I’m always in search of new sensory experiences to thrill my taste buds and enlighten my palate in the most delicious and exciting ways. After suggestions to try Navarra in downtown Ottawa rapidly accumulated, I had no choice but to try this Mexican-Spanish fusion gem of the capital city. Navarra is now at the top of my list in stellar dining experiences, and here is why.
First of all, the atmosphere of this establishment is like no other in Ottawa. Subtle hints of old world elegance and graceful European flare are combined with a comfortable and intimate aura to immediately transport you into a world of comfort and class. I appreciate intimate dining experiences that don’t feel rushed, so this relaxing atmosphere was a huge plus. Every detail down to the gracious and knowledgeable servers, readily suggesting wine and food pairings for newcomers or anecdotes on inspiration behind specific dishes, are fashioned to create a personal experience for each guest. Before you even take a first bite, you feel right at home.
The food itself was simply out of this world.
After a glass of a vibrant, refreshing white wine, I enjoyed a Mexican brick layer dip that included a fresh tomatillo salsa, crumbled feta, avocado, radish, crema, and pickled cactus. This seemingly simple dip packed a punch of explosive flavors, with notes of sour, sweet and savory intermingling. I especially appreciated the texture of this dip as creamy avocado and crema mixed with the fresh tomatillo, finished with the soft pickled cactus—a perfect pairing with the crunchy tostada chips.
Next was the Dungeness crab salad, a recommended favorite of Navarra’s patrons. This was possibly my favorite part or the meal and truly a dish that I wish I could eat all day for the rest of my life. I loved the delicate texture of this dish, as the grapefruit slices, silky avocado enrobed the crab with hints of sesame and mango, whisking me to paradise. It felt like summertime transformed into an edible form, each bite better than the one before it. I simply couldn’t get enough of it.
Already in a dreamy state of bliss, I was then greeted with the Al Pastor mushroom quesadillas. The serrano chile salsa and pickled pineapple stood out in this dish, enhancing the savory mushrooms, creating a delicious, meaty texture. A smoky element to the dish harmonized all of its unique ingredients to result in a fantastic union of flavor.
To finish, I enjoyed two of the most sinfully divine desserts in existence—or so I’m convinced. Between the Mexican chocolate Panna Cotta and Crema Catalana brûlée, I was in sweet tooth heaven. The panna cotta, so light, airy with the slightest hint of cocoa, was accented so perfectly by salted pistachios in an unexpected and brilliant savory and sweet combination. The Crema Catalana brûlée was again an unexpected take on a classic dessert, accentuated by orange zest and passion fruit, amplifying the candied perfection of this exquisite treat.
Navarra took me on a culinary adventure, unmatched by any other restaurant of this contemporary fusion. With diverse textures and unexpected combinations of flavors, it is evident Navarra’s Chef Rene Rodriguez maintains true passion and love in his creations. I was delighted and honored to experience the stellar and unforgettable dining experience that Navarra offers. Beyond excellent food and atmosphere through and through, all who appreciate taking the time to enjoy the finest things in life must experience Navarra.
Photography. Andrew Carter