Compère Lapin, one of New Orleans’ most anticipated restaurants, is officially set to open in the Warehouse District at Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery on Tuesday, June 2. Chef and owner Nina Compton will helm the neighborhood restaurant, creating robust dishes that meld the flavors of her Caribbean upbringing and love for French and Italian cuisine, while highlighting the Gulf and Louisiana’s beautiful indigenous ingredients.
Compère Lapin is Compton’s first restaurant; the decision to open up in New Orleans was influenced by her time filming Bravo’s Top Chef New Orleans, where she fell in love with the Crescent City. “I knew right away that New Orleans was where I wanted to be; the culinary community here is unlike any place I’ve been and I’m thrilled to become a part of it,” Compton says. Her husband/partner, Larry Miller, a veteran in the hospitality industry, shares her love for the city and will oversee operations as General Manager.
The inspiration for the name Compère Lapin — pronounced kom-pare la-pan and translated to “brother rabbit”— comes from Compton’s childhood in St. Lucia where she read traditional Caribbean folktales featuring a mischievous rabbit named Compère Lapin. Drawing on the story’s themes of exploration and play, the restaurant will feature an inventive menu that mixes the flavors of New Orleans, with those of Compton’s Caribbean roots, her French culinary training, and deep experience with Italian cuisine.
Diners can begin with a selection from the raw bar and small bites (from $6) including conch croquettes with pickled pineapple tartar sauce; cold smoked Wahoo tartar with avocado and crispy plantains; roasted jerked corn with smoked mayo and lime; Scotch eggs with andouille sausage; and crispy pig ears with smoked aioli.
First course (from $14) offerings include Stracciatella with apples, pears, and a brown butter vinaigrette; crispy chicken skin salad with Brussels sprouts and buttermilk dressing; and farro salad served with warm broccoli rabe, chorizo, and mustard vinaigrette. Second courses (from $22) will range from roasted Louisiana drum finished with fennel and a pine nut gremolata and pici pasta with crawfish, to curried goat and sweet plantain gnocchi and a 28-day aged ribeye with ceci bean and foie gras. Signature sides such as sweet corn and semolina gnocchetti and carrot and turnip almondine with turnip green salsa verde will complement the entrees. Under the tutelage of pastry chef Danny Alas, diners can end their meal with playful desserts such as smoked banana torta served with house-made basil gelato or brown butter cake with rum raisin ice cream.
Executing the restaurant’s beverage program is award-winning mixologist and Diageao U.S. Ambassador, Ricky Gomez, formerly of Cure. Gomez’s well-rounded knowledge of cocktail making and Compton’s St. Lucian background will play a major influence to the cocktails, designed to complement the restaurant’s menu. Like the fare, the libations will highlight the bounty of the Gulf’s indigenous ingredients as well as pay homage to New Orleans’ rich cocktail heritage. The lineup of cocktails are thoughtful yet unpretentious and each tell a story all its own. Guests can expect creations including the Panache: a bright and refreshing shandy with floral notes featuring IPA, lemon, elderflower, and aromatized wine; Milner: Zacapa rum, Amontillado sherry, citrus, and strawberry; and the C.L. Pimm’s Cup: a signature twist on a New Orleans classic featuring Pimm’s #1, lemon, and watermelon.
Influenced by the building’s charming history as a warehouse serving the Port of New Orleans, James Beard Award finalist Parts and Labor Design Company has retained the original warehouse architecture, while adding elements of classic French décor and a modern, bohemian flair. The 86-seat, indoor-outdoor eatery evokes a relaxed, unpretentious vibe combining materials and textures ranging from warm caramel leathers and honey oak to tan tweed, cool bohemian blues, and English greens. Original floor-to-ceiling wood and glass French doors along Tchoupitoulas Street open to outdoor seating and illuminate the space with natural light. An impressive 80-foot cocktail/raw bar will provide open views into the kitchen where guests can take in the action. Walnut and brass-blown glass light fixtures complete the look and set the mood.
Guests have the opportunity to purchase tickets to exclusive sneak preview dinners from May 26 to May 30. Seating is limited and priced at $39 per person (excluding tax and gratuity) and features a set menu of Compton’s signature items.