Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Navarre Been Here Before

I walked by Navarre about a year and a half ago, took one look at the crowd inside and went to Taqueria Nueve instead, pledging to return one day to sample what looked to be an excellent small plates menu and wine list.
That day was yesterday. I'm a busy
 girl, okay? The four of us arrived around 7 pm, and were able to snag the last four seats at the communal table next to a six-some of local politicos passionately debating something controversial, I'm not sure what, I was too busy reading the two pages back to back wine list, which was covered in an assortment of mostly European reds, with a nice mix of Basque wines, sparklies, dessert wines, and even a few French ciders (not for the faint of American and English-cider-lovin' hearts). I was thrilled to see a Portuguese vinho verde on the list, as I developed an affinity for the stuff whilst drinking my weight in vinho verde this past summer in Lisbon. Okay, slight exaggeration, I probably drank more like three times my weight in vinho verde this past summer in Lisbon, it's cheaper than water there and has a minerally effervescence that begs to chill a hot throat on a sweltering summer day. This was no sweltering summer day, it was a bone-chilling Portland January evening, so the vinho verde was all the more welcome for the warm memories it evoked. And it was a dead bargain at $5 a glass, or $20 a bottle. My sister, her darling bf, and our friend Danielle opted to share a bottle of 2006 Montenegro from Mallorca ($7 a glass, $28 a bottle), of which they grabbed the last bottle of, which was exciting for everyone except me, I was still sulking over the table's snub of my beloved vinho verde. Philistines!
Our biggest decision tackled, we next confronted Navarre's unique ordering system--sort of like sushi, you're presented with a list of options and mark what you want on a slim sheet of paper. You choose a small or 
large portion in the process. Then you choose any specials off a separate menu and write them in at the bottom. We opted to start with a heaping plate of Ken's Artisan bread ($1/$2) with a side of the 'grassy'
 olive oil ($1), but if you're a fruity olive oil person, don't despair, it was offered directly beneath. Naturally, being the meatheads we are, we had to have the large salami plate ($4/$10). We tried a small bowl of the marinated button mushrooms ($3/$7.50), which were good but not as flavor-laden as I'd have liked. We had a routine green salad tossed with a light vinaigrette ($3/$7.50). The French and Italian/Spanish cheese plates ($5/$12.50) bore some very nice cheeses. We ordered the trout baked in parchment ($6/$15), but there'd been a run on trout that day, and the chef suggested we replace it with buffalo carne asada? We were
 curious as to the correlation between the two with regards to a comparable substitution, but agreed and were served a plate of paper-thin buffalo meat on a bed of arugula. Good but not remarkable. We added the Marinated Duck with Corona Beans ($7/$18) as a special, which featured smoky slices of tender duck draped over massive white corona beans. We all agreed this would have been nicer if it were warm, but I thought the flavors melded well and the beans were cooked through, always good.
After ogling the politicos' desserts, we ordered the Red Velvet Cake and the chocolate mousse (both $5). The cake was satisfying in a comforting sort of God-I-really-crave-a-massive-slab-of-blood-red-cake sort of way --the piece was large and the frosting satisfyingly sugary, but neither dessert had much panache. I came away from dessert feeling like I usually do after office parties, like I should have just skipped it and gotten a drink instead.

Navarre * * 10 NE 28th (at Burnside) * 503.232.3555 * get the vinho verde

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