On Monday, Matt Abramcyk (who owns MaisonO, Smith & Mills, Tiny’s & the Bar Upstairs, and Warren 77) and Akiva Elstein (of Smith & Mills, Macao Trading Co., and Employees Only) threw open the doors to Navy (137 Sullivan Street, 212-533-1137), the WWII maritime-themed joint venture they built in Soho. Linens and military canvas cover the walls, black and white tiles cover the bar in a vaguely nautical pattern, and the staff’s uniforms hearken back to the ’40s. And behind the burners, the partners installed Camille Becerra, a Top Chef contestant who has been looking for the right permanent home since her restaurant Paloma caught fire and closed.
“Since I lost my restaurant, I took some time — it was important for me not to go into something that would be fleeting,” she explains. “I wanted to find a restaurant group that I wanted to work with. I wanted to work with people I respected who had the same vision and were as hard-working as I am. I wanted to have a team that supported and believed in me, and I found that in Matt and Akiva; they get where I’m at. So I decided to hunker down and commit to a restaurant, and hopefully a series of restaurants.”
Becerra is using her whole food and healthy cooking philosophy to lay the foundation for the menu, a list she says is “fish-focused” and “very vegetable-heavy.” “The menu will continue to change and evolve,” she adds. “It will change according to what we get from farms within a 100-mile radius. I work best in something that’s always changing and evolving — it allows me to tap into a certain level of creativity.”
Opening menu highlights include a roasted parsnip salad and a pork chop for two — which is served with chard, escarole, and pickled goji berries — plus raw bar selections like oysters and sea urchin and blini and caviar. “The food is substantial but not heavy,” says Becerra. Soon, you’ll be able to stop in for lunch and tuck into a ploughman’s board; eventually, you’ll be able to come by for breakfast and find pastries and drinks from Kitten Coffee, a new Brooklyn roastery.
Navy is working with just a beer and wine license, but Abramcyk and Elstein enlisted operations director Lawrence Green, who did beverages for McNally’s empire before coming to this restaurant, and bartender Ajax Kentish to create a list of cocktails that use ingredients that are 20 percent ABV or lower. “Due to the whole cocktail explosion, there are many aperitivi and digestivi we can do,” says Green. The bar, then, is serving concoctions made with sherries, ports, madeiras, many other cordials, and beer.
The restaurant is also dealing in craft beer, both on draft and in bottle, and a wine list that, says Green, matches the food and space. “We’re a small, quirky restaurant, and we’re trying to find small quirky producers,” he says. The list also has a unique highlight: “We’re trying to focus on female producers where we can. A lot of pioneering women are breaking through in the wine world, and we want to highlight those people.”
Navy is open for dinner from Sunday through Thursday from 6 p.m. until 1 a.m. and on Friday and Saturday from 6 p.m. until 2 a.m. The spot will add breakfast and lunch in the coming weeks.
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