The name "Casa Mono" means "Monkey House." This restaurant and Bar Jamon (its sister and neighbor) are the product of a collaboration between celebrity chef Mario Batali and celebrity restaurant owner Joe Bastianich. The restaurant opened its doors in December of 2003 and went on to earn a Michelin star as well as solid reviews from the New York Times. Casa Mono specializes in tapas-influenced dishes. Tapas are small savory dishes from Spain and which are often served with alcoholic beverages.
Batali and chef Andy Nusser have channeled Spain's Costa Brava with imaginative and ambitious dishes that feature ingredients like bacalao, sea urchin and razor clams. Casa Mono’s style of small and eclectic dishes bears the obvious influence of authentic tapas but these dishes are actually quite different from the traditional version. Among other things, the portion sizes are larger though still relatively small when compared to standard entrees. This means that you may not want to order in the way that you would traditional tapas. It should be noted that along with the small sizes, there are also relatively small prices. Most of the dishes on the menu cost less than $20. The Michelin Guide describes the food at Casa Mono as being "outstanding, consistent and full of Spanish soul."
Before Casa Mono, Chef Andy Nusser worked for a long time at two other Batali restaurants: Po and Babbo. He shares Batali's taste for bold and primal flavors, which he has combined in dishes such as fluke with asparagus ceviche and burrata with fried gamba (shrimp) accompanied by shallots and artichokes. The desserts include cream catalana con bunuelos which is a burned vanilla custard paired with bay leaves that have been deep fried, and Pudin de Pan which is a bread pudding that has been infused with orange and that is accompanied by caramel helado and sherry berries.
"Intimate" is one word that you could use to describe the dining area, "cozy" is another. It fits 13 tables and there are 15 seats at the bar. Note that when sitting at the bar, the grill will be right in front of you allowing you to enjoy the smoky aromas associated with Spanish "a la plancha" cooking. The floor consists of mosaic tile and the interior walls are made up of wood paneling and shelves filled with bottles of fine wine. The exterior walls at Casa mono are floor-to-ceiling windows that allow diners to look out at Irving Place's lovely tree-lined streets.
Casa Mono is located close to Stuyvesant Town on 17th street and Irving Place just a short walk away from Union Square in the genteel Gramercy Park neighborhood. The neighborhood offers a cozy village-like charm that is very different from the bustling nightlife that you can find elsewhere in the city. The Gramercy Park neighborhood was designed in the 1800s to be suitable for wealthy and fashionable families to live and continues to be a highly desirable location for many.