Posted by Renee | Filed under Events
I have never been a die hard fan or follower of the “celebrity chef’, but I was very curious to try out Mario Batali’s two Spanish resto’s in New York’s Grammercy Park. After a full day of walking over the Brooklyn Bridge and eating various forms of street meat, we ventured back up to our midtown hotel to shower up and figure out our evening game plan. Bar Jamon was the first place I wanted to check out, but they did not take reservations, and Casa Mono, located right next door, had a booking cut off that we had missed. So, Doug & I decided to take are chances and head downtown towards Union Square and find these little “boites”. Along the way we met up with another “Haligonian”, Dave Kirby, and took him along on our adventure.
We arrived at Casa Mono around 8pm, and were very surprised to hear that they could fit us in with only a twenty minute wait! Woo-hoo, we had hit the jackpot! Better yet, the hostess told us that we could head next door to Bar Jamon and have some drinks while we waited. Over we went and walked into a tiny space that had two long wooden communal tables and a small marble topped stand-up bar. The wine list was extensive including a large choice of Sherries, but we opted for a cool and sparkly bottle of their house cava – Cava Mono. After taking in the small, vibrant space and drinking our Cava, we were called next door. I was sad to leave this gem, as I was dying to try some of the anchovy stuffed olives and Jamón Iberico, but I knew that a culinary adventure awaited me next door. We were seated tightly amidst a few of the dozen or so tables in the restaurant. There was a small bar that ran the length of the room and over looked the tiny open kitchen. Dave and Doug decided to leave the ordering to me, so I chose six items to share: Charcuterie Di Casa with Black Truffles, Cana de Cabra (goat’s cheese) with Fig, Pig’s Feet Croquettas with Green Tomato, Calamares Fritto, Tripe with Chickpeas and Blood Sausage and Sugar Snaps with chopped Marconas (Spanish almonds). The food was outstanding; every bite had popping tastes and textures. The only downside to our evening was that we had a limit of an hour and a half to eat, so we had to leave. My favorite was the tripe, as tripe and I have a very public love affair. The Cana de Cabra salad was also a huge hit at our table; the creamy goat cheese combined with the sweet figs paired beautifully with the last few drops of our cava.
I enjoyed my dinner at Casa Mono so much that when we haphazardly walked by the next day and saw a couple of empty spots at the bar, we bolted in and sat down like excited kids. This time around we had a more leisurely experience since we had time to enjoy every last morsel that I ordered. We tried the following items: Razor Clams a La Plancha, Flash Fried White Anchovies, Sepia (cuttlefish) A la Plancha with Salsa Verde, Pulpo (octopus) with Grapefruit and Fennel and Manchego Cheeses (3 month, 6 month and 1 year old) accompanied with a Quince Jam. Our server paired all this with an interesting wine that neither of us had tried before, Txomin Etxaniz. A perfect choice for a warm summer afternoon, this wine reminded us of a Vino Verde and left us wanting more.
My kudos goes out to Mr. Batali, as he stayed true to Spanish cuisine, and the restaurants showed no indications of being owned and operated by a “celebrity chef”; no t-shirts with orange clogs being sold here!