25 Sep2009

Lunch at Casa Mono

by Marketman

casamono1

My sister and niece are fans of Mario Batali’s tapas bar called Casa Mono and next door sibling, Bar Jamon. Rated the best Spanish restaurant in New York City soon after it opened several years ago, it is a relatively small, almost always packed, neighborhood hang out. Sister and niece have dined there many, many times and that alone is a sign to me that it must be good. The setting is extremely casual, as you might expect of a tapas bar, but the menu an interesting mix of classic, even simple sounding dishes but beautifully executed with terrific flavor twists on nearly every little plate. The wine selection, I am told, is quite spectacular, though our table only had two glasses of wine with lunch.

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We ordered a plate of fried sardines, photo up top. They were SUPERB. The fish were just the right size, dredged in flour and perfectly deep fried. Again, there is just something about frying that makes everything so good, but particularly well-fried food is something else. The twist in this dish was in the accompanying side salad. A bracing mixture of belgian endive with a tart lemon dressing and slivers of preserved lemon. The intense flavor from the occasional brush with preserved lemon together with fried fish was just amazing.

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We also had a salad of mixed greens, goat cheese and fresh figs with a balsamic style dressing. Sounds trite, or common, but the twist here were slivers of pickled red onions. This little addition was enough to really make me think twice about each mouth full of greens, the gooey pungent goat cheese, the soft sensuous sweet figs and sour hints from the pickled onions. Again, a smash hit from something that could have been so boring and overdone. It became quickly obvious that we would have a nice surprise in each little dish ordered. And I really liked that about Casa Mono.

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My photos of the lunch are horrific, as I don’t like to take out my camera in nice restaurants, so these were hastily shot and often to extremely poor and unusable results. Such was almost the case for ths casuela containing pimentons stuffed with shredded stewed ox tails. Imagine the best parts and flavor of an osso buco, made himay or shredded and stuffed into a roasted red pepper. Delicious. Serious comfort food material. I could several of these with a pile of rice and be seriously Pinoy happy. :)

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Three other dishes we ordered, for which I have no photos, were some grilled lamb chops served over chickpeas and a creamy base similar to a tahini, which was my least favorite dish as the chops seemed a bit overcharred, though they still possessed a nice flavor. A fantastic dish of fideos with clams and chorizos, unusually served upside down… in other words, the clams and chorizos were at the bottom of the cazuela, and the moist/crisp fideos pile up on top (I think this was served from a larger cooking dish). I love fideos done right, and have featured a dish in the archives, I think. We also had a dish of artichokes a la plancha or fresh grilled and flattened artichokes that were incredibly good. I like artichokes, so maybe that’s why I thought these were just the cat’s meow. I think I could have ordered 2-3 more dishes if we really wanted to pig out, but five tapas for lunch was probably just right.

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For dessert we had vanilla ice cream with prunes and possibly marinated plums that was delicious and unique… The ice cream and plums were sitting on caramelized almonds doused in pedro ximenez… The crema catalana was very competently executed, but again the surprise twist for me was the bunuelos or fried fritters encasing a whole fresh bay leaf… and as you eat the fritter, you leave the bay leaf untouched. The flavor of bay is distinct and delicious, and of course who can turn down fried sugared dough? :)

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A lunchtime meal for 3, including some drinks, might run you roughly $150-170 plus gratuity, so it’s not cheap, but it’s worth well worth the money, in my opinion. I have only been once, but sister and niece have gone dozens of times, so I think I can recommend this place with few reservations… Drop by next door for outrageously good, and probably outrageously expensive hams paired with equally good wine. :)

 

COMMENTS:

  1. kiko says:

    mmmmm…. fried sugar dough… w/ bayleaf? that’s another dimension… do you have a recipe for it?

    Sep 25, 2009 | 1:09 pm

     
  2. natie says:

    wow! yum! pictures were still good IMO…$170 isn’t bad compared to the ridiculous GMA lunch. this is more spectacular, and probably much more tasty

    Sep 25, 2009 | 1:17 pm

     
  3. betty q. says:

    Kiko: Bunuelos is Spanish in origin though there are many versions of it. There is Mexican bunuelos or Colombian, etc. The Spanish bunuelos is like sweet choux paste. I much prefer the Spanish version with a twist…the addition of mashed potato making it light but a bit makunat!….just a bit!

    Sep 25, 2009 | 1:45 pm

     
  4. Lava Bien says:

    Love Catalan concoctions, love Barcelona, most Spanish people do. My host family’s kids and grandkids all wanted to visit Barcelona when I was still doing some studies in Salamanca.

    Good taste, MM!

    Sep 25, 2009 | 2:06 pm

     
  5. Joyce says:

    pimientos stuffed with shredded oxtail?!! yumm. calorific!

    Sep 25, 2009 | 4:18 pm

     
  6. Tonito says:

    A lunchtime meal for 3 including drinks for $150-170 plus gratuity…fair enough in New York City.

    Why go to Le Cirque and spend so much like what the other “monos” did recently.

    Sep 25, 2009 | 7:40 pm

     
  7. jun b says:

    MM, You can recommend this to GMA. I’m a fan of Mario Batali except that I have not been to his restaurant

    Sep 25, 2009 | 7:55 pm

     
  8. Cookie says:

    I love Casa Mono!! I became a fan when my husband decided to bring me here for our anniversary – I wanted a nice tapas meal. Bar Jamon is also great for hanging out with friends at night, both these places are packed in the weekends. I am glad that you enjoyed your lunch. Maybe next time MM when you are in the area we should do an EB. I am sure you have many readers in the area like me who would love to meet you. Enjoy the rest of your stay!

    Sep 25, 2009 | 8:56 pm

     
  9. Vicky Go says:

    I was just watching Andrew Zimmerman savoring Tapas in Madrid & Boqueria Market in Barcelona! But based on your recommendations, it would be cheaper for me to try Batali’s Mono instead of flying out to Spain. Although I doubt if Mono can serve “Angulas” – baby eels – a specialty at one bar AZ went to. I’ll check out their offerings online.
    BTW: Mario’s Dad owns & runs a salumeria in The Northwest – I think in Seattle. And you can order online but a bit pricey. Been meaning to try to put an order in – maybe before Thanksgiving rush!

    Sep 25, 2009 | 9:19 pm

     
  10. sister says:

    You can get angulas at Le Bernardin every once in a while and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s on the Casa Mono as a special ocasionally.

    Sep 25, 2009 | 9:28 pm

     
  11. Vicky Go says:

    @sister: Thanks for the info.
    I looked up the menus for both Casa Mono & Bar Jamon. It seems Casa Mono has a more extensive, interesting & varied menu. Except that Bar Tapas offers the famous Jamon Iberico & a selection of Spanish cheeses. However, I can order these, if I want to, from La Tienda (you can pre-order a whole Iberico & it runs to almost $1000; the smallest pkg of sliced Iberico goes for $45 – before S&H). I’ll probably go to Casa Mono instead.

    BTW – the website for Armandino Batali’s Salumi in Seattle, WA is http://www.salumicuredmeats.com/ – a lot of their products are seasonal & you’ll have to call first for availability.

    Sep 25, 2009 | 10:23 pm

     
  12. fried-neurons says:

    Sounds fantastic. I’ll be sure to check one or both of them out the next time I’m in NYC.

    Sep 25, 2009 | 10:45 pm

     
  13. sister says:

    Vicky, You can get a plate of Imberico at Casa Mono FOR $25. I’m not a great fan of Mario Batali, his other restaurants are money makers but uneven but the tapas plates are very well thought out and the relishes and garnish outstanding.

    Sep 26, 2009 | 1:16 am

     
  14. quiapo says:

    Pata Negra here in Australia retails for about $340 – $380 per kilo.
    Casa Mono, from your article, balances creativity with tradition and it must be an experience to eat there.
    If you get the chance, there is a fusion cuisine of Spanish and Arab food which works very well, and is a good intro to knowing and enjoying Arab food.

    Sep 26, 2009 | 6:03 am

     
  15. betty q. says:

    KikO: Have you tried the Potuguese donut called Malasada? Google it and you will find 2 recipes that could very well be better than bunuelos. I have a Laurel tree in the backyard. I am going to do it this week-end and will let you know how it turns out.

    Sep 26, 2009 | 11:12 am

     
  16. millet says:

    well, i’d tell my ny friends to bring me there and come back for me next year!

    Sep 26, 2009 | 12:06 pm

     
  17. solraya says:

    I’m stuck in the Metro Manila traffic for 4hours since 8am….decided to surf and I read this :) The salad is so appetizing!

    Sep 26, 2009 | 12:30 pm

     
  18. farida says:

    just got back from Spain with family and we did the tapas crawl in Madrid. Boy, to me , everything was so salty. The next morning my face was all so puffy and I thought I had gained so much weight just for one day in Madrid! Food got better tasting going south then to the north to Barcelona. MM, is the food in Madrid always that salty? Aside from the tapas bars, restaurant food seemed salty too. I especiallly loved the Iberico jamon. If only we could bring meat into the US. Very tempting.

    Sep 26, 2009 | 1:13 pm

     
  19. farida says:

    out of topic…bettyq, will have to plan to go to Surrey soon for those lanzones. Was there last Wednesday visiting a friend and she just happened to have some. They were sooo sweet. Another friend from Bremerton wants to take the train to Vancouver and enjoy the lanzones.

    Sep 26, 2009 | 1:17 pm

     
  20. Lava Bien says:

    @quiapo,
    yup love Arab food too. Spanish/Arab food….that would be Andalusian food when the Southern part of Spain was still flourishing and people of all creed still lived together well and peacefully,until Reyna Isabel took over Spain and kicked most of the Shepardic Jews, Berbers and Moors out.

    Castilla y Leon region boast some of the best Jamon Iberico in Spain, Salamanca in particular. I’ve seen them everywehere there much like longaniza was everywhere in the old days of Lucban, Quezon. (I don’t eat pork or much meat though)

    Sep 26, 2009 | 2:08 pm

     
  21. Lava Bien says:

    @betty q,
    hola chica! where d’you get your laurel tree? I would love to have one in our backyard.

    Sep 26, 2009 | 2:10 pm

     
  22. Gener says:

    The real taste of arab food in europe is just few miles from south of spain, get the barge and jump to tangiers in morocco for a while..you will enjoy your time over there…few here knows about morocco but i assure that its a very beautiful country indeed…its the europe of africa and besides,,its just too near from europe..

    Sep 26, 2009 | 2:21 pm

     
  23. jp says:

    why don’t you like to take your camera out in nice restaurants?

    Sep 26, 2009 | 2:34 pm

     
  24. Marketman says:

    jp, it just seems a bit rude. First of all, I NEVER use flashes in a restaurant, so as not to disturb other diners. Taking photos also tends to stress out servers and managers, who fear they are being reviewed, and they get distracted. And it isn’t pleasant for others you are dining with as well. However, I agree you certainly have the RIGHT to take the photos, it just strikes me as being unseemly. I never use my cellphone in proper restaurants, either. Also, I do not do restaurant reviews at the request or with the explicit knowledge of the restaurant owners, so I don’t get any special treatment in terms of the dishes sent out, the tables we sit at, etc. Actually, I rarely do real reviews of restaurants at all. :)

    Sep 26, 2009 | 3:59 pm

     
  25. betty q. says:

    Lava Bien: I bought the seedling at one of the Community Gardens here.Every year they have a plant sale and they propagate the seedlings they sell themselves. Also, they sell them at a fraction of the price compared to those you buy at nurseries.

    It has survived the winters here. I mentioned once that my hubby decided to give me a hand mowing the lawn a few years ago and thought that my Laurel seedling was a weed! So, he mowed it to the ground and the look on his face was priceless when he found out it was my Bay Leaf seedling! Anyway, it is 5 feet tall now. If you were here, I would give you fresh bay leaves to last you for the next 10 years!

    Sep 26, 2009 | 5:04 pm

     
  26. Lava Bien says:

    where are you betty q? I’m here in the Bay Area….

    Sep 26, 2009 | 8:58 pm

     
  27. Cristina Gray says:

    love the ice cream photo!

    Sep 27, 2009 | 12:31 am

     
  28. Cecilia says:

    Haaay, MM, because of you, I keep adding more and more things to do, to go to, on my to-do list. Love yummy tapas!!! :D

    Sep 27, 2009 | 6:43 am

     
  29. B&W says:

    Mario Batali is my Favorite IRON CHEF, his creativity and all the yummy dishes that he cooked on the show it would reflect in his own restaurant.

    Sep 27, 2009 | 11:03 am

     
  30. kurzhaar says:

    Marketman, only two glasses of wine? :) I am a huge wine aficionado so would be interested in your take on the wine list as that to me is pretty much as important as the food. May be in NYC in a couple of weeks and any place that serves good sardines is tempting…

    Sep 28, 2009 | 10:59 am

     
  31. Marketman says:

    kurzhaar, sorry, I am not a huge wine drinker. But everything I hear and read suggests they have an extensive wine list. This place is definitely worth a visit if only for the sardines. :)

    Sep 28, 2009 | 1:25 pm

     
  32. kurzhaar says:

    Wine is a serious indulgence of mine and Spain has a wealth of interesting wines. I checked out the Casa Mono website and they had a wine list that was quite impressive and hit a variety of price points. I particularly like the wines from Priorat and Toro. So I will make a point of trying out Casa Mono the next time I am in NYC…just for the wines. Good grilled or fried sardines are a bonus!!! :)

    Sep 29, 2009 | 8:42 am

     
  33. kiko says:

    thanks betty q.!

    Sep 29, 2009 | 2:40 pm

     
 

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