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Culture / Travel

A Reality TV Star Chef Quietly Excels in a Sweet Restaurant in New Orleans

A Brunch to Remember

BY // 05.19.16

Everyone knows that New Orleans is a great food city, full of legendary restaurants both high and low, from Cajun and Creole institutions to po’ boy shops and French bistros. You can’t go hungry in the Crescent City, and you’ll dine well, no matter your mood.

I was recently in New Orleans for a few days, and I did eat well, very well, including brunch at Compère Lapin, a sweet restaurant on the ground floor of The Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery, itself a jewel of a destination. Exposed brick, steel beams and columns, and beautiful tile work abound, and on the Sunday morning I visited, a bartender extraordinaire made Colby and me an outstanding cocktail, something they call Americano?? (question marks are part of the name) — it’s made with cold-brew coffee, Campari, and sweet vermouth, and if you find yourself at Compère Lapin, please order one. It’s a great brunch drink: bracing, slightly sweet, and it includes coffee. We enjoyed our drinks at the bar — our two companions ordered the Compère Lapin Mimosa, a concoction infused with basil and garnished with floating star anise, another excellent drink — and enjoyed the view to the kitchen (helmed by Nina Compton, she of Top Chef fame (though I won’t hold that against her).

Once at the table, we decided to share a few plates, including the avocado toast and shrimp tostones to start. We each then ordered a main course — a goat Bolognese pasta dish, biscuits and gravy, chicken and smoked mushroom hash, and ricotta pancakes. To get the bad out first, the tostones were very dry, so dry that I left mine uneaten. I did enjoy the thinly sliced mango and avocado and cilantro on the dish. The toast was another thing altogether: crisp and buttery, topped with Fresno chili and shaved radish, it came cut into four pieces, and we devoured them. Toast with a bonus, a creamy and spicy mixture that made us eager for what was to come.

I ordered the goat, and the cavatelli were cooked in a manner that made me smile. Exact al dente they were, and the Bolognese was rich and the goat meat tender and flavorful. The creamy ricotta dolloped on top of it all I stirred into the mixture, a great decision. Kim and Angela shared the biscuits and gravy and the pancakes, and Colby tucked into the hash, which for me was the highlight of the meal. Smoked mushrooms, chicken, two poached eggs that we delighted breaking into, wilted greens, and shaved onion.

All of the tastebuds were engaged by this dish, and the umami from the mushrooms made the brunch a fine event. I wasn’t able to get a bite of the biscuits, but was assured that they were worthy of a southern kitchen, and the taste of pancake I had was not bad at all. I am not a pancake man — I prefer waffles or crepes — but these were moist.

No dessert for brunch, so our meal ended with espresso and relaxation. You will want to try this place.

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