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What to Order at Compère Lapin in New Orleans

The New Orleans staple has been serving consistently delicious Caribbean-meets-Louisiana cuisine and award-winning craft cocktails since 2015

by Terry Zarikian

October 19, 2023

Exterior in New Orleans’ Warehouse Arts District / Photo: Courtesy of Compère Lapin

Big mistake: skipping an order of buttermilk biscuits with peach jam and whipped ricotta. But chef Nina Compton knew better and would not let me miss her flaky buttery biscuits, which are probably the best. Her flagship restaurant, Compère Lapin—whose exposed brick and wood beams define its cozy and intimate atmosphere—has been serving consistently delicious Caribbean-meets-Louisiana cuisine and award-winning craft cocktails since 2015. Favoring simplicity, Compton believes in preparing meals that are flavorful without being overly complex. Even when she uses an “opulent” ingredient such as caviar, it’s American paddlefish she serves. Not only does it garnish her light and creamy deviled eggs, but her crisp Tater Tots with crème fraîche also get the paddlefish caviar treatment, becoming a dreamy snack to share while cocktailing.

Cobia crudo / Photo: Courtesy of Denny Culbert

Knowing that Compère Lapin was named Best American Hotel Bar at Tales of the Cocktail’s Spirited Awards, I opted for cocktails instead of wines with dinner. A brand-new drink menu has been created by Compton and head bartender Brandon Hornberger with the restaurant’s bold flavors in mind. I enjoyed two whose complex ingredients translated into surprisingly simple results. With agave in mind, Tequila’n Me, Smalls! features Arette tequila, Falernum, gentian and Chartreuse Élixir Végétal. My favorite, Last Stag, combines El Buho mezcal, German amaro, Luxardo maraschino and fresh-squeezed lime in a Nick & Nora glass (the original 1930s martini vessel).

Last Stag cocktail / Photo: Courtesy of Compère Lapin

Don’t ask me how, but Compton has managed to make hush puppies dotted with jalapeños and scallions lighter than any I’ve had. Once again it shows how she excels in making the simplest staples the best they can be. A rich braised-pork-neck arancini is toned down by a cool sour-orange mojo. My entrée, crisp fried chicken with jerk honey over magnificent coconut grits with a confetti of crunchy peanuts, was so dreamy I kept rolling my eyes over and over.

Dining room / Photo: Courtesy of Compère Lapin

I was so full and happy I could not fathom dessert, but Compton brought a selection: bread pudding with cashew, rum caramel and brûléed banana; chocolate cake with passion fruit and curry granola; and beignets with rum caramel. All were so enticing, what would you have done?