Mario Batali! You Casa Mono, You! Yes, Chef Batali Rocks Your Tapas Off!

Looks delicious, doesn’t it? Well it is, and you can eat it too! Wait until you find out what it is!

I was lucky enough to be in New York this past weekend, and after a bit of a weather battle, it turned into a gorgeous New York summer day….and it allowed Alex and I to eat once again at Casa Mono, a truly delicious restaurant located just south of Gramercy Park on New York’s lower east side.

For some reason, I don’t hear much about Casa Mono, even though it is one of Mario Batali’s culinary adventures.


MARIO!

We’ve eaten at several of Mario’s restaurants, and while they are all terrific, we really love the style and feel of Casa Mono. Perhaps you don’t hear about Casa Mono as much because he doesn’t cook there as you would expect he does more frequently at his signature Italian restaurants in the city…don’t know why, but I wanted to share our experience with you…

Here is some background on the restaurant, courtesy of Mario’s website:

The CASA MONO team combines Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich’s restaurateur expertise and signature style with Andy Nusser’s exceptional cooking.

Andy Nusser’s passion for food began in his Spanish hometown on the Costa Brava where he started work as a dishwasher for a restaurant called Casa Nun. In the United States, he spent more than a decade working for General Motors in Santa Barbara before enrolling at the Culinary Institute of America.

After graduating at the top of his class in 1995, he started cooking with Mario Batali in the tiny kitchen at Pó in Greenwich Village, Mario’s first restaurant. In 1998, Andy was named Executive Chef at Mario and Joe Bastianich’s newly opened Babbo, where he helped the restaurant earn three stars from The New York Times and the title of Best New Restaurant from the James Beard Foundation.

In 2003, Andy, Mario and Joe opened CASA MONO and BAR JAMÓN, odes to the food Andy experienced growing up in Spain, where his “idea was to have great ingredients and not mess with them. Our concept is great ingredients, plus heart, soul and artistry.”

So there you have it: a restaurant conceives and inspired by Mario, and executed by Andy. We were there on Sunday the 22nd, a gorgeous afternoon in NYC, and we were told that the menu had just been revised, so we got to taste some new stuff! For once, we didn’t get our favorite dish, the grilled razor clams with garlic….

And we didn’t get the jamon and potatoes topped with a fried duck egg…

We get these two dishes every time we eat at Casa Mono, but today we are going on an all new adventure! We decided to dive into the newest dishes on the menu, and this is what we dug into first:


GRILLED WATERMELON AND TUNA TATARE!

We started with tuna tartare with grilled watermelon – thick meaty chunks of tuna, alternating with fresh grilled watermelon

THE TALL POUR OF TXOMIN!

Of course, you have to order the terrific Txomin wine.

This wine is poured an inch or so at a time into flat-bottomed tumblers, then drunk before it loses its sparkling edge.

You get a hint of sparkle on top of what is a fruity but crisp, clean spanish wine…

The waiters have a great time pouring this like a mini-waterfall into your glass to really get the flavors mixed…now back to the food:


LOBSTER WRAPPED IN BANANA LEAF!

Then we moved on to Lobster, which was wrapped in banana leaf and supported by a beautiful quinoa…this was delicious, lots of lobster flavor and a nice use of quinoa…


A SIDE VEG!

Knowing what was ahead of us, we ordered something green, in this case Asparagus with shaved parmesan, sitting on top of a smoky tomato purée…

It was as good as it looks….the sauce was really rich and smoky, but complimented the asparagus and cheese perfectly…now let’s get to the meat:

FRIED GOAT AND PORK BELLY!

We were excited to see that Casa Mono added a section of organic local meats, all sourced from small farms in the Hudson Valley.

First, we dug into fried Goat, which was served with fava beans, okra and peas over grilled cherry tomatoes!

Goat isn’t served much, but this was terrific – crispy on the outside, moist and flavorful in the middle….then the bacon lover in me had to jump on the Pork Belly with plantains – yes, belly and banana!

I love pork belly, usually served braised with a heavy sauce…so this was an interesting approach, as this pork belly was deep fried, served with grilled sweet plantains…

And you can see the thin slices of spanish ham as well….

AND TO FINISH…

We were stuffed, but they brought over a courtesy dessert – honeydew melon sorbet with a tart grapefruit gelatin underneath!

What a great lunch, and barely a hundred bucks with tax and tip included…we are big fans of Casa Mono’s informality, sense of adventure and, since it is tapas style, you can sample a lot of different items….like this signature dish of vermicelli with clams…

We LOVE this dish – it was so tough to pass up our usual stuff…and of course, they have amazing Spanish hams, sitting right there waiting for you to order…

as much as we love Mario’s italian food, give me his spanish tapas cuisine any day, and congrats to Chef Nusser for a terrific new menu!

Also, it’s really fun to sit at the small counter that faces the cooks…they put it all together right in front of you!



Categories: BACON, Books / Media, cookbooks, Food, Food Review, New York, Recipes, Restaurants, Talent/Celebrities, Travel, Travel Memoir, Uncategorized, Wacky Food, wine

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2 replies

  1. Sounds very good John. Defo on my hit list.

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