I think most people would agree that a restaurant can have an off night once in awhile. So when I tried to find a restaurant to have my birthday dinner at I did a lot of research on City Search and other restaurant review sites. Overall it seems to me that the people who tend to write reviews are the ones that say a restaurant, food or service sucks. I especially like reading the really bad reviews when the owner responds asking why the reviewer/customer did not speak up when they had the bad experience. One great come back from an owner was something along the lines of “REALLY? You sat there waiting for your food for 1 1/2 hours and DID NOT say anything?”
My criteria for the restaurant were:
- Somewhere I hadn’t eaten at before
- Interesting décor or ambiance
- A variety of dishes the three of us would like
- Ethnic or specialty dishes
- Not a food cart but not too expensive for my daughter’s wallet. After all she was buying.
- Location, not too far away so as to make a long night of it driving clear across town and back
What I found I wanted to try were several smaller, niche or ethnic restaurants on what is known as Portland’s NE 28th Ave. restaurant row or a couple of others in that neighborhood. The difficulty was that a couple of my first choices were closed on Mondays.
So I narrowed it down to two restaurants. The leading contender became Navarre because a woman that I work with said she had eaten there and it was good. Navarre doesn’t yet have a website with their menu posted, they just have a blog. I found reviews on City Search titled A Real Disappointment, One of the worst meals I’ve ever had in Portland!, Rustic, gritty, real, organic in every sense., pretty good, One of my favorite places in town, A wonderful place to eat, etc, etc.
So what did we think? Navarre is a tapas place. We ordered 10 small plates ranging from really good rustic bread with lemon grass olive oil, chicken on the bone served in a bowl with a lot of broth (great flavor, chicken a bit over cooked), French cheeses, (my daughter thought that the Camembert smelled like my aunt’s barn). I loved the Brie, Blue Cheese and Camembert spread on the rustic bread. Other dishes – daughter and SIL really liked the porcini and corn salad, we had two potato plates, an a gratin and a pancake, both of which were really good, none of us really liked the braised greens, in fact daughter wouldn’t even try them. The one dish that we all agreed was the best was a pork plate. It was hot, juicy and had a wonderful flavor. We would have ordered a 2nd pork plate but they had run out. We all three had dessert and declared them all to be very good.
Our overall rating was something like “good maybe not great but we would eat there again, service was kind of slow but they have a very small kitchen and the place was jammed packed and we weren’t in a hurry. Tapas is a great way to try many things without committing to one dish that you may end up not liking. For three people, a bottle of wine and dessert with tip the bill was about $100. Not too bad.