On June 2, Top Chef: New Orleans runner-up Nina Compton officially opened her highly anticipated first restaurant Compere Lapin (535 Tchoupitoulas St., 504-599-2119; www.comperelapin.com). It sits inside the Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery (www.old77hotel.com) on the edge of the Warehouse District and has floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Tchoupitoulas Street. The restaurant's namesake, a trickster rabbit character from Caribbean folklore, is present in several forms — emblazoned onto the walls and as a silver figurine perched on top of the bar, which overlooks an open kitchen.
The menu is influenced by Compton's upbringing in St. Lucia and incorporates her classic French training and experience with Italian cuisine at Scarpetta in Miami.
Bar snacks include roasted jerk corn on the cob served with lime and aioli and crispy conch croquettes paired with pickled pineapple tartar sauce. Dirty rice is transformed into arancini — lightly breaded, fried and served with tart orange mojo.
Appetizers include cold-smoked tuna tartare with avocado and crispy banana chips sprinkled with black sesame seeds, and roasted beet salad with ricotta and pistachios.
Servers shave foie gras onto a duo of beef with ceci beans, and roasted chicken comes on a bed of fresh corn grits with sausage jus.
Cure veteran Ricky Gomez is in charge of the bar program and he's joined by Abigail Gullo, who until recently helmed the bar at SoBou. A list of 12 cocktails includes a smoothie-like drink made with tequila, lime, cinnamon, Campari and avocado. The Abuelita daiquiri combines cachaca, lime, plantains and coffee. There are several beers on tap and a selection of roughly 20 wines by the glass.
Compere Lapin serves dinner daily, and breakfast and lunch service are imminent.