that resonated well on the palate, weighty but surprisingly open and mellow with none of the acerbic dryness. A good choice.

YS had his eye on a 2007 Jerome Chezeaux Vosne-Romanee “Les Suchots” 1er Cru, which was aired in bottle. This wine displayed a beautiful clear ruby, just a shade heavier than usual that corresponded to the powerful glow of red fruits and cherries, a big and weighty pinot that’s still tight. It opened up rapidly, becoming less dense in the mid-body with greater transparency that revealed a deep vein of surprisingly ripe and rich fuit, carrying the weight of a Vosne-Romanee.  Honest and unassuming. Still primal, but it is certainly approachable if given time. Very fine.

Less than four hours later, I took a walk down Broadway Ave to West 64th St to meet Kieron again for dinner at Picholine, a charming one-star establishment with a mixture of modern and traditional European decor, the kind that serves traditional Italian fare with a modern makeover. As the list of wines-by-the glass and half bottles was rather  modest, we decided to go “local”, the only choice of white by-the-glass that seemed decent was the 2008 Heitz Chardonnay, which was a bit of a disappointment, the wine dominated by stony minerality that obscured the fruit significantly, assertive and steely towards the finish without much of the aromas one expects of chardonnay. For the red, we picked what was thought to be a gem, the 2009 Bergstrom Cumberland Reserve, a half bottle priced at USD58. This Oregon pinot was promising, displaying lifted aromas of bright red fruits and ripe cherries with a mild sheen of glycerin, carrying  decent concentration and weight though somewhat simple and straightforward on the whole without the sense of terroir, lacking in true complexity although one may forgive those shortcomings in view of its youth. A satisfying start to a night at the Metropolitan Opera across the road (Anna Netrebko in the title role of Massenet’s Manon).

Comparing these two restaurants, I’d say Marea has the distinct edge – modern, fuss-free, staff who know the preferences of their regular clients inside out, food that is well-thought out and executed, whereas Picholine seems a little tired looking. It’s still very good, of course, but the dining experience didn’t seem special, and the wine list could do with greater breadth

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