Casa Mono, New York.

December 2022

This lovely Spanish spot near Union Square just north of Greenwich Village was recommended by a friend of our daughter as one of New York’s best and that turned out to be a fair approximation. I was surprised when this source mentioned a place with a Michelin star but Casa Mono deserves that and more based on our experience. Per Se or Daniels it’s not but we stopped going to those kind of places decades ago preferring dining where the value curve bends upward. This bistro hits the spot.

We had lunch at the first sitting just after noon and were greeted by a lovely hostess who showed us to a tiny table by one of the front windows. Behind us was the open kitchen where two or three chefs were busy radiating fragrant warmth. Our server was a quiet unfailingly attentive young Spanish guy, polite and knowledgeable, visibly regularly unobtrusively checking on us. The wine list was a serious well-considered Spanish compendium broken down by cities, regions, and wine type. We each had a glass of sherry from the town of Jerez which we visited years ago. They were delicious and nothing like the heavy sticky new world sherry that we use mainly for cooking.

Server recommended a really dazzling Ribera del Duero tempranillo (Matarromera Crianza 2017) which punched way above its US$88 weight. I couldn’t remember recently smelling a wine before it was agitated and knowing it was going to be wonderful like this was. No disappointment: a column of aroma plus a perfectly balanced acidic-tannic soft monster in the mouth. I’ll try hard to find this one back home.

We shared an octopus starter that featured the crustacean flattened and crisped, set on a bed of onions and other veg in a wonderful sour dressing. Our mains were a goat confit consisting of a roasted rectangle of goat alongside cooked avocado and a purée layered with several flavours, and sweetbread dredged in seasoned flour fried crisp and accompanied by a rich but liquid sauce. I’d say the sweetbread would be my choice if there were a second go at this menu but the goat was wonderful too.

Server quietly suggested side dish of potatoes or mushrooms and we chose the potatoes which were cut up, al dente, anointed with a rich savoury sour sauce the last of which just had to be sopped up with the crusty fresh bread on the table.

The portions were small and we wanted more after the mains so shared an orange and tropical fruit bread pudding which was at least as good as the savoury courses. What an orchestra of delicate and powerful flavours and presentations! All in a simple but beautifully-organized small room where we felt ideally looked-after. Approximately C$300 with the tip.

I think we have a lunch the day we are leaving town as well and we may try to go back here. Very good doesn’t do this place justice. They really have pulled out all the stops. Don’t miss Casa Mono if you are ever in the Big Apple.

Food 9.5, service 9.6, ambience 9.2, value for the experience 9.2, peace and quiet 8.0 but the noise is just delighted excited conversation and audible background music.

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 40 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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