I had a disappointing meal at Casa Mono recently.
I believe Chef Nusser is working hard at providing what the dining public wants at Casa Mono, but I cannot endorse it from a culinary perspective. Chef Nusser was very busy at the cooking station all night. I affirmatively wanted to like the food; I just couldn't report particularly favorably. (But note that I've been disappointed by most restaurants in NY, so my observations should be taken in that context.)
We were a party of 3, arriving on a Friday night, and sat in a corner to the left of the entryway next to the kitchen.
-- Pan con tomate $3 -- Also available at Bar Jamon for the same price. Two largish pieces of crusty bread, rubbed with tomates (whose seeds were included) and conveying appropriately significant garlic sensations. I liked this, although the edge of one of the two pieces was literally unduly blackened.
-- Artichokes a la Plancha 4 -- Large and cut in half. Not overcooked; an appropriate dish, with what I thought would have been an almost appropriate amount of lemon.
--Bacalao croquetes with orange aioli 7 -- The frying was appropriate, and I appreciate bacalao tends to be fishy-tasting, but I would have preferred less of a fishy taste (in a negative sense) in the interior of the croquettes. The bacalao was not unduly salty like at Esca.
--Sweetbreads with fennel al mono 10 -- Things did not improve with respect to the meal. Sweetbreads were overcooked, even though their coating prior to deep-frying was alright. I subjectively prefer sweetbreads much more "molten" and supple on the inside. Here they were cooked through, but that is a very common comment I have on NY preparations of this item. Choice of an almost cured-type fennel (not necessarily so) was appropriate. Quantities were generous in this dish.
-- Cock's combs with green chiles 11. Limp, lacking in intrinsic flavor, overwhelmed with a very sweet (negative) brown-colored sauce. It's true that the last cock's combs I had were at La Mere Brazier, Lyons, upon request with the chicken in half mourning dish, and at Georges Blanc, Vonnas -- both involving the crests of poulet/poularde Bresse. Still, I'd have to rate the Casa Mono version relative to what I know, and it does not rate well. Jalapeno and garlic were obscured by a domineering sweetness in the saucing that did not match the cock's combs, which had been described as having been cooked for 10 hours.
-- Lamb with preserved lemon 14. Three small rack of lamb portions, significantly overcooked, although admittedly we did not specify a cooking level. The three varied in level of cooking. 1 was medium; 2 were medium well almost. Preserved lemon manifested itself in an almost marmalade (not as strong) saucing.
-- Duck with olives. This was a long-cooked duck, dripping in oil. I dislike olives, and found that ingredient too dominant. Also believe a restaurant should not be inserting duck's kidneys into a dish without telling the unwary. Now I happen to like duck's kidneys, but not every diner ordering the duck dish might. Duck was in little sections that had been cooked for a while and that carried a lot of the surrounding oil. Not a particularly large serving, relative to the lamb.
With desserts and two bottles of red, $85/person. I'd rather be at Lupa.