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Casa Mono - Amazing Spanish Tapas made with the help of men and 'heaven'!!

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New York Chow-Trip: Day 1
Casa Mono http://www.casamononyc.com/lunch_dinn...

With the driver taking the long route from JFK to our hotel in Manhattan and the rain creating havoc with our effort to hail a cab, we arrived for our lunch date at Casa Mono over 40 minutes late and way past 3.00 pm!!

Upon sitting down, it suddenly dawned on us that our late arrival was a ' God send ', since the restaurant was empty and we have the whole place all to ourselves! Yes!! Imagine an entire Michelin star kitchen dedicated to us alone!!!

Having already familiarized the menu on the internet before our trip, we proceeded to order single and/or multiple quantities of the following

- Bacalao Croquetas with Orange Alioli
- Pulpo ( Octopus ) with Fennel and Grapefruit
- Razor Clams a la Plancha
- Sepia ( Cuttlefish ) with Salsa Verde
- Softshell Crab with Ramps and Espelette
- Lobster and Peas with Gamba reduction
- Sweetbreads with Fennel al Mono
- Foie Gras with Cinco Cebollas
- Grilled Ramps with Romanesco sauce
- Leg of Lamb Cazuela with Moroccan spices and Apricots
- Burnt Vanilla Custard with fried fresh Bay leaf in doughnut dough

With no pressure from a usually busy dining room to contend with, the kitchen can relax and take their time with our order. The result was a most pleasing experience with great, friendly service and amazingly tasty food that was prepared and executed perfectly. These were some of the best tapas I had eaten outside of places like Majorca, San Sebastian, and Barcelona...etc! Wow!

Although every single dish we had has its strong and attractive points, however, to me, the stand-outs has to be the following:

- Razor Clams: Fresh, sweet and chewy tender, the 'Chinese wok-hay' like smokey flavour and aroma generated from the high heat hot grill was absolutely mesmerizing!! Haven't had razor clams that good west of Spain!!

- Bacalao Croquetas: A bite into this crispy shell morsel with light, creamy yet chewy filling bursted open layer upon layer of mouth watering flavour. Talk about addictive!! IMO, the Orange Alioli though delightfully good was a redundant addition.

- Sepia: That Salsa Verde was so delicious, we actually have to ask for more bread to mop them up!

- Foie Gras: OMG! This favourite dish of our friendly Spanish waiter was perfectly seared and covered with a gorgeous sweet glaze. The portion was HUGE!

- grilled Ramps that accompanied the lobster dish was sooo good that we ordered a separate order with Romanesco sauce!

- Lastly, though not a dish, however, the Olive with Anchovies infused Spanish Olive Oil dip was one of the most complex and delicious dip I ever had!

Once in a while, Michelin's Star award to establishments can be highly questionable. However, in the case of Casa Mono, they were spot on! The food we enjoyed was definitely Michelin calibre!!

Thanks to those fellow chowhounders who suggested this place to me!!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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  1. Great pics, Charles! So glad you enjoyed...CM has always been a personal favorite. Thanks for the report and happy chowing!

    1. "... we arrived for our lunch date at Casa Mono over 40 minutes late and way past 3.00 pm!! Upon sitting down, it suddenly dawned on us that our late arrival was a ' God send ',..."

      Totally agree about the good timing. We've always preferred our past 2pm lunches at CM as the place is not super-crowded (as it ususally is during peak eating hours) and we feel more relaxed and order as we dine (a la real tapas places in Spain), with a lot more positive attention from the wait-staff and/or bar-keep, when sitting by the bar. One lunch where I had fond memory of CM was eating by the bar and ordering different wines by the glass to try and pair with our dishes.

      1. How was the salt level? I found it too salty the one time I tried the place quite a few years ago, and the combination of the oversalting and the price put me off from going back.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Pan

          Salt level is on the higher side just like most of Batali's places. That said, I still enjoy it but have to remember to drink lots of water afterwards. I actually find prices to be quite reasonable since portions tend to be quite large. I think it's one of the better values compared to places like Tia Pol, Tertulia, Boqueria, Txikito, etc.

          1. re: Pan

            Except for the croquetas ( which is expected ), the rest of the dishes were nicely seasoned and not salty at all.

          2. My biggest problem with Casa Mono is that there is too much food on each plate. If you are eating alone, you hardly get to sample the menu.

            This place is modeled after Cal Pep in Barcelona. Over there they do not overload the portions.

            3 Replies
            1. re: sushiman

              I'm curious about the relationship between Cal Pep and Casa Mono, since I don't find much similarity between the two. Casa Mono may have a few dishes that bear resemblance to certain Catalan dishes, but it does not remind me of Cal Pep any more than it does any number of other Barcelona eateries, and eateries in other Spanish cities as well. It certainly looks nothing like Cal Pep. To me, anyway.

              The portions in the (excellent) photos look to me to be more in line with full raciones, rather than tapas.

              1. re: erica

                In terms of style. Open kitchen right behind the counter. Cal Pep is all counter. Interaction with the chefs. Foodwise, they are nothing alike.

                1. re: erica

                  " Casa Mono may have a few dishes that bear resemblance to certain Catalan dishes, but it does not remind me of Cal Pep any more than it does any number of other Barcelona eateries, and eateries in other Spanish cities as well. It certainly looks nothing like Cal Pep. To me, anyway"

                  Me too.

                  However, Casa Mono have always stated that they serve raciones.

              2. Based upon your review we went back to Casa Mono for lunch today. It was good but not amazing.

                They were out of the razor clams, unfortunately.

                Fluke Crudo with Strawberry Rhubarb and Yellow Chives and tiny potato chips was excellent. Good contrast of flavors and textures. Reminded me of a scallop crudo Momofuku Ssam Bar used to do with strawberries, the rhubarb had been soaked in some sort of strawberry liquid, and was both soft and sweet. The fluke was a little hard to share, though, as the pieces were cut too large.

                Fideos with Chorizo and Clams was good, like I expected. This is one my favorite dishes there. Olive oil, chorizo, aioli, lots of tiny chewy pasta pieces. I only wish it were easier to eat. It's hard to mix the aioli into the pasta, and the bottom part of the dish becomes soaked in oil after a while. If they served this in a bigger bowl, there wouldn't be an issue.

                Foie Gras with Cinco Cebollas was good but missing something. I did not detect any sweet glaze, maybe they forgot it. Maybe the dish needed some more heat or acid. The foie gras needed a little more sear and was served lukewarm. And maybe a bigger piece of toasted bread. This paled considerably to seared foie versions elsewhere (like the one I've had at Public recently).

                Pork Croquette with peas and mushrooms was ok, too. One big, flag fried patty of pork meat. Tasted good, was a little oily. Not the small creamy croquettes you'd get elsewhere, which was interesting. The peas and mushrooms didn't seem to mesh with the overall concept of the dish.

                I really enjoyed the grilled ramps with romesco, and we had some nice olive oil ice cream and chocolate ice cream for dessert.

                Overall, I had a good time, but there are definitely weak spots. It looked as if there was exactly one chef in the kitchen doing dishes for 7-8 tables, which might explain the executional errors like lukewarm foie gras.

                1 Reply
                1. re: kathryn

                  Wow! Looks like our experiences are quite different!
                  Only one chef to do all the cooking? What are they thinking of?!
                  Our Foie Gras was seared and executed quite perfectly! No sweet glaze?! Again, sounded like a dish from somewhere else! Hope the inconsistency will not be the cause of their down-fall?!

                2. Awesome! I've been twice in the past and was thinking about their food yesterday. Most memorable were sepia a la plancha and a raw fluke preparation. We've ordered the Fideos with chorizo & clams that get raved about a lot, but maybe I lack the cultural context to truly appreciate that dish.