Chef René Rodriguez’s Navarra gives a whole new meaning to Tuesday tapas – or any night of the week, for that matter.
The quaint hotspot nestled in the Byward Market on Murray Street serves elegant, refined small plates with bold flavours and bright colours inspired by the chef’s travels to Mexico City, Oaxaca, Latin America and Spain.
The décor mirrors these tastes that come out of the kitchen, while Spanish music and soft lighting adds to the ambiance of the rust-coloured interior. Nestled in corners sit heavy hard-cover cooking books featuring world-renowned chefs and restaurants, like Denmark’s Noma.
A culinary inspiration in his own right, Ottawa-born Rodriguez was the past winner of Top Chef Canada and Chef Host for Canada’s Food Network show Cook Like a Chef.
Upon our visit, we opted for four dishes (ideal for sharing between two people) with a margarita and glass of the white wine of the day. First up, we were greeted with an artfully plated beet salad adorned with apricot, creamy goat cheese, fresh mint, crunchy quinoa and juicy ruby red grapefruit – a true taste of summer in your mouth. This salad was such a treat and prepped our palates for the exciting dishes to come.
As soon as we saw the word “taco” on the menu, we knew we had to order our next dish. The “taco mexicano in a jar” was, just that – a deconstructed taco in a mini mason jar, complete with guacamole, ground chorizo, sour cream and topped with jalapeño and crushed blue corn tortillas.
Our third dish also featured chorizo – a pork sausage seasoned with dried smoked red pepper popular in Spanish cooking – in the form of meatballs. The “albondigas” were moist and seasoned perfectly, but the star of the show in our minds was the sauce they were covered in. Our server kindly brought us bread at the end to scoop up the leftover liquid gold!
Finally, we were treated to a tortilla de patatas (potato tortilla) with spring herb salad and red pepper piquillo. This hearty plate featured egg and potato fried together with onion and peas below fresh greens and a delectable red pepper sauce.
Guests can sit at the bar, at any of the many small tables or, in the summer, on the backyard terrace that doubles the seating space and looks as idyllic a setting as you could dream up.
Thanks to Navarra for hosting eats ‘n’ retreats!