CASA MONO – NYC
52 Irving Pl. (nr 17th), New York, NY 10003
Date dined: 2.17.12
Casa Mono is one of Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich’s partnerships but rather than Italian food, this little Gramercy gem features regional Spanish fare. The menu is inspired by Chef Andy Nusser’s hometown on the Costa Brava but also maintains the theme which crosses all of Batali and Bastianich’s restaurants which is to use only the finest ingredients and to highlight their flavors while preserving their integrity as best possible. Nusser has been with Batali since early in his career at Batali’s first restaurant Po and then later working at Babbo.
The tiny space resides on a quiet street in Gramergy and feels very cozy with bottles of wine lining the walls and a small open kitchen. Though the menu says “tapas” these small plates are really quite large. My friends and I definitely over-ordered but also really enjoyed tasting all of the wonderful creations. If you are just looking to have a glass of wine and some jamón or cheese, Bar Jamón next door might be your best bet.
To start the meal we ordered some freshly carved jamón Iberico and pan con tomate. It is amazing how something so simple can be so delicious.
Next we sampled the pumpkin and goat cheese croquetas. Crispy on the outside with just a bit of sweet and creamy filling.
I stole a taste of the beets with blue cheese and house-made bacon from my friend’s plate. Although one would expect to have a whole bunch of beets when ordering a beet salad, not many people can down an entire plateful of dense vegetables at the outset of a meal and still be hungry for their main. This salad was good balance of beets with the other ingredents meaning there were greens and blue cheese for every bite.
The razor clams a la plancha were a veritable mountain of meaty razor clams stacked to resemble a log pile and garnished with fresh herbs. These were the heartiest razor clams I have ever had and were tender and juicy. The buttery sauce highlighted the flavor of the seafood but did not feel fatty in any way.
We next had another salad of fennel and grapefruit topped with pulpo. The mini octopuses were cooked in some way that made them completely flat and a little bit crunchy- almost like an octopus chip or crouton to add texture to the paper thin slices of fennel beneath. While this was interesting, I think I prefer a more traditional preparation to this interpretation.
I love sweetbread and the sweetbreads with fennel al Mono do not disappoint. These were prepared very simply with a very light sauce on top of some braised fennel.
Anything prepared with white truffles will be ordered without a doubt if I am at your table. The duck egg was a no brainer. A runny duck egg created a slightly gamey sauce for the roasted fingerling potatoes beneath. The thin slices of ham on top added salty seasoning and the earthy truffle added more depth of flavor.
By this point in the meal- and halfway through our second bottle of wine- we were starting to get a bit full but the last two dishes were too pretty not to taste.
The crispy pork belly with sunchoke puree and confit artichokes was a combination of some of my favorite flavors. This was an incredibly rich dish though and a bit too much to take at the end of the meal.
Our final dish was lobster with spicy saffron sauce. The lobster was tender and nicely cooked and the sauce was delicate and not overpowering.
Casa Mono is a great restaurant for an intimate dinner with a great atmosphere any time of year.