Casa Mono is a cozy Spanish tapas restaurant in Gramercy Park and the brainchild of Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich. The superb cooking is creatively prepared by chef Andy Nusser.
The first thing you’ll notice when you arrive at this restaurant is that the space a small. Not small as in “I’m going to feel claustrophobic and won’t be able to hold a conversation with my dining partner(s)”, small as in “This place is great! I’m going to get to rub elbows with other enthusiastic diners while watching the action in the open kitchen”. The place has so much energy that diners immediately begin to relax upon being seated.
The food at Casa Mono is served tapas-style – small plates meant to be shared among guests. Dining in this manner allows for a completely interactive experience for the diners who can share what they’re tasting while trying several dishes they’d normally not have the opportunity to sample.
The menu at Casa Mon is extensive. There are around 40 tapas to select from, and one sounds more appetizing than the next. Some clear winners are the snapper crudo ($16), the pumpkin and goat cheese croquetas ($9), the soft shell crab with gazpacho dressing ($16), the pulpo with fennel and grapefruit ($13), and the lamb chop with garbanzos and harissa ($16). There are also four strong dishes prepared from whole Hudson pigs that are crowd pleasers: a charcuterie plate ($18), pork belly with salsa Jamaica ($16), pork croquetas with green tomatoes ($15) and the chorizo with spring beans and aged Manchego cheese ($16).
The snapper crudo is served with micro greens and a tangy dressing that’s worthy of praises. The pumpkin and goat cheese croquetas are fried to a perfect crunchy dark brown exterior and feature a great balance of sweet pumpkin and tart cheese. The soft shell crab has a thicker batter coating similar to English fried fish, that could have been lighter, but was served with a flavorful gazpacho sauce. The pulpo is served with shaved fennel and sections of pink grapefruit and might be the winner at Casa Mono. The baby octopus in this dish are tender and perfectly cooked and pair beautifully with the licorice fennel and the sweetly acidic grapefruit. The lamb chops are expertly cooked to a medium rare and are ultra flavorful due to the addition of harissa. The pork dishes can’t be missed, specially the moist chorizo served with a generous sprinkling of aged Manchego cheese.
There are several desserts offered at Casa Mono like the bread pudding with pear sorbet ($9), the burnt vanilla custard ($9) and the chocolate torte with apricots ($9), but the focus is on savory options at this establishment.
Casa Mono offers an extensive Spanish wine list by the cuartos de vino (small carafe with enough wine for two pours), the copita (smallish Spanish sherry glass) and the bottle. Some recommendations are the 2009 Santiago Ruiz Rias Baixas – a complex Albarino blend perfect for shellfish ($46 for a bottle), 2009 Ameztoi Rubentis Rose Getarioko Txakolina – a great example of Spanish rose ($17 for a cuartos de vino) and the 2009 Pazo Senorans Albarino – a versatile creamy, floral wine ($19 for a cuartos de vino). Sample servings allow diners to try several of the affordable Spanish gems featured on this list.
Casa Mono is a Certified Two Star Green Restaurant in accordance with the Green Restaurant Association’s rigorous guidelines, and a hot spot that foodies shouldn’t miss.
52 IRVING PLACE
NEW YORK CITY 10003