Nina Compton has been on my radar since her run on Top Chef New Orleans. I’d spend my Wednesday nights on my couch, drooling over every crazy dish she created. The St. Lucia native was runner up on their eleventh season that aired back in 2013. After the shocking season finale, the wrath of Internet demanded answers to this controversy. Flash forward two years and she’s now running one of the hottest restaurants in the CBD.
Welcome to Compère Lapin. The name comes from a Caribbean Creole folktale about a mischievous rabbit named Compère Lapin, French for Brother Rabbit. The menu, influenced by Compton’s island roots, incorporates her classic French training and experience with Italian cuisine.
We went on a whim one Monday night, and the place was packed. It’s located inside the Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery, a swanky little boutique on Tchoupitoulas. You know Compton has put a lot of sweat, blood, and tears into this place immediately when you step in. The vibe is just right. With no reservations, we were seated at the raw bar where I watched a cook formulaically whip up orders of smoked tuna tartar.
Our waitress was a spunky girl with a surplus of knowledge about the chef, the food, and the new digs. I told her how I was a big fan and she recited a fiery quote from Top Chef, also informing me Compton is the known as the gnocchi queen.
We started with a dozen Murder Point oysters. They came out with your typical accoutrements and a glass dropper filled with hot sauce. Our server then gave the mini wooden barrel on the counter a loving pat and explained how the sauce was house made and aged right there. It’s those little things that make it a truly unique dining experience.
Halfway through the meal, Nina graced us with her presence at the raw bar and began to work her magic. Cue my fangirl moment. It’s weird to meet someone in real life that you’ve followed on reality television. You can’t disregard their celebrity status and almost forget they’re a normal human being. It wasn’t until she returned from the kitchen that I mustered up the courage to compliment her skills and success with the restaurant.
What sealed the deal for me wasn’t the jerked corn or conch croquettes- although both were exemplary of the island influence- but the perfectly roasted drum with fennel, clams, and a pine nut gremolata, typically found on Italian dishes. There she goes again incorporating her culinary experiences into the menu.
Nina, you’ve really outdone yourself this time. I thank you for your cooking, your creativity, and relocating here from Miami. I’ve finally experienced your cooking in my mouth instead of starving and staring at a screen.