What a perfect coincidence – literally I was seeking a new restaurant go to (to escape from the sheer silence in my house) when a friend called and said she was free to get together. It took me a matter of seconds to hop in the car and meet her downtown. I hadnt chosen a place yet but I was sure there was somewhere in the market I hadnt been to.

Sure enough from the suggestions I offered, we agreed upon Navarra. I was a little nervous and I cant fully explain why, but I think partly because Rene Rodriguez portrays himself as a big deal and partly because the sign on his restaurant seems almost art gallery-ish.

Nonetheless, I opened the door, stepped in, and was taken to a table only feet from where I was standing. I hadnt realized until that moment that the restaurant was only several feet long and wide. Immediately I noticed the single row of tables neatly filed close to one another quite like banquet style but with gaps between the tables to allow for intimate groups to dine without touching shoulders with strangers. What seemed like a cozy little cafe was splashed with sexy metallic sidings along the bar, accents of lipstick red, and slick black outfits on each staff member (which matched partly to the slick ponytails of some of the gentlemen). I was lucky to be seated first before a table of 3 squeezed in beside me. Normally this would be awkward having someone’s butt zoom past you, but oddly enough it made for a funny introduction (and permission to thereby eavesdrop on conversations and plates).

My friend showed up minutes later and we ordered a glass of pinot noir each from the detailed wine list of exclusively spanish wines; interesting to say the least. I was stuck on the food menu though. So many tasty sounding options, and all authentic to Rodriguez’s heritage. From what I could infer from my travels to Portugal the food would be simple and delicate but savoury.

Was I ever right.Along came the homemade bread with pineapple reduction in place of butter. A daring move but a pleasing change from the norm. Next came the amuse bouche in a pickling jar contained with olives and string beans in a marinade of citrus and chilies. I dare you to drink it straight from the glass. Powerful flavours indeed, and the jar was a very nice touch.

The beet salad was accompanied by pear, apricot and grapefruit; a unique twist that worked well with one another. The quesadilla was crunchy on the outside and bursting with flavour on the inside. But the real added touch was a burning twig of rosemary. I knew rosemary smelled nice, but the juxtaposition of odor and taste played tricks with what I could actually taste. Very interesting.

The “slow food” as it was called was a little bit of a blander taste. We ordered the corn tomatillo which naturally has a drier consistency but the dish lacked the balance it needed to overcome the bits of tomatillo stuck in my throat. The foie gras had a very different take: apples five ways. I was impressed by the overall presentation and the flavor capacity of the apple jelly but unfortunately the fois itself was intensely salty and hard to overcome.

Ahh the mains. Ahi tuna was done just right! lightly seared on the outside and rare on the inside accompanied by a pillow of sauted onions. Simple and delightful. I was expecting the hand rolled ricotta gnocchi to contain ricotta within the potato bites, but instead the ricotta was blended into the tomato sauce. Very nicely done but I was hoping for something a little bit more unique along with the other menu items.

It wouldnt have been a successful night without a hand shake from Rene himself. I introduced myself and thanked him for the wonderful meal. Would I go there again? To be honest its like a trip to Spain – absolutely worth doing, but repeating the trip would just ruin all the memories you have lasting in you head. Fantastic restaurant, I definitely recommend the experience.

Navarra on Urbanspoon

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