Located in Gramercy, at the corner of 17th Street and Irving Place, is Casa Mono, a bustling Spanish cafe. It’s tiny, with two maitre d’ controlled bars and tables that spill out onto the street. An open kitchen to the left creates the space of one bar, while another faces the entrance on Irving Place.
I’ve been wanting to go for a while. After seeing Passafire perform at Irving Plaza, I strolled over to Casa Mono for dinner. They’re open until midnight, typically packed. After a short wait, I was able to get a seat at the bar.
Start: Cava Mono (10)
Start: Blackened Beets with Cana de Cabra and Salted Granola (14)
Second: Pumpkin and Goat Cheese Croquetas (9)
The house cava was tangy and smooth, lightly acidic. It was meant to be a prelude into my meal, but the beets came up so quickly. Look at the color on this dish:
The autumnal purples and greens sprang from the plate and mounds of aged goat cheese. It’s difficult to eat beats without goat cheese, the two are perfect together but their textures are similar. The salted granola, herbs, hardened peas and beans were meant to offset the smoothness of the charred beats and cheese but still the dish was texturally unbalanced. It was wonderful.
The pumpkin croquetas, which are fried rounds of pumpkin with a goat cheese center, were hot and bedded with sanded sage leaves and parsley, which changed the overall flavor of the fritters. It went well with the house sparkling.
There is a leg of pork (literally) posted on the bar. For the majority of my dining experience, it was sheathed (yet suspicious) beneath a linen napkin. The bartender flung it off and set about carving pieces, which she aligned in a spiral on a plate.
Low-lit, lively and intimate, it’s a good place to go alone or on a date. The New York Times awarded the space two stars, in addition to one Michelin Star rating. A “Spanish taverna with New York sensibility,” Casa Mono a part of the Mario Batali empire. Executive Chef Andy Nusser.