Navarre, in northern Spain, is considered an “autonomous region,” and Portland’s Navarre, something of a pan-Continental tapas restaurant, has likewise cultivated its own autonomous gastronomic space. The spices are exceedingly simple—salt and pepper, say—to let the actual flavor of each ingredient come through, and the presentation is just as simple: to order, you mark the various dishes you’d like on a little paper menu, sushi-style. In the tiny hardwood space the kitchen feels more open than most—it’s as if you’ve been invited over for dinner. The food shifts weekly, but some stalwarts are the sterling crab cakes and the parchment trout, which must be unwrapped like an Old World present. I’ve never had a bum dish—and for a small-plates restaurant, that’s a hell of a compliment.
Order this: Parchment trout, crab cakes, anything with mussels.
Best deal: Anything, really—just order the small instead of the large and it’s likely to be around $5. You can get out of here for under 10 bucks or rack up a fortune, depending on mood, hunger and impulse.
I’ll pass: I repeat: Never. A bum. Dish.