According to the website the inspiration for the menu at Compère Lapin comes from the traditional Caribbean folktales featuring a mischievous rabbit named Compère Lapin that Chef Nina Compton read during her childhood in St. Lucia. Drawing on the story’s themes of exploration and play, she mixes the local ingredients and rich culinary heritage of New Orleans with those of her Caribbean roots. Chef Compton also taps into her classical French culinary training and deep experience with Italian cuisine resulting in a playful menu that takes food you know, and makes it food you love.
Meals should not be about trends, shock value, or opulence. They should be about moments, memories and those with you at your table. The complexity of simplicity and the power of pure flavors is what drives the food. “Our histories, vast and varied, deserve to be memorialized and romanticized by dishes that at once remind us of home and transport us to somewhere new.”
I have been following Nina Compton’s career since she competed as a frontrunner on Top Chef New Orleans. I was rooting for her to win because: (a.) she’s a female chef and (b.) her food was so creative. In the end she lost to a chef from Philadelphia Nicholas Elmi. When I read that she had opened her own restaurant in New Orleans in June 2015 I put Compère Lapin on my radar. So for our second meal in NOLA we went there for dinner.
The restaurant is on the street level of an old hotel and boasts the exposed brick wall to prove the building’s age. The place was hopping (pun intended)! We were seated by a cozy table for 2 right by the huge window which made it great for people watching. But the real show was inside seeing what diners were ordering. We wanted to eat each dish that came out of the kitchen. We showed some restraint, however, and only ordered five savory items plus dessert.
First up was an scrumptious order of Conch Croquettes with Pickled Pineapple Tartar Sauce and Salmon Roe. These were a far cry from the Conch Fritters that we used to make as hors d’oeuvre for tropical theme parties when we had our catering business. They were so much more delectable. Though they looked like fried mozzarella sticks their looks were deceiving. Crunchy on the outside and filled with lots of tender conch and just a touch of creamy sauce. Their flavor was elevated even more when eaten with the tart/sweet tartar sauce and salty roe.
We followed the Conch Croquettes with Spiced Pig Ears with Smoked Aioli. The delicious pig ears tasted like spicy bacon. And we loved the addition of the smoke in the aioli which complimented the pig ears beautifully. To add another beautiful compliment we were served fluffy Chive Biscuits with two butters; one a Honey Butter and the other a Bacon Chive Butter. I could have had them for dessert and been a happy girl.
Our meal continued with luscious Spinach Cavatelli with Fontina Fondue and
. Both dishes were fabulous but I have to say that the head on shrimp made them a bit difficult to eat and quite messy. And our last small plate was Smoked Tuna Tartare that was so fresh with just a hint of smokiness.
For the finishing touch we shared the Banana Zeppole with Rum Caramel and Hazelnuts. When you bit into the warm fried banana dough gooey Nutella oozed out. Oh yeah! It was a scrumptious ending to a wonderfully creative meal.
The Old No. 77 Hotel and Chandlery
535 Tchoupitoulas Street
New Orleans, LA 70130