Sunday, July 19, 2009
Navarra (Happy Anniversary to Me!)
Has it been one year already!? I just don't believe it. One year ago tomorrow (July 20th) I started my blog. My how time has flown by, eating and drinking and eating some more. When I look back at all the fantastic dishes I've had I can't help but think I must be the luckiest woman in the world. Not only do the memories make me happy, but the people who have tried some of these dishes or chosen restaurants based on my reviews also makes me very happy. Why settle for anything less when there's so much good food out there? That was our topic of conversation last night at dinner. We are Maritimers and I have to say that besides lobster, that I adore, the restaurant choices and availability of unique ingredients isn't as easy to get as it is here in Ottawa. Because of that, we have become food snobs, expecting only the best no matter where we go. And why shouldn't we? It's our hard earned dollar going on what we hope to be a marvelous experience. And speaking of a marvelous experience, I saw it only fit to dine at Navarra this weekend to celebrate this milestone, since they are the reason I started this blog, and since my mother-in-law was in town (she was also with us that night one year ago). They're also on my favourite foodie block. And one of the first restaurants I recommend when asked for a referral. So has my rating changed since my last review? Not at all!
It started quite similarly to our first visit, being super happy with the service. I called to make a reservation and they were delighted to receive my call. I was afraid my expectations would be too high, since I had built up the experience in my head. Really I had nothing to worry about. I'd been since our first visit and everything remained equally wonderful. Why would it change now?
We started off with a bottle of Pago de Cirsus. A 2005 Tempranillo/Merlot/Cab Sauvignon from Navarra. Sadly, this wine is not available at the LCBO. I would return for this alone, it was fantastic. I wish my wine knowledge was better than it is, then I could properly explain the flavours. I just know what I like, and I loved this wine. I found a description online that I'll share with the wine connoisseurs out there. Deep garnet with russet edges, lots of peppery spice and balsamic notes, with a long finish. Lots of red fruit and vanilla roasted coffee from the oak. This also went very well with the amuse-bouche they brought us. A gorgonzola and fig roulette with apple butter and roasted beets. Um, could I have 10 more please? The apple butter reminded me of my mother-in-law's apple crisp. So comforting.
Next came my appetizer, the Chef's Signature Beef Tartare – lacquered serrano ham-parmesan leather, basque guindilla peppers, gribiche, crostinis. This was a more mild beef tartare than I am used to which was quite nice because you could actually taste the beef more than anything. Most tartares I find to be quite a bit more flavourful, which is nice, but you loose a lot of the meat's natural flavours. I find a lot of dishes at Navarra are like that. You really taste the main ingredient, it's not hidden by anything and always paired with ingredients to complement it. The ham-parm leather was also a fun addition to the plate, sweet and salty.
For my main, the Roasted Lamb Rack was screaming out at me, and I thank god I heard it's call. This rich and tender lamb was cooked to perfection, done medium-rare (although arrived closer to rare, which is what I prefer) and so juicy. Again, the taste of the lamb complemented by the ingredients that were so carefully placed around it, but not overpowered by anything. It was served with goat cheese-potato coulant, baby summer vegetables, serrano jus, espelette. The baby vegetables included carrots cooked al-dente, turnip, peas, beets and even a tomato sitting in this sweet yummy sauce on the corner of the plate.
Last but certainly not least, I ordered the 2 Textures of Amedei Chocolate, a self saucing fondant, mousse, berries, cocoa earth (crumbles of crisp chocolaty goodness) and pear chutney. A wonderful way to end the evening, especially paired with a sweet glass of sherry (ask your server for a recommendation and you can't go wrong). I had the East India Solera and it was very good.
The atmosphere is relaxing, the service impeccable and the food to die for. If you want a beautiful evening out with guaranteed great service and a meal you'll never forget, this is the place to go.