Monday, December 10, 2012


We were duped.  We were influenced by a Zagat 24 hanging in the window.  Yelpers waxed poetic, stars were abundantly awarded with wild abandon via a perfunctory smartphone Google search in the blustery cold of a late hungry evening.  The place was sparsely attended, but it was... well, there we were.  So we ventured inside.

It is an ugly, ugly room that looks like they ran out of money halfway through the buildout.  Poorly applied Venetian plaster and Ikea-esque lamps adorn the spottily lit room, spacious as it is.  Roberto Paciullo is the chef in this second location of his, the first being the acclaimed Roberto's in the Bronx.  Unfortunately, if the original Roberto's is as good as "they" say it is, all he's brought with him from the Bronx is the area code, because Zero Otto Nove is pretty dismal on all fronts.

Except if you're just getting pizza, which seemed to be what pretty much everyone else was doing.  There were couples whisking in and out with their square cardboard boxes, and tables of families enjoying multiple pies.  We ordered a simple margarita, wads of fresh mozzarella melted into bubbly white islands in a robust, tangy sauce garnished with whole basil leaves.  Its crust was a thing of beauty, dotted with smokey blisters of char and a pleasant, pliant chew.  Boasting its own yeasty flavor, it carried beautifully its simple toppings.  A restaurant so sprawling as is Zero Otto Nove would be real estate wasted acting simply as a pizza place, but that's the only dish we tried that really justified its existence.

The leather bound menu reads like any typical Amer-Italian place- insalate, zuppe  and salumi.  We skipped those in favor of an artichoke antipasto, the vegetable quartered and braised and served atop extremely salty, oily hunks of toasted bread and scattered with flavorless, rubbery shreds of a cheese claiming to be taleggio.  But the 'chokes themselves were a little bland without that gluttonous partner.

We  also tried out a seasonal pasta: a rigatoni with butternut squash, peas and porcini.  The pasta tubes were well cooked, but the squash wasn't present in chunks, only cooked down and incorporated into a gummy sauce, sticky with a scant number of steamed (read: not that flavorful) porcinis and peas.  The "maybe we should've ordered"s were bursting forth as vehemently as the flavors were not.  

Forging ahead, an entree of baccala al forno came with a forewarning of saltiness... which retrospectively was hardly the problem.  The fish, in certain bites, was tough and fishy, the sauce a generic tomatoey sludge studded with capers.  Big wedges of potato elbowed their way in here, a bit floury and not really helping out the situation much. The humongous casserole could have easily served three people, though.  Speaking of capers, a side dish described
 as escarole saltato with capers was more like capers saltato with escarole, the vegetable and the briny little orbs almost in equal proportion, and making for strange mouthfuls.  As well, the leaves were not quite cooked down enough to tenderize them, so they fought the assertive seasoning with an awkward freshness, crying for a more delicate treatment.

We were happy enough with dessert, however, although I wouldn't make it a destination for sweets.  The list featured pretty typical Italian-ite dolci: tiramisu, gelati  and sorbetti, biscotti and the like.  We tried the most inventive sounding one: a (totally unseasonal- but then, none of the menu is) strawberry and hazelnut bombe, dusted generously with powdered sugar.  A tasty little finale to an otherwise desultory meal.  Which is why, my friends, you take your advice from trusted sources.... chefs, journalists... ME.  Not Yelp.

15 West 21st Street
p. 212-242-0899


This is the most unassuming, welcoming little Italian in a burgeoning stretch of west Houston street.  Quite a few reputable little establishments have popped up in this neighborhood of late, and Da Marcella might just be that strap that strengthens the camel's saddle .  Named after two signore named Marcella, native Italian donne born in the 1920's, our chef here is not actually Italian.  But I suppose somewhat like renowned Wisconsonite Michael White, he cooks better than a lot of the true Italians who stir pots around town.  Not that Francesco Mueses' cuisine is similar to White's, who is more well know for his fancified upscale spots Marea and Ai Fiori.  But in terms of flavor and soul, Mueses has embraced the cuisine of the boot just as passionately.

Open since June, it has already fostered a loyalty amongst locals.  Many customers arrive recognized by staff, ushered to tables with a convivial chat.  The room itself isn't particularly attractive, but warm hues and low ceilings contribute a cozy feel, and a flat screen suspended behind the bar spools classic Italian films.  The menu might at first appear off-putting: a calligraphied script of predictable-sounding red-sauce joint offerings, but any single plate on offer will swiftly put that misconception down.  In fact, just reading the philosophy of the restaurant on its website might inspire a wholly different conceptualization.  Lucky for us, it is that sentiment that is manifest in the cooking from Da Marcella.

Taverna Cucina Buona is how Da Marcella describes itself, and it is wonderfully accurate.  The food here has soul.  It is simple, rustic and elemental; it pleases like a warm embrace from a good friend.  Even a simple carpaccio of roasted beets with arugula and feta tasted thoughtfully prepared.  Crumbly, briny feta contrasted with the oven-roasted sweetness of the Thinly sliced golden and ruby discs are roasted to give the periphery a bit of chew, the middles sweetly tender.  They are fanned out and scattered with a salty crumble of cheese, plated amongst a scattering of fresh arugula.  We're not

 reinventing the wheel, here, but it turns smoothly, deftly. My favorite dish might have been the grilled squid (a special that night-I hope it is there when you go).  Sturdy tentacles of seppia are assertively grilled, such that the tapering tendrils achieve delightfully crispy tips, the meaty arms tender and succulent.  A dice of tomato mingles with chewy black olives and bitter greens, a warm,  garlicky oil anointing the squid, which may very well be the best execution of this dish I have been lucky enough to try.  I honestly want it again just one day later.

We tried two classic appetizers: funghi ripieni and vongole oreganata.  Bread crumb stuffings aren't normally my thing, and in both cases could've gone a little lighter in proportion to their main components.  The mushrooms were plump and earthy under a crust
 of buttery crumbs, although a bit too oily and the doughy breading somewhat masked the three cheeses and prosciutto that should have stood out more pronouncedly in flavor.  The clams were better- wonderful, in fact: hot little pearls of shellfish the shot forth a warm and saline juice when you bit through their crumby crusts.

Primi are unimaginably well priced, with most only $9 (I'm not kidding.  NINE.)  for a bountiful, robust plate of exquisite housemade pasta, hand-cut or on artisanal bronze dies.  Da Marcella's cuisine is focused in central Italy, which displays a harmonious balance between Emiglia-Romagnan richness and Tuscan simplicity.  We tried an hearty pappardelle al cinghiale that slipped the big flat pepper-flecked ribbons with a steamy ragu of minced wild boar in a rustic, meaty, tomatoey braise.  From this day on, as the temperatures wane, this might have been the most perfect,
 hearty and nourishing winter dish... were it not for the Costa di Manzo Brasato al Barolo.  A Flintstonian hunk of fall-apart short ribs was sidled up by a creamy lashing of mild yellow polenta, wallowing in a rich pool of savory, wine-enriched pan gravy.  No knife required: it actually fell off the bone from its own heft with the gentle nudge of a fork.   The steam arising from it alone is enough to make your knees weak.  Fortunately, it will reanimate you immediately after a few forkfuls.... this is why restaurants are called restaurants:  like the menu says, it is food to restore you.

To finish, the menu of dolci is classic array:  panna cotta, gelati e sorbetti, affogato, and our choice, a quintessential tiramisu.  Light as marshmallows, dusted with cocoa and luxuriously creamy rather than boozy, it is a superlative rendition.  It is hard to fathom that all these merivigli come from a chef who is not even Italian, although  the team boasts pedigreed backgrounds from Felidia and Bar Pitti.   And at such 20th centure prices: they could be charging two, three times as much as they do for this quality, were the service and decor spiffed up to formal dining.  But Da Marcella does not want to be a jacketed affair; there are no tablecloths or seafood forks.  Their homepage intimates a desire to feed their neighbors, wholesomely and familialy.  "Are we dreamers?" they ask.  Perhaps they are.... but I, for one, will dream of them.

142 West Houston Street  NYC, NY  10012

Sunday, December 2, 2012


It'd been awhile since I visited a restaurant for the first time and designated it one I'd unequivocably go back to.   Empellon Cocina is TOTALLY go-backable.

  Alex Stupak opened Cocina not long after his success with Tacqueria, but Cocina is a little more stylish... more entree-driven and perhaps slightly more whimsical, although I love Tacqueria too.  Stupak has a grand and unique style, exhibited in his food and the restaurant itself.  The room, sparsely lit with flickery candles and illuminated painting of a beautifully painted Dia de los Muertos-painted woman, exudes an electric, haunting energy, like there is surprise lurking around the candlelit corners.  And, as luck has it, there is.

There are many dishes I would come back for that I didn't sample this first time around:  I so intended to order the squid with black mole and sour orange mayonnaise that by the time it came to order,  I too familiarly overlooked it, like a misplaced object you look at so many times that when you actually need it, you forget that it's there.   I regret forgetting to get it.  I wasn't left with too much wanting after tasting the roasted carrots we got instead, though.   A smokey mole poblano countered their sweetness acquired by a long repose in a hot oven; yogurt and watercress jumped in with a bright tang.  They were pretty, too, studded with a seedy coat and nestling low in a
deep white bowl smeared eerily with a ruddy smudge.  So presentation plays a huge part here, like the big flat banana leaf splayed beneath gently steamed chanterelles dispersed atop a rectangular pabulum of mild, smooth masa polenta, then enlivened with a chipotle-Surryano ham salsa to bring things back up to speed.  Do not bypass the guacamole as your standard appetite-busting chip condiment.  Stupak's guacamole (we tried the pistachio version with masa crisps) is bright and unctuous, flecked with jalapenos and nuts, it almost seems whipped rather than mashed, its texture so silky and fluffy.   And the masa crisps themselves, nutty and hearty, but light, are tremendous on their own.   The salsas (all made in-house) are a rainbow of hues and run the gamut of Scovilles: they range from fruity-juicy to incendiary.  In fact, the hottest one (the Habanera) hits the
 palate with citrus and herbs... and it is only in its after-burn that your taste buds will begin to spasm in protest.  The salsa verde might have been my favorite, though, and also leaves your palate capable of sensing the rest of your meal.  The Tomatillo-Chipotle is a winner, too, smoky and robust, and the smoked cashew has a rich, creamy intrigue.  Order all seven of the jewel-toned lovelies and they might start the party themselves, especially if you're in a decent sized group.  Otherwise, they're fun to play with adding dollops to different dishes, although the well-seasoned concoctions hardly need your amateur adultery.  Go with the
melted Tetilla with shrimp and tomate frito and you might appreciate a couple spoonfuls of salsa the cut the gluttonously rich, stringy cheese.  Served in a searing hot cast iron pan with stacked tortillas, this appetizer is so hearty that unless your either don't plan on finishing it, or are sharing it amongst four or more, it will seriously cut into your main course appetite.  It's like a chewy, scoopable Mexican fondue.  It's delicious.  It is not on Jenny Craig.

Luckily, we showed some restraint leaving a generous amount of the tetilla unconsumed, because entrees demand your full attention (and un-full stomachs).  A thick Wagyu flat iron wallowed in its juices next to a pile of sunny yellow corn, more chewy than creamed, under a flurry of crumbly Mexican cheese.  Crisp, tender tamal fries  are another good receptacle for the salsas, and to soak up more of the
meaty drippings.  A slim filet of black bass lay moist and succulent under its crisped skin, augmented by tiny, crunchy chilaquiles mingled with black beans (which were slightly underdone- kind of
an undesirable kind of crunchy) and richly roasted crowns of
 romanesco.  Leaves of cilantro and rings of chiles compound the Latin flavors, and are probably the verdes component, which are traditionally part of the salsa of the chilaquiles.  But there was no loss in the minor separation.

Stupak's wife, Lauren Resler, stuck with her pastry background (Alex began with pastry at such esteemed kitchen as Alinea and WD-50 ) is in charge of sweets at Empellon.  Trying to decide between the myriad appealing options, we took both our waiter's and chef Stupak's recommendations for the
 pumpkin seed cake.    I suppose I was expecting a more pumpkiny, cakey treat, rather that the layers of pastry and a pumpkin seed-type of marzipan that arrived.  A brown butter sauce glazed the plate along with a drove of juicy triangles of pineapple and lilliputian dollops of whipped cream.   Resler's desserts have a haphazard excess to them, the plates frenetic with drops and drizzles, small mountains of cream and pools of sauce, but it doesn't diminish their tastiness.   I couldn't quite make sense of all of the elements put together, but there were delicious components.  And the desserts definitely perpetuate the creative whimsy that Alex executes on the savory side.

I don't know of another Mexican in the city that channels the authenticity of the original cuisine with such fireworks as there are at Empellon Cocina.  It's not surprising that the tables are full at prime time,  prior and aft, and that the chefs come here after-hours and bee-line there from out of town.  Empellon seeks to discover, interpret and share a love for Mexican cuisine.   Having discovered Cocina, I've interpreted Stupak's cuisine... and I share the love.


Friday, November 30, 2012


QUALITY ALERTS!!!  The following review is probably unreliable at best:  the chef has changed at the hands of the management, and the food has apparently taken a drastic turn for the worse.  I'm sure the service remains consistent as I described, so I'm not heartily recommending a visit to this joint.

Bypassing the hype over re-opening buzz, celebrity sightings and it's proprietor's notoriety, I wanted to visit The Beatrice Inn's new incarnation strictly for the pedigree of its new chef, Per Se alum Brian Nasworthy.   I wanted to see what he could do juggling a Kellerian background with a steakhouse-esque format in a trendy, celeb-attracting restaurant on the outskirts of the clubby Meatpacking District.  Open just a few weeks, it's a tough table to procure.  And maybe even tougher to enter once you get there: the door to the west that would appear to be the entrance, underneath the bright neon sign,  is a non-working locked mirage of a door.  The actual entrance to the right, poorly lit, leads down the cement stairs to a cramped vestibule.  Opening that door (by yourself, and it's a bit heavy), however, reveals a smiling maitre d', a comely bar and low ceilings reminiscent of its sister, The Waverly Inn nearby.

Like The Waverly, The Beatrice feigns to be a little full of herself, but at the heart of it all is a pretty solid neighborhood restaurant.  The suspendered waitstaff is charming and affable, but they do enforce their "no photography" disclosure printed squarely on the menu... so I'm making due with some images stolen from Nasworthy's iPhone  posts- other than that, you'll have to use your imagination.  Or else, come for a visit yourself.   You shouldn't be disappointed with your meal, as long as you can afford it and like what's printed on the menu.  Portions are a little skimpy: meat-heavy, to be sure, in true steakhouse form.  And you can't change
Duck pastrami for a salad
 around things on that menu, either.  Chef has them as he wants them, so extra this-or-that or sans-something will be frowned upon.  But he has the plates pretty well thought out, and they are pleasant.  A crunchy wedge salad is fortified with toasty crouton thins and a heavy flurry of Oregon blue.  Surprisingly sweet cherry tomato "raisins" and  thin rings of pickled onion brighten an herby cumin-spiked dressing studded with miniscule baby radishes.  It's a pretty and tasty salad (now Romaine, not iceberg as pictured).   Duck pastrami features in another salad of frisee and mache.  Rich duck breast is spice-rubbed and sliced thick, bedded in a zesty caper-studded sauce gribiche hidden beneath a tumble of greens and crispy fried shallots.

A little like The Waverly's mac 'n cheese (without that exorbitant price tag), The Beatrice isn't too fancy to offer up a burger, and it's a tasty one at that.  The very convex patty and rounded bun demand a good squish to compress it to the constaints of one's jaw, but then the cushiony meat and pillowy bun acquiesce agreeably.  A thin layer of melted white cheddar and the flavorful Prime dry-aged burger blend make up for the thick slice of mealy tomato, but given that it's November, I wouldn't consider that a major flaw.  A landslide of hot, crisp and salty fries cover the remainder of the plate.  On the cheffier side, two delicate lamb chops balance against each other atop a smoky eggplant puree, braised artichokes and cubes of grilled eggplant rounding things out.  Three hulking scallops were richly seared but just this side of rare inside.  Poised amongst a smattering of baby brussels sprouts and shreds of matsutake mushroom, there weren't enough sprouts to share, really, and no side dishes are offered.  Which may have inspired the ordering that burger after our entrees.  Yes, there were just two of us, but half of that us had a voraciously insatiable appetite.  (We did not, however, finish all of the fries.  There was some dignity upheld.)

Not enough, however, to keep from ordering dessert.  And I'm glad I did, because the salted caramel apple creme brulee was excellent.  Tiny nuggets of crisp apple studded the delicate creme, a tactic I've never experienced before.  It was a nice touch to the rich pudding, which was unfortunately a bit weighed down with its thick brulee crust, but the crumbles of salt crystals atop gave the coating a bit of grown-up appeal.    A strong, hearty coffee would have helped melt the sticky sweet, but the joe on hand was a generic-tasting brew.   There is a sundae on hand as well, described as a classic rendition, as well as an assortment of sorbets and cookies.

Lucky for us, Beatrice isn't the snob she could have been.  At least the telephone number is listed and somebody actually picks up.  The exclusivity of The Waverly only shows up here in fits and starts, and is mostly forgiveable.  You might not be able to construct the meal exactly as you want it, but thoes leave you with a little less visual excitement, but maybe my words will inspire you to see what she looks like in person.

285 West 12th Street  New York, NY 10014
(646) 896-1804

Sunday, November 18, 2012


It is no surprise that whenever imported chefs visit New York, they choose Le Bernardin for a meal.  There are few other restaurants that function at this level, this consistently, continuing to please, inspire, surprise and satisfy each and every guest that can afford the experience.   It is nothing but wonderful, as well, that this success comes to a chef and gentlemen, Eric Ripert, that is quite simply the Platonic ideal of both.  His Chef de Cuisine at Le Bernardin, Chris Muller, prevails the same culinary acumen, as Ripert's empire gently expands.  And now with the recent renovation of the dining room, the impressive decor lives up to the overall experience.

The spectacular painting of a tumultuous sea threatens to crash from the wall, and is prescient of the seafood-centric menu.   Like the ocean, dishes can be powerful and surprising, or calm and tranquil, but always boundless in depth and soul.   Likewise, the global influences are as expansive as the vastness of the sea.  The technique and finesse is inarguably French, but there are Asian, Latin, Mediterranean, African flavors- you name it.   And while the kitchen would graciously acquiesce requests for meats or vegetables, the most heightened experience will occur succumbing to the whim of the chef's tasting menu.  A la carte wouldn't disappoint though, either: you would have to order items to which you had an established aversion in order to even approximate disappointment at Le Bernardin (and even then, you might decide you actually ended up liking just those things you thought you did not).

Single, pure-white orchids decorate each table, as elemental and exotic as the courses to be had.  Seated at the glowing, white linened table, the pearlescent chargers glimmer under a warm spotlit beam. We enjoyed a smooth, creamy potted salmon flecked with chives atop crusty rolls from a
selection of artisanal breads by the hottest oven of the moment, Maison Kayser in nearby Yorkville.  The chargers themselves are admirable conversation pieces, with rims beaded like droplets of seaspray.  These are soon whisked away as your first course arrives.  I began with Barely Touched (preceding this is the Almost Raw section which I tend to circumvent) sea scallops, sliced into coins and warmed to firm their texture just
slightly.  They floated atop a buttery lime-shiso broth, anointed with dots of shiitake-miso jus and precious shards of crisp snow pea.

While wine pairing was offered, I chose to to restrain myself to one glass, and was bequeathed a crisp Austrian Gruner Veltliner that exquisitely accompanied each course, and somehow magically retained its gentle coolness throughout the meal (which lasted a solid three hours).  That was a welcome attribute for the second dish, octopus charred "a la plancha" with a piquante tomato sauce vierge and a fan of crisp fennel, emulsions of vegetal green olive and pungent black garlic daubed into a paisley underneath.   From Lightly Cooked arrived a
 roasted black bass, a generous hunk of pristine skin-crisped fish amidst a golden pool of Peruvian chicha sauce, inspired by Ripert's recent trip to Peru.  The slight funk of fermented corn was spliced with lime, and then joined by buttery chunks of acorn squash ceviche garnished with shishito pepper. 

Our final savory course was a spectacular grand finale: a Dover sole in its glorious winter fattiness that it dons seasonally as the local waters cool.  Chef Muller was almost as rhapsodic about the quality of that fish alone as I was about its preparation.  The filets were sauteed to a deep golden brown, resulting a crisped edge that seemed to hold together its meltingly tender flesh.  It stretched languidly in an exquisite tamarind brown
 butter, one of those sauces that will resonate in my memory with no foreseeable terminus.  It was a dish so grand, so sumptuous, that its accompaniment of beautifully perfumed basmati rice was served aside so as not to distract from the exalted fish, adorned with rich pistachios and almonds, onyx currants and ruby-toned barberry, and a crinkle of gold leaf to appear worthy of its companion.

After such grandiosity, our first dessert displayed a refreshing humility and simplicity.  A small garnet plum topped with sake sorbet was flanked by sastrugas of gingery foam with tiny leaflets of shiso, a dollop of zesty plum sorbet atop a small square of light, spongey cake.  Not to be outdone, however, a playful composition of chocolate and popcorn followed.  A bar a thick, smooth Madagascan ganache balanced crisp kernels of caramel corn,  candied peanuts and a crisp sugary tuile, its extravagance balanced by a small quenelle of creamy popcorn ice cream, reminding us there is still fun to be had amid all this luxury.  Finally... well, next-to-finally arrived more child's play: two squares of buttery, nutty sablee
hugging hazelnut gelato, but so as not to trivialize things too much, it is presented in a flourish of silver foil, somehow elevating a simple ice cream sandwich to something exceptional.  Needing not a morsel more, the actually-final dessert came as a trio of tiny dense pumpkin cakes, moist and spiced... although perhaps gilding the lily.  Or the orchid, as it were.  But if ever there were a restaurant to live up to a little pomp, this is the New York Times four-starred,  Michelin three-starred, highest-Zagat ranked candidate to do so.

155 West 51st Street
 tel.    212.554.1515

Friday, November 16, 2012


Casa Mono was on that fated list, nearly a decade ago, that ended up introducing me to this world below the salamander of which I have become so enamored.  Mike Colameco's Food Talk on WOR Radio hosted a contest rewarding the first caller to pronounce their top ten restaurants in New York.  Some way or another, Colameco
and I ended up sharing a meal at a short-lived steakhouse in Times Square, a day before Thanksgiving, with a pair of A-list chefs sharing a table for four.  And he is the one who began to nurture in me this passion for all things culinary.  At any rate, I hadn't been back to Casa Mono since it first qualified for that list, and I'm happy to report that this monkey is swinging as strong as ever.

And this is my assessment even having taken menu suggestions from a waiter whose palate I belatedly found to be diametrically opposed to mine.  (Note to self: if I'm going to take recommendations from a stranger, it would behoove me to ask  first what is their favorite food.  If the response is pork belly, or mackerel, or even macaroni and cheese, it should raise a red flag that our tastebuds might vibrate on different wavelengths.  I did not ask.  Let the orderer beware.)  Suffice it to say that the minimalist descriptions paired with the suggestions from our waiter culminated in presenting some dishes I would not have otherwise chosen to involve myself with.  This was not the case, however, with the blackened beet dish with which we
began.  They were charred and smokey, encrusted with a savory, seedy granola and paired with smooth curds of cana de cabra.  A side of brussels sprouts were halved, slicked with oil and simply roasted, retaining the vegetal splendor of their emerald green outer leaves but seared dark on their faces and tender inside.
The baby squid with local corn grits (a waiter-recommendation) had the little chunks of octopod breaded and fried like popcorn shrimp (an unexpected treatment) dotting the periphery of an exquisite bed of dense grits draped with a voluptuous poached egg.
 I would have preferred the squid grilled or sauteed, that way the pan juice would lend continuity with the rest of the dish, but it's sometimes a little difficult to know what is coming gauging from the stark menu listings: the longest entry has but nine words total.  The same scenario presented itself with the rabbit, which arrived as two deboned hunks of juicy meat, chicken-fried worthy of the Colonel,

with an anticucho of its gizzards spanning the divide.  Grilled spears of carrot straddled the rabbit, and a habanero-spiked cuajada (a yogurty smear of unctuous milk curd) cushioned structure and contributed a zesty brightness.  I was dissuaded from a cod cheek pil pil, which I'm pretty sure I would've been happier with: I like saucy and complex, and I think Waiter likes meaty and fried.  At any rate, we found common ground with the seared scallops with pumpernickel gazpacho, which was salty and
 bold, novel with its punch of caraway and rich, nutty crusted seafood.    Crisp little toasts of marbled rye and crisp, raw celery stalks slanted amongst the scallops and anchored in the 'gazpacho', which was really more of a caraway-inflected tomato and bread crumb puree, and bound with a ribbon of zesty pickled ***.  Deciding between a side of sauteed setas and a more innovative-sounding option of artichokes with mint, I listened again to  Waiter.  While the mushrooms were a lovely mix, perfectly
 cooked and flecked with herbs, I bet the artichokes would've been more interesting.  For some reason, I kept outsourcing the task I usually revel to undertake, and it was shooting me in the foot.  That said, even with suboptimal ordering, the meal at Casa Mono impressed again and again.  The room is simultaneously intimate and lively, reflecting the care and precision, yet rustic boldness of the food  And my menu mishaps might just inspire me to allow much less time to elapse before a return visit.  Because even after all these years, I'd still put Casa Mono on my Top Ten List.

52 Irving Place at 17th street
tel.  212.253.2773