Last night my boyfriend and I celebrated our one and a half year anniversary at Harold Dieterle’s “The Marrow”, located at 99 Bank Street. I was first introduced to Harold during season 1 of Top Chef (which is an obsession of mine). He won his season, and to this day is still the Top Chef winner I celebrated the most. In the year between undergrad and law school, my best friend and I lived together in Jersey City. During that year, every Wednesday night, we would cook something fun and anxiously await that perfect hour of Top Chef. We rooted for Harold from the beginning and, although he has many, many more claims to fame than just a Top Chef win, I still remember how calm and collected he was in front of the judges, and how mouth-watering his food always looked to me.
Harold now has 3 restaurants in the city, Perilla (one of my top three, along with Dell’Anima), Kin Shop and the Marrow. Sometimes Harold does special dinners at his restaurants, pairing beer or wine with a themed menu. My best friend, the same amazing girl mentioned above, told me about a dinner he was hosting at The Marrow: a Sicilian seafood feast paired with Sicilian wines. My grandfather is from Sicily, so they had me at that, but adding a Sicilian wine pairing sealed the deal. Usually The Marrow is a German/Italian restaurant, and I need to come back to sample the actual menu, but last night it was all about Italia.
First, the dinner was not in the main dining room, but rather in a private room downstairs. It was hosted at a gorgeous large table that sat about 25-30 people, and encouraged chatting with your neighbor (although I admit my boyfriend and I largely stuffed our faces and drank, but we could have been social, if we wanted to).
As you can see from the above menu, Harold did not define what the “antipasti” was. It consisted of a mix of seafood, a langoustine with garlic butter, an anchovy over ricotta toast, uni over crispy chicken skin and a wonderfully plump oyster. Funnily enough, the first — and last — time I had uni was over a salad at Harold’s Perilla. I didn’t like it. I found it too fishy and generally unpleasant. I am happy to say my opinion has changed. Maybe my tastebuds have changed, maybe the uni at Perilla was somehow different than the one I had last night. Whatever the case, the uni from The Marrow was great. It has a creamy texture that balanced perfectly with the chicken skin underneath. The oyster was wonderfully briney. The langoustine…was incredible. I love langoustines, but I can confidently say that I have never had one that was as tender and flavorful as the one last night. It practically melted in your mouth and I was consistently amused as my boyfriend spent an extra 10 minutes scrapping the shell for last remnants.
The next dish was a kingfish crudo with pickled watermellon and baby heirloom tomatoes. At first I thought the fish wasn’t seasoned enough. But once I mixed a bite with the Sicilian olive oil, pickled watermelon and a bite of tomato, it was perfect. Kingfish is more substantial than other fish I generally see with crudo (e.g. hamachi), and has a texture similar to swordfish. The next dish, and apologies for the crap picture, was hands done my favorite. Braised octopus with homemade cavetelli and raisins, pine nuts and homemade breadcrumbs. I was halfway through my dish when I realized I’d forgotten the picture. Then, in my haste to get back to eating, I contented myself with the blurry shot below. Sorry, again, but it couldn’t be helped. In case my description above didn’t tell you, the dish was superb. The cavetelli were perfectly done, the octopus had the same meatiness I fell in love with when first trying the charred octopus at Dell’Anima. Last, but not least, came the confit tuna with caponata, artichokes and potatoes, with a white ancovy sauce. The sauce was a bit strong for me, which is par for the course with anchovies, but when I got a bite of everything together it worked, and the anchovy did not overwhelm. Tuna is one of those fish that can stand up to a big sauce, and I appreciated Harold taking advantage of that. The potatoes were perfect. Somehow crisp just on the edges, with a wonderfully herbaciousness. I would have been happy with a huge bowl of those all to myself.
Dessert was cassata cake with chocolate sorbet. The sorbet was the star. Dark and rich and flavorful. The cassata cake was good, not great. It had too many orange notes for my taste and was much more heavy-handed than the other dishes. I prefer my restaurant desserts to be a bit more delicate than this was. But, with that as my only complaint (other than I wanted 5 bowls of that macaroni), I count the night as a resounding success.