Casa Mono is in Spanish, and literally means “Monkey House.” Casa Mono is attached to its sister restaurant, Bar Jamón. Jamón is the Spanish word for ham, and ham plays a large part in traditional Spanish cuisine.
Casa Mono was opened in 2003 by Andy Nusser, the Executive Chef, along with his business partners Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich. Nusser is from Costa Brava in Spain, something which is emphasized on Casa Mono’s website. They sell tapas. Every year since 2009, Casa Mono has received a Michelin star. There does not seem to be a distinction between the history of Casa Mono and that of Bar Jamón.
In an excerpt from Casa Mono’s website, the decor is described:
The space is equipped with a mosaic tile floor; the interior walls are lined with bottles of sherries and wines; and the exterior walls are floor-to-ceiling windows that open onto Irving Place. Sit at the bar directly in front of the grill and experience plates cooked “à la plancha,” in all its smoky glory.
Bar Jamón’s decor and ambiance is also described:
Bar Jamón, a bustling, cozy, communal tapas bar with great energy serves Iberico ham, from which it takes its name, sliced paper-thin on antique Berkel slicers. The entire menu is scrawled neatly on a mirror behind the bar, including a special section for the various types of jamón, bocadillos, conservas, an extensive cheese selection and addictive churros y chocolate. Bar Jamón captures the essence of a New York neighborhood bar mixed with authentic Spanish style.
Bar Jamón plays with contradictions: it is bustling and cozy, the menu is “scrawled neatly on a mirror.” These contradictions allow for the food to be traditional Spanish food, while still works of culinary art.
Menu and Pricing
The food at Casa Mono is expensive and is not very traditional Spanish food. Many of the ingredients used are common in Spanish cuisine, but they are combined with ingredients not native to Spain and the flavor combinations are ones that you would almost exclusively find in an upscale restaurant, not in traditional dishes that can easily be made at home. The menu is written in English, but uses Spanish for the names of certain dishes. There are no descriptions given for any of the food items.
Bar Jamón’s menu is much more limited than that of Casa Mono, as it is exclusively a tapas bar. The tapas are mostly $10-$15, with a few items below $10 and a few above $15.
The staff is diverse and generally not Spanish.
The clientele is mainly middle and upper class white people, not people who are going to Casa Mono or Bar Jamón for “authentic” Spanish food, because that is not what they have to offer.