My experience at North & Navy in Ottawa was an eye-opener. I have been exposed to many cuisines throughout my travels and through cooking parties that I have organized and documented on my first blog Random Cuisine. Northern Italy is a cuisine that I'm not very familiar. I don't recall any restaurants in Montreal that specializes in this cuisine. But after dining at North and Navy, I came out with a belly-full of knowledge. We usually associate Italian cuisine to tomato sauce, olive oil and pasta. However, Northern Italy relies heavily on butter, wine, and cheeses. It's strongly influenced by their bordering country - France and Austria.
I had a chance to talk briefly to the dynamic duo of Christopher Schlesak and chef Adam Vettorel to know a bit of their background and concept behind North and Navy. Adam was the chef de cuisine at Domus, and recently at Supply and Demand. He spent a great deal of time in Venice before taking over the old Beckta location.
North and Navy provides a bacaro experience - a wine bar where you can grab a glass of wine while nibbling on delicious cicchetti. It is also a place where you can bring a large group of friends to enjoy a good hearty meal.
I started off with 3 cicchetti all served on a fresh slice of baguette. They are similar to a crostini without the bread being toasted. The Baccara Cappucina, translates to salt cod capuchin-style, is a popular dish in Venice. This dish is prepared the same way as the Capuchin monks. The salted cod is served as a quenelle topped with a few pieces of plump raisins and capers. It's light and smooth with a nice balance of sweetness, saltiness and acidity.
The smoked ricotta is a must order, my favorite dish of the night. Just one bite, the ricotta provides a burst of smokiness from the cedar wood, elevated with the sweetness of honey and the freshness of the fennel. Finally, if you like sardines, order the sardèle in saor. It's oily in a good sense topped with onions braised in white wine, and toasted pine nuts for texture.
|Cicchetti - Sardèle in Saor, Smoked Ricotta and Fennel, Baccala Cappucina|
Now moving on to the primi menu. I was interested in trying out two items. The Risi e bisi, literally means rice and peas, was a surprising experience. At first glance, it looks like a deceiving bland-looking white risotto with grated parmesan. As I dug through the rice, a vibrant green pea purée pops up. The rice was creamy and al dente. The purée provides fresh notes of mint and lemon zest.
|Risi e Bisi - Risotto with Green Pea purée|
I next opted for the corzetti, a regional pasta belonging to Liguria in Italy. It's a coin-shaped pasta embossed with a beautiful design. In the old days, the design represents the family crest. The corzetti is made from a mixture of flour, eggs and white wine. It is cooked in a buttery white wine sauce with honey added. It's garnished with pieces of pancetta, walnuts and mint leaves. The pasta was firm, similar to Korean rice cakes. The flavors are very well balanced.
|Corzetti with Walnuts and Pancetta|
Finally, I ended my meal with the Giuseppe Luigi. It's an interpretation of our beloved Canadian snack - Jos Louis. It's a red velvet cake sandwich filled with vanilla cream cheese and salted caramel complemented with an oozing dark chocolate sauce. Simply decadent. I have to admit that it does not feel like a Jos Louis as it is lacking the effect of the crisp chocolate shell. It reminds more of a whoopie pie.
|Giuseppe Luigi - Red Velvet Cakes, Vanilla Cream Cheese, Salted Caramel, Chocolate Sauce|
In sum, my meal was flawless. The food at North and Navy is simple without pretension. Each dish is prepared in such a way that lets each ingredient shines. And provides a nice balance of flavors and contrasts of textures. This restaurant is a great addition to Ottawa's food scene. It definitely fits for foodies who are looking to entertain their palate.
North & Navy
226 Nepean St.