Moments before the evening rush at Navy: Handsome, serious-looking men at the bar swirl their glasses of red wine, seriously. A woman reads a book (a real book!) as the last of the evening light filters through a patchwork of Japanese indigos. In a corner of this tiny dining room, someone is opening oysters.
Camille Becerra is a stylist as well as a cook. She's created a beautiful world on Sullivan Street where the trout en croûte ($34) wears a jacket of puff pastry with its collar popped (and needs only a pale green pool of lemony sorrel sauce to accessorize).
The trout is presented with the head and tail, but inside that deep-golden pastry, the meat is filleted and easy to take apart. And though it's meant for two people, you could easily make a meal of it on your own with a glass of Chardonnay.
The best dishes at Navy are the simplest. Like the thick, cold, curls of uni-butter on lightly toasted pain de mie ($15). Sea urchin and butter are blitzed together and chilled, wildly extravagant, rich and fatty, sprinkled with half moons of celery and chile oil.
When the restaurant is busy, it can feel cluttered and crowded, especially if you're sitting on one of those bar stools squashed into the corner. But this is part of Navy's charm, just like the handwritten menus on embossed stationery, occasionally corrected with a dab of White Out, changing a little bit every day.
Senior writer Tejal Rao dined unannounced at Navy twice. One of the only low points was a dessert called bay leaf zeppole. "You're not supposed to eat that part," said the waiter, explaining (too late) that we weren't meant to eat the leaves but scrape the very thin layer of greasy batter off. Alas. Don't make the same mistake--just order something else. Read about Tasting Table's recommendation policy here.