I went to the Batali/Bastianich-owned Spanish tapas restaurant Casa Mono in Gramercy Park two days before I left New York, and I wish I’d had more time left to go back…Â and try everything on the menu — from the exotic (like Cocks Comb) to the ordinary yet different (like Cauliflower with Black Olives).
Each dish was its own perfect world, showing off its own laws of flavor and texture for delicious, unique results. Just after I started eating, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to do the food justice with my descriptions, and I still worry about that. So, it’s all I can do to recommend it so that you can experience it yourself. You can also read about its genesis, among many other things, in Heat.
I’ve read about long waits at dinner, but we went for lunch around Noon on a Friday and it was fine. It’s a very small space, though, and it did just about fill up by the time we’d left.
Artichokes with Mint. By some process of deep frying, these wedges of artichoke hearts acquired golden crisp curls of trimmed leaves on top and green morsels of tender meatiness on the bottom… it was like the artichokes had been allowed to let their hair down and play. And the mint leaves seemed to bring out the mintiness of the artichokes themselves, which was a revelatory taste. I have to try making this at home. Curiously, the meaty parts were barely crisp, so maybe they were briefly fried at a high temp to barely penetrate the meat part.
Duck Hearts with Fabada. I half expected duck hearts to be gummy masses of ventricles, but they were actually quite meaty, almost like steak with a hint of kidney flavor and a thin layer of skin on the outside. It was a bit tough to cut through, but it was very tender in the mouth… and the hint of thyme on the outside was wonderful, as were the just slightly spicy/sweet and earthy beans, silky greens, and quail (I believe) egg. This is what a cross-section of a duck heart looks like.
Cockles with Huevos Revueltos. The saltiness here was perfect w/ the cockles (baby clams) and moist eggs. Even the bit of sauce on the bread was great — a smooth orange, if I remember correctly.Â I liked the plating; it demanded interaction and discovery.
Scallions with Romesco. The peppery romesco studded with chopped almonds went so well with the slightly charred scallions. It was a little difficult to eat — the scallions tangled with each other and were hard to cut, but it was worth it.