In June 2015, chef Nina Compton opened Compére Lapin on Tchoupitoulas Street in New Orleans’ Central Business District. In May 2013, Compton had competed on Top Chef: New Orleans eventually finishing as runner-up and fan favorite. A native of the Caribbean island of St. Lucia where her father served as prime minister, Compton had worked in French and Italian kitchens before heading to Top Chef. On the show, Compton dazzled the judges with her handmade pastas and ability to balance complex flavors. This ability to blend French, Italian, and Caribbean traditions carries over to the menu at Compére Lapin (“Brother Rabbit” named after Brer Rabbit of folklore).
Since the restaurant’s opening, Compton has a received a slew of recognition and awards. In 2016, New Orleans restaurant critic Brett Anderson named Compére Lapin, the New Orleans Restaurant of the Year. Anderson explained that the biggest triumph of the restaurant was that Compton and her husband-partner, Larry Miller, “could have leveraged her television success on "Top Chef'' with a publicity stunt disguised as a restaurant and probably made some easy money — but didn't.” Instead they created a restaurant that “clearly means something to them and that has grown stronger with each passing month since its mid-2015 opening.” In an earlier review, Anderson had awarded Compére Lapin four beans—the Times-Picayune’s highest rating. The appeal of the restaurant, Anderson argued, was that “Every meal at the restaurant over the past six months has brought a creation that, at the time of its consumption, has had the effect of overshadowing something extraordinary that came before.”
Compton and Compére Lapin have received plenty of national press as well. Food & Wine Magazine named Compton one of the Best New Chefs of 2017. In 2018, Compton won the James Beard Award for Best Chef: South. In 2017, Eater critic Bill Addison placed Compére Lapin on its list of 38 Essential Restaurants in America.
Recently, we had the pleasure of eating at Compére Lapin, so let’s take a walk through some of the dishes we enjoyed.
The meal began with chive-buttermilk biscuits, served with a honey butter and a bacon butter. This oven-fresh pockets of deliciousness were a strong start to the meal.
The dirty rice arancini were a wonderful blending of New Orleans and Italian traditions.
The broiled shrimp were a play on the classic New Orleans barbecued shrimp, but with a chili butter straight from the Caribbean.
A tuna tartare served with crispy banana chips is a play on textures with the right amount of heat. All of Compton’s food is wonderfully balanced—each dish has just enough spice, leaving a little burn in the back of the throat.
The curried goat is the absolute star of the meal. Tenderly braised goat served with heavenly sweet potato gnocchi and cashews. This dish epitomizes Compton’s style blending New Orleans, Italy, and the Caribbean in a mouthwatering combination. It’s the type of food that creates lasting food memories and a desire to revisit them again and again.