New York minute/Latish September 2010

The quite good: Marea, where a working friend treated me and a mutual other-coast friend to Friday lunch and where the cooking almost vanquished ghosts of the previous restaurant in that space. We did get a pretty crappy table — a sixtop with three chairs, so it was damn difficult to talk, especially butted up against a wine wall and service station — but at least we were not shoved back into the old bitch alcove where I suffered my last meal at San Domenico. The bread also earned points, especially the focaccia with big chunks of green olive. Aside from a couple of clunkers, the food was amazing, especially the crab with duck prosciutto and figs on puff pastry, the lettuce gazpacho topped with fried oysters and underlaid with trout roe and tiny pickled mushrooms and the spaghetti with crab and sea urchin. All three crudi also gave faith, each with layers of flavor and contrasting texture. And we all liked the smoked mackerel entree because the small fillet was so un-fishy and silky and paired so well with plum and fried capers, although I was the only one who thought the relatively huge mound of mache was a good matchup. Our second pasta — gnocchetti with shrimp — was the weakest link, sort of what two of us remembered as Fiamma fare. Desserts were good, not dazzling, at least to me: a semolina tart with poached local cherries and a little gianduja number of which the best element was the cocoa nibs. Our wine, a white from Puglia, was another great surprise. WIGB? Absolutely, and not necessarily when someone else is paying. 240 Central Park South, 212 582 5100.