I chose Casa Mono. You know, for my one New York meal. I ditched the daring and picked this self-dubbed Spanish tavern, mainly because we wanted to make our New York night entertaining. Somehow tapas are more fun than a regular dinner — maybe it’s the sharing and picking at different foods. Adam Platt put it nicely in his review of the restaurant, which I read before we visited.
Food isn’t the tapeador’s prime concern, after all. It’s a means to an end, an enhancement, a social lubricant, an excuse for having a good time.
A good time is what we were looking for and we lucked out. When I called Casa Mono to make a reservation they told me they wouldn’t have a table until 11:00 p.m. but they have counter seating so I figured we’d take our chances. When we arrived, the hostess told us one of the parties had left earlier than she predicted and she’d have a table ready for us in 15 minutes. This gave us a chance to walk to the restaurant’s adjacent bar, Bar Jamon, but before we ordered anything to drink, our table was ready.
Casa Mono is small, with wood tables, counter seating and walls lined with wine bottles. It’s entirely candle-lit except for the light coming from the small kitchen, which is open. If you sit at one of the restaurant’s small counters, you can watch while you wait for your food. Since it’s summer, the floor to ceiling windows are open, which gives you an outdoor dining feel inside.
The restaurant serves over 500 Spanish wines and an interesting selection of small plates — some traditional, some not so much.
We ordered a $30 bottle of red from Jumilla. To eat, we started with pumpkin and goat cheese croquettes, grilled squid with grapefruit and fennel, jamon de mano and … cock’s combs with mushrooms. That was my idea — I guess I wanted to be a little daring. The croquettes were a real treat, perfectly fried (crisp) and a nice combination of sweet from the pumpkin and salt from the cheese. The first squid I ate was a little overdone in my opinion but the ones towards the bottom of the bunch were better. The ham … what can I say? It was good quality ham, salty and delicious. As for the cock’s combs, well, they were interesting. It was dark so we couldn’t really see our dishes well, but you could make out the shape of the crest and it was a little creepy to know that we were eating that. The rubbery texture was a little difficult to get around at first, but every bite got better. An acquired taste, I say.
Next, we ordered patatas bravas and skirt steak with onion marmalade. All dishes at Casa Mono are meant to be tapas size but the portions are pretty generous.
And there was more. The restaurant’s manager who came around to our table several times and was very willing to help, recommended the Mono Sundae. My god, what a treat. Vanilla ice cream with brandy, plum and nuts. My other friend ordered a bread pudding.
Our dinner took almost three hours and we all left happy. Obviously, I have a lot more New York dining territory to explore but this was a good choice for the occasion.
52 Irving Place
[tags] Casa Mono, tapas bars, New York [/tags]