Chef Nina Compton will unveil her newest restaurant, Bywater American Bistro (BABs) March 15. Located in the Rice Mill Lofts at 2900 Chartres Street in NOLA’s “Sliver by the River” Bywater neighborhood, BABs will showcase the chef’s culinary craftmanship with seasonal ingredient-driven fare served in a casually elegant and convivial setting. BABs is the second restaurant from Compton, who has earned national and local acclaim at her now-landmark restaurant Compere Lapin, a critical and popular darling by virtue of Compton’s robust fare, highlighting her Caribbean roots and Louisiana zip code.
“We’re really excited to open a restaurant in the community that has become our home,” says Compton. “The menu and atmosphere go perfectly together—unique and creative dishes coming out of a completely open kitchen—it’s going to be a fun dining experience—like hanging out with friends at a dinner party.”
For BABs, Compton and husband Larry Miller have teamed up with longtime friend, collaborator and Compère Lapin Sous Chef Levi Raines. Formerly of Andrew Carmellini’s Miami outpost of The Dutch, Raines moved to New Orleans in 2015 to work alongside Compton in her first solo venture and will now helm the new restaurant as Chef/Partner.
The menu at BABs will feature fresh and approachable dishes inspired by the many cultures—past and present—that make up the region’s cuisine. Seasonal ingredients, smart sourcing, proper technique and bold flavor combinations play a big role and diners will find an array of thoughtfully prepared dishes. Appetizers will include hogs head boudin with Dijon and frisée; pickled shrimp with celery, avocado, rye croutons and trout roe, served atop buttermilk dressing; and tuna toast—a play on the traditional Spanish “pan con tomate” —with tuna bresaola, garlic, tomato and avocado mousse. Charcuterie is French-inspired with offerings such as foie torchon, country pâté and oxtail presse.
As a nod to the restaurant’s home in the Rice Mill Lofts building, grains and legumes will play a substantial role with dishes such as farro risotto with Maitake mushrooms and minted breadcrumbs and crab fat rice with green apple and filé. Compton, known for her savvy skills in the noodle-making realm, will also feature a selection of fresh house made pastas including spaghetti pomodoro and smoked ricotta agnolotti with sunchokes. Entrées will run the gamut from seafood and pork, to fowl and even rabbit (a tribute to Compton’s first restaurant which was inspired by her favorite story book character). Dishes, such as seared yellowfin tuna steak with pepperonata, soft herb salad, and a puffed tapioca chip, with almond cream poured tableside and rabbit curry with cilantro, pecans and jasmine rice, are certain to tantalize. Vegetables are equally enticing with dishes including charred okra, potato gratin and roasted cabbage with navy beans and basil gremolata. Desserts will range from warm rice pudding with dulce de leche and puffed cereal to Nutella flan with crystalized hazelnuts.
The cocktail program at BABs, under the direction of Head Bartender Crystal Pavlas, focuses on straightforward classics, meticulously executed with attention to detail. Drinks are meant to complement the cuisine and showcase seasonal ingredients and simple flavor profiles. Signatures include the BABs sour – blended scotch, chamomile liqueur, honey and lemon; take flight—mescal, passionfruit, crème de violette and lemon; and the bottled negroni—gin, bitters and sweet vermouth, house bottled. Classic martini service with charred pickled onion petals will also be on offer.
The bustling eatery will exude character at every turn. Raw and industrial elements are combined with contemporary touches and pops of color, showcased in the artwork on display by local talents Michalopoulos, Raine Bedsole and the students of NOCCA. Upon entering, guests are drawn to the new exhibition kitchen and expansive bar, seating 18, allowing diners to watch the action unfold. Hunter green distressed steel, warm wooden high tops and deep blue tile all work together to create a cozy yet energetic bar area. In the dining room, which seats 60, exposed brick and windows serve as the backdrop to honey wood tables and banquettes with forest green accents and suspended globe lighting emits a warm hue over the space. The private dining nook, which seats 10, is outfitted in chocolate tufted leather banquettes and subtle floral wall décor, serving as the perfect spot for an intimate gathering.