Rarely do I write a second review about a restaurant, but North & Navy in Ottawa deserves a second review. It has been over a year since my last visit, the food is still as spectacular as my first visit (read review here). The staffs are knowledgeable, friendly and attentive. Going to North & Navy is like going to school, you learn a wealth of knowledge on Northern Italian cooking through their food and by talking to the staffs. I was dining alone on my last visit and went through their Cichèti and Primi sections of the menu. Now I brought my friend Ben so we can share and explore some dishes together.
From the Antipasti menu, we ordered the Sardèle in Saór - lightly seared sardines, white onions and fennel marinated in white wine and white wine vinegar. This preparation reminds me of ceviche in which the fish is "cooked" with citrus acid. The sardines are garnished with toasted pine nuts for crunch and golden raisins for sweetness. Our first bite was packed with bright, fresh and vibrant flavours - a great appetizer to start off our meal.
|Sardèle in Saór - sardines, white onion, fennel, golden raisins|
On the Primi menu, we went for two pasta dishes. The first is the Bigoli in Salsa. Bigoli is a pasta thicker than the size of spaghetti; it is made from a mixture of semolina and 00 flour. The word salsa is not in the sense of a spicy tomato sauce (tomato is not a commonly used ingredient in Northern Italian cuisine). Salsa here refers to the anchovies and white wine sauce, thickened with pasta water. From the picture below, it looks like a simple pasta garnished with a chiffonade of fresh parsley. A bite of this pasta delivers layers of flavours. You know a good pasta dish when the sauce adheres onto the pasta.
|Bigoli in Salsa|
Our next pasta dish is the chef's interpretation of raviolo al uovo - one big ravioli with an egg inside. This is one technically challenging dish to master. The classic one is filled with ricotta and a raw egg yolk. The tricky part is to ensure the pasta is al dente while preventing the egg yolk from overcooking. Once you cut into the raviolo, the egg yolk oozes all over your plate. The dish by chef Adam Vettorel is a similar idea where it is stuffed with a light meaty mixture of braised short ribs and ricotta, and a 64-degree egg lies on top of the raviolo. The texture of the 64-degree egg is a custard-like white and somewhat firm yet runny yolk. This elevated version is served with drizzles of balsamic vinegar, puffed rye and fresh oregano.
|Beef Short Ribs & Ricotta Raviolo 'Al Uovo'|
The Secondi course consists of bigger and heavier portions of food. We opted for the Tamworth Pork 'Lenticchie' - pork 3-way (fennel sausage, pork belly slab, pork leg) served on a bed of beluga lentils and mirepoix. The fennel sausage was meaty and juicy, the pork belly was crisp with a well-rendered fat. The last pork item depends on what part of the pig if available. However, this was our least favourite item, it was tough and chewy to our taste. The star of the dish is the lentils cooked with mirepoix finished with a hefty amount of butter. It was so addictive, we could not stop eating.
|Berkshire/Tamworth Pork 'Lenticchie'|
Our favourite dish of the evening was the Rabbit 'Porchetta' - pancetta-wrapped rabbit loin first cooked sous-vide, then seared. These rabbit medaillons are so tender and juicy, they literally melt-in-your-mouth. The seared pancetta elevates the taste of the rabbit and the rich and flavorful rabbit jus binds all the elements together. The white polenta was light and smooth, the texture reminds me of grits.
|Rabbit 'Porchetta' with Braised Red Cabbage and White Polenta|
Our final course is from the Dolce menu. The tiramisu is the chef's family recipe. I have eaten plenty of tiramisu, I even have two tiramisu recipes available on my other blog. This tiramisu contains no alcohol. The lady fingers are soaked in coffee, layered with whipped mascarpone cheese and topped with cocoa powder. It is light and creamy with a prominent taste of coffee than most tiramisus I have eaten.
You must end your meal with the Giuseppe Luigi, an elevated version of our humble Canadian-made dessert - Jos Louis. I ordered this on my last visit, this time it tasted much better. Even though it is the same dessert with the same components, the smallest details make a huge difference. The Giuseppe Luigi consists of two red velvet cakes filled with vanilla cream cheese and salted caramel, covered in dark chocolate sauce. The cakes are lighter and airier, and more chocolate sauce covering the cake. What makes this dessert even more decadent is the contrast of temperature between the hot chocolate sauce and the cold cakes.
|Tiramisu and Giuseppe Luigi|
This is my second review of North & Navy - spectacular food, outstanding service. What can I say more? Reserve now and immerse yourself into the Northern Italian culture.
North & Navy
226 Nepean St.