Thursday, May 1, 2008

Casa Mono

Casa Mono is Mario Batali's tapas bar at the corner of 17th and Irving Pl., in Gramercy. It's a dark and cozy little tavern with the kitchen at the bar, and the waitstaff bustling in the narrow isles to serve their patrons.

Strong, pungent (and tasty) flavors: that's what I took away from my Casa Mono experience. Admittedly, the ensalada mono combined bitter greens with chopped sweet pimiento almonds and slices of a mealy cheese and turned out to be refreshing and slightly sweet. However, ramps were a smooth bitter cut by romesco sauce, and had an addictive, tender-but-chewy texture. Pimiento peppers were oil-soaked and piquant, slightly bitter, addictive, and impressive. Dessert was crema catalan: a kind of slightly thinner creme brulee burnt properly on top, leaving the the cream itself served mostly cool -- as it should be served.

Service was polite and formal, but went out of its way to be accommodating. I sat at the bar, and got to watch the kitchen the whole time, which was a treat. Wine was tasty but expensive ($15 for a cuarto of a wine that goes for $13/bottle).

One caution for vegetarians: they smear the grill with some kind of chicken or duck fat. I have to shrug and just deal with it, because god knows what they do at most restaurants. But if you're particular, you should beware.

Stars: 4/5

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