Restaurant of the Week: Navarre

Weekend!Food: Either diners become fans or raving foes
by: Jaime Valdez, Sean Hammond wraps up a chicken cutlet sandwich, part of Navarre’s recently launched lunch service.

In general, people either love Navarre (the seasonally changing array of creative small plates) or they hate it (the restaurant runs out of things, the menu is confusing, the service can be disdainful).

Some diners think it's fun to tick off their menu choices from the paper menu; others find it annoying, especially when trying to determine the appropriate portion sizes of the small and 'larger' plates and filling in the specials from the distant board.

The recent addition of breakfast and lunch offers more typical options. The egg-centric breakfast choices include a fried-egg sandwich, and a small variety of omelets and scrambles including a flavorful mix of chorizo with black beans, potatoes and toast on the side.

Another dish pairs eggs done to order with medallions of tasty medium-rare buffalo steak.

But not everything gets the appropriate attention to detail. The accompanying toast was stone cold. The lunch sandwiches are spare to say the least - the crab cake is solely a crab cake on a bun, with no mayo, no nothing.

The pâté sandwich is moistened with mustard, but it's a pretty slapdash assembly. And none of the sandwiches come with anything (chips, fries, salad, etc.) - which is certainly the kitchen's prerogative but, given that's an unusual circumstance, it would be helpful to have it pointed out in advance.

That kind of 'if you have to ask …' attitude pervades the restaurant, so it's quite possible to end up with dishes that are similar or wildly out-of-whack portion sizes without any staff guidance.

Some dishes on the dinner menu are labeled with deceptive simplicity - i.e., 'pork,' 'bird,' 'albacore tuna' - and the waiters' willingness to offer more detail ranges from enthusiastic to weary.

It's a shame, because many dishes, especially the vegetable specials, are stunning. Both the cucumber salad and the squash with sage butter could convert dedicated carnivores to vegetarianism and are so much more exciting than they sound. The brightly colored and angular french fries also stand out as among the best ever.

Dishes like these ensure many repeat customers despite the oddities. A meal at Navarre can take a leap of faith and, sometimes, it's very well-rewarded.

- Audrey Van Buskirk

10 N.E. 28th Ave., 503-232-3555, breakfast and lunch: 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; dinner: 4:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 4:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, breakfast and lunch $4-$9, larger dinner portions $15-$18