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Navarra on Murray: an Ottawa Culinary Destination

For our eldest Prince’s birthday, and upon his suggestion, we went to celebrate at Navarra’s on Murray. As a culinary school (and nearly graduate) student, it seemed befitting to give our first born carte blanche on his choice of a good Ottawa table.  For a girl who is always snooping the Ottawa foodies scene, I am almost embarrassed to admit I HAD NO idea that this place is what it is! Top Chef Canada Season 4 winner, Rene Rodriguez, is Navarra’s Executive Chef. Really? How did I not know that a Top Chef winner was actually operating a restaurant in my home town??? Shame on me LOL. I have not kept up with Top Chef because I don’t have a PVR and I normally go to bed at the gawd awful hour of 9:30pm… I know, I know, such a party animal!!!

Back to the subject under review here and enough about my old person’s sleeping habits. Navarra is a real, true and true, culinary experience. It is what you see on TV shows and hope to have the opportunity to someday «try something like that»… It is the type of restaurant you would expect to find in Montreal, Toronto, New York for instance… Yet, here it is, right in downtown good old Ottawa!!! Yes, dining at such a fine establishment is a real luxury and I am grateful life has me in a spot I can partake in such pleasures. Navarra is completely off the wall: intricate dish composition, unusual yet successful ingredient pairings, spectacular plate artistry and top shape service make this tiny little stop on the Byward market one of the most memorable culinary experience we have had in recent years. In recent months, we have discovered several really, really exquisite little gems of restaurants here in the Nation’s Capital (I have unfinished reviews of these spots still to come). But Navarra is one of those places, in my absolute humble opinion, that is in a league of its own… I am surprised not to see 5 star ratings across the board on online review sites. Maybe this type of cuisine doesn’t suit every palate? I am not saying this in a condescending way either: to enjoy the dishes of Navarra, I think you have to be an adventurous diner. If the simple thought of chomping on rabbit, octopus and pig’s cheek make you queasy, then for sure your experience will not end up being the same as mine. In order for a restaurant evening to be entirely successful, the guest must feel the meal met the palate’s preferences and expectations.

Now what about each particular dish we had the pleasure of dining on and nearly licking every single morsel of the plates? I could write colorful and vivid descriptions of each one but I think the fare at Navarra needs to be experienced, not described in a lengthy blog post… In a nutshell, it was all F.A.B.U.L.O.U.S.! We each ordered 2 sharing plates which were brought to us in a perfectly synchronized order. As I have already mentioned, the service was stellar: each dish delivered with a great description of what we were about to dive into.

The Prince’s birthday dinner menu:

If the boys really had to pick their top faves, they would oscillate between the Pig Cheeks and the Carbonara but then would feel bad about leaving all the others out of the lead. As for me, I think my biggest crush competing fiercely with the Pig Cheeks was the Confit Rabbit. I found the Carbonara extremely tasty as well but a bit over the top “too rich”, which is what won the King and the Prince over. To each’s own!!! The order of delivery was fantastic as well: the ceviche was served in between 2 rich and bold flavoured plates and acted as a true palate cleanser. Although I thought I really couldn’t fit another bite in after such delectable tapas, dessert was offered and ordered…  I will tell you this: I usually decline partaking in sweet endings as savoury courses are more my thing but the Dulce de Leche Mousse, OMG!!! I will be craving this dessert sure. Like right now! Actually, as I am writing this, I am craving the entire dinner! It really was that good.

So go ahead and splurge here at Navarra, it is without a doubt 100% worth it! Standing ovation for chef Rene Rodriguez and his crew!