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Piquillo Pete Gives Three Stars to Batali and Bastianich's Spanish Charmer Casa Mono

The critic finds that this restaurant has improved with age.

Facebook/Casa Mono

Small plates have become an annoying trend, Pete Wells argues, but Casa Mono still knocks it out of the park. The critic notes that the "pleasures of eating there are both richer and more varied than in 2004." It was one of the first serious modern tapas restaurants in NYC, and it's still one of the best, thanks in large part to the work of chef/butcher Anthony Sasso:

Streaky lamb belly, rolled around tomatoes and raisins, had an extremely alluring balance of chewy lean and tender fat; the quality of the meat made the splash of mint salsa verde seem like a new idea. Lamb leg, with its more untamed flavor, was braised in cider and cinnamon, then folded into a sweet and nutty mole, with a memorable trace of bittersweetness that came from dark Spanish chocolate.

A slab of goat confit, patiently simmered in olive oil, had a clear, clean flavor. Goat responds well to extra richness, which it got from guacamole strengthened by goat cheese, and from half an avocado cured in sugar. Bricks of meaty and very tender pork belly came with fried plantains, thin slices of honey-cured ham, pickles, garlic and a honey-banana mustard whose sweetness didn’t go over the top. As loaded with surprises as it was with flavor, this was Mr. Sasso’s tribute to the Cuban sandwich.

The critic loves the sherry list and the wine service, and he finds that "the little room has pockets of, if not privacy, then at least intimacy." Wells gives the restaurant three stars, the same rating he doled out to fine dining restaurants like Betony, The Nomad, and The Dining Room at The Modern.

Casa Mono

52 Irving Place, Manhattan, NY 10003 (212) 253-2773 Visit Website

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