Countless chefs have passed through the streets of New York with the ultimate dream of opening a phenomenally successful, long-lasting restaurant. A few of the tried and true New York favorites are part of a larger group; they have a name attached and will likely garner a following regardless of whether or not all of the ingredients are accounted for. Seldom does a lesser known chef slither onto the scene in the most unassuming of ways, locking in a fantastic location at the crossroads of SoHo and Greenwich Village, and a hop and a skip from the West Village. Seldom does the decor, the ambience, the service, the space, the menu, the flavors- the every detail- seldom do each and every one of these elements excel beyond expectation with the greatest humility and nonchalance. Navy, with the modest and most humble Camille Becerra at its helm, is one of these few wonders.
Our waiter was cool and calm and confident about each item on the menu. We left our decisions in his able hands, and he guided us in all of the right directions. It was a hot summer night, and he was refreshingly honest about what plates would be ideal. We were not going to go with the albacore tuna, but he assured us that it was a rare addition to the menu due to its short season, that we should take advantage of its supreme freshness. Seasonality is one of Camille Becerra’s specialties: she works with local farms and fishermen whom she trusts. She understands that in order to serve an exceptional dish, one must start with the highest quality ingredients, at the height of their season, no less. Camille is as hands-on as possible with the Pennsylvania co-op she has partnered with. In fact, all of her sources and producers are within a 100 mile radius.
With a chilled glass of rosé in hand, expertly chosen by our maritime-esque waiter, we commenced the evening with the scallop crudo. The plating was exquisite, (take a peak at Camille’s personal Instragram account- evidence that she has an eye for art, colors, lines, shapes, and scenes. Her photos evoke mood and emotion like that of a photographer. In fact, I would not be surprised if photography is her second most favored hobby after cooking), and the flavors were phenomenal. Camille is a truly inventive chef; I can only assume that others will not be far behind her genius combinations: whey, seeds, pickle… and might I mention that when I returned to the site a few days later to review the menu, the dish had already changed.
We also ordered the summer squash salad with apricot, as apricots deserve full attention at the height of their season. We fully expected it to be a beautiful, colorful plate, and our expectations transcended when we took the first bite of this divinely flavored salad. I quizzed our waiter over and over again- what is that? Coconut maybe? What is that impalpable flavor? It was so simple, so light, yet unlike anything that I had ever tasted. I tried my best to identify as much as I could: toasted nuts, chili oil, paprika, lemon, herbs, and other secrets.
The calamari with fennel, pepper, celery, and herbs was perfectly tender- not an easy feat for calamari. What I really want to talk about, though, is the mussel toast. If you order just one thing, order the mussel toast, a nonpareil across the current NY restaurant scene, complete with caper aioli, cornmeal sourdough, and the freshest of fresh herbs. No other descriptives necessary other than… outstanding.
Navy is the kind of restaurant one must return to every few weeks, as the menu changes almost daily according to Camille’s fine judgments of what ingredients are worth incorporating into her innovative, fresh dishes. Go for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Soak in every detail, as the crew at Navy most definitely nailed them all.