Navy has been packed since it opened in February. The cozy space in Soho was home to the neighborhood bistro Jean Claude for over 20 years, but as Navy, it has been completely transformed with warm WWII-inspired maritime decor. With only 51 seats, the restaurant is tight and gets loud as the night progresses, so I prefer going early during cocktail hour and sitting at the bar or open window seats.
Chef Camille Becerra’s dishes are spontaneous and delightful. I didn’t think I was a big fan of mussels until I had Becerra’s mussel toast. The mussels are cooked in a hot pan with white wine just until they open, at which point they are removed from their shells, and the jus is reserved to toss with the mussels, olive oil, lemon juice and fresh herbs. Bien Cuit cornmeal sourdough is toasted and covered with a generous spread of rich caper-aji chili aioli — what Becerra considers the secret weapon — and then topped with the mussels and fresh herbs. It’s an ample starter that’s good to share. Navy’s menu is constantly changing, so don’t be surprised if the mussel toast is replaced by another seafood toast creation; I came to Navy expecting to try the uni toast. Becerra cooks by what inspires her and what’s available, which makes for pleasant surprises like this one.