Monday, November 9, 2009
Mario and Joseph Bastiniach's "Monkey House" does anything but monkey around. If you're looking for seriously rich, seriously authentic Spanish tapas--and I'm not talking about bacon wrapped dates, fried calamari, and tortilla espanola--then Casa Mono is the spot for you. Like WineBar this place passes my Wine-Food-Ambiance test with flying colors. The walls are painted black and lined with wine bottles. The tables are small, also painted black and have little elementary school cubby-holes for storing your water glasses. The floor is covered in Mediterranean style patterned tile that's probably imported from Madrid. And the main attraction is the bar that seats 6, overlooking the open kitchen and prep station staffed by 3 young cooks (I was surprised by just how young they were). The only disclaimer is that they use a LOT of garlic and olive oil in every dish so if you sit at the bar be prepared for watery eyes.
So we did. My mom and I jumped right for the 2 open seats and started off with a glass each of Casa Mono's Cava, sparkling water and ordered the razor clams (razor clams a la plancha), grilled baby octopus salad (pulpo with grapefruit), & duck confit. For wine, a rioja from Spain. After that we sat back, sipped and watched as magic unfolded beneath our eyes. If for nothing else, go here for the show.
pan cooked razor clams
lots of chunks of garlic
*Key Ingredient: garlic & lemon*
4 heavily grilled baby octopus
fennel parsley lemon-olive oil salad
*Key Ingredient: grilling/sauteeing the octopus til almost blackened*
The duck confit was a special that is now no longer on the menu. The dish consisted of a "cake" of duck meat fried in duck fat atop a bed of apples or figs and wilted chard. I can't remember all of the ingredients since it was a couple weeks back but I remember it tasting salty and sweet/crispy and soft.
I kept begging my mom we order more food but being the voice of reason she pointed out that the place is about quality, not quantity. She budged on ordering a little creme brulee and goat cheese--we justified that by turning off our savory tastebuds our brains would think there's still room for dessert. But she was right about limiting the tapas to a few....the minute we stood up from our bar stools I almost doubled over I was so full. This is one of the richest meals you'll ever have in New York City.