Tapas at Casa Mono
For several years, I’ve been dying to go to Casa Mono just because I read about their tasty tapas in a publication (I think it was The New York Times?) that extolled the food. Also hearing it from several foodies helps build my excitement to eat there as well. But I haven’t gone there since I didn’t know anyone who would eat there with me. That’s until I met up with my Aussie reader, Suzen and her friend Sarah who was interested in trying out the food. Woot.
Since we didn’t make any reservations for the time we’ve met up, the only option was to sit at the bar. Not a problem really, since I like to watch chefs cook in front of me and my dining companions didn’t mind.
We’ve discussed about what to order since Suszen and Sarah aren’t exactly adventurous eaters like I am but they’ve agreed to try and expand their food horizons. Half of what I planned to order were offals and thankfully, they trust my tastebuds. While waiting for our food, we noshed on the bread and olives. I liked the green olives a lot – the salty, acidic, brininess appeals to me. The bread tasted like the superb filone from Sullivan Street Bakery.
The first two dishes that arrived were the sweetbreads with fennel al Mono and foie gras with cinco cebollas. The sweetbreads came in three fairly large chunks – breaded and fried. The most tastiest way to cook almost any food, no? The sweetbreads were moist and creamy with a hint of fennel flavor and a salty bite. Not much of a crunch factor but I like the flavors a lot.
The other dish, foie gras gras with cinco cebollas was quite interesting. For those who don’t know Spanish, cinco cebollas means five onions. The onions were actually the petals of this flower-like presentation. It’s cute and pretty. If you look at the photo, the foie gras is on top, right below it is a thick slice of toasted baguette that has the same sauce as the foie. What I love about this dish (it’s my favorite of all the plates we ate) were the crunchy texture of the bread, meets the silky smooth foie, and the combination of sweet, acidic and salty flavors in every bite. The red onion was a nice addition to cut through the complex flavors and makes a gentle, sweet statement of its own.
The famous duck egg with mojama didn’t disappoint. The pan fried duck egg was barely cooked that its yolk wiggled as I tried moving the plate around. I let Suszen do the honors of forking the egg yolk, letting it cascade the cholesterol and protein-laden goodness down the tower of patatas bravas and mojama (cured tuna). The second thing that struck my senses were the heady scent of TRUFFLES from the vinaigrette and a hefty load of black truffle chopped within this dish. I guess this sort of justify the price tag of $16.
The most daring offal I’ve ever tried in my life (sweetbreads, feet, tripe, and a few other things are normal in my life) was this dish of cock’s combs with cepes. Yes, we’re talking about me (and arguably my poor companions, Suszen and Sarah) ingesting the crest of a rooster. How does it taste like? I thought it tasted like mushrooms just because the cepes’ (also known as porcini) flavors melded the cock’s combs. Texturally, it’s quite gelatinous, which was a huge turn-off for Sarah. Suszen tolerated it. I liked it but it’s not something I would pick by default if I saw it on a menu (that’s reserved for pig’s feet, tripe, sweetbreads, and/or foie gras).
As we’re nearing our lunch, we gotten our side dish of sugar snap peas with Marconas. We needed some fiber into our offal/meat-filled meal. The snap peas were sautéed to a nice crisp texture and slightly slick with olive oil. The Marconas are presumably the orange-red bits that’s sprinkled on top. Personally, I didn’t think it added much but the peas were good – just not extraordinary as to what I ate at Gramercy Tavern.
Finally we have our fideos with clams and chorizo. We’ve actually spotted the chef cooking this dish while we’re about to consume our duck egg with mojama. This is basically the most safest dish we ate. Very thin spaghetti-like strands of pasta sautéed with small clams and spicy chorizo.
52 Irving Place
New York, NY 10003 (map)