Mckenzie Glynn
Navarre

10 NE 28th

232-3555

Navarre does everything right. Their food is absolutely perfect. I have not one complaint about my visit. Every dish was spectacular. I will continue on, but I have already told you everything you need to know.

It's possible that there could be some skepticism about this fabulous new restaurant because it's a tapas wine bar. I know, tapas + wine bar usually = yuppie explosion. Honestly, though, I didn't even notice any of the people in the restaurant, with the exception of one old guy who said, "Check please," while making a swoosh sign with his finger. Navarre's space is small, but the heavy wooden tables are positioned in such a way that you don't feel as if other diners are encroaching on your area.

Each of the restaurant's small plates of food run from one to 10 dollars--prices that are easily manageable even for the modest diner. Your server will give you a long strip of paper, which serves as your menu, and you check off the dishes you want--much like a sushi bar. The wine list is extensive, and while I wasn't in love with the Beaujolais I ordered, I'd give it a solid "good" rating, and it was one of the cheaper wines available ($11 for a half carafe).

The menu offers a nightly braised green, which on this evening was spinach. It tasted slightly of vinegar, possibly of sea salt, but who really knows; Navarre's recipes are magical and indecipherable blends (yet I suspect they are much simpler than one would imagine). I was reluctant to order the lentils and beets dish, but after being persuaded, found it to be one of the best things I've ever eaten. The lentils were mystically small, and like the beets, cooked perfectly; the eccentric pair married in a euphoric blend of subtle sweetness. The beef braised in red wine was cooked to the tenderness of stew, and the stocky wine sauce went with the meat as naturally as coffee with ice cream. And then, of course, there was the cabbage gratin, the smartly spiced trout--baked in parchment paper to hold moisture--and the gorgeously plump steamed mussels. All spectacular.

Navarre's bread is a great hard French, perfect for dipping in a dish of mixed olives and oil. Order a couple plates of bread if you're worried about not eating enough, and plan on ordering seven or eight tapas plates for a moderately active couple. Also, the servers are quite friendly and are happy to explain what the prico or foie gras is, in case you don't know.

A few pieces of advice: Go to Navarre with someone you love. Realistically, you don't need to be IN LOVE with this person, but you must enjoy staring at his or her face for two-plus hours and swapping plates of food. Also, regardless of how full you are, end your dinner with one of Navarre's dessert pairings, like Banyuls (a crispy, sweet port) and bittersweet chocolate. After all this, expect to feel like a queen.