Nina Compton's Second New Orleans Restaurant Opens in Former Rice Mill
Nina Compton, fan favorite Top Chef runner-up and one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs of 2017, opens her second restaurant on March 15 in New Orleans. Her highly anticipated Bywater American Bistro follows on the heels of her flagship Compère Lapin, which opened in the summer of 2015, also in New Orleans. As it happens, it’s the same city in which Compton’s season of Top Chef (season 11) was set.
Like Compère Lapin, Bywater American Bistro (BAB) will string together the flavors for which the chef has come to be known: The Caribbean influences from her childhood in St. Lucia—where her father was Prime Minister, by the way, and helped the country emerge from British rule—and the French technique she picked up in the kitchens of Daniel Boulud.
However, the new industrial-chic restaurant, which is located in a former rice mill—above which Compton and her husband, Larry Miller, live—seems to be more casual than its predecessor. “[That] wasn’t the plan, but things just fell into place,” she tells Food & Wine. “The building has so much character, and we really want to bring something different to the Bywater.”
According to the restaurant’s menu, $12 will get you a plate of house-made spaghetti with pomodoro, although it appears this is not a main course, in true Italian fashion. $26 will get you rabbit curry with rice, pecans, and cilantro; that’s where the menu tops out price-wise.
“The dishes at BABs are inspired by the cultures that make up New Orleans cuisine and are a nod to the building as a former rice mill,” Compton tells us. “We are incorporating more grains, legumes, seafood and fowl while highlighting all the great local ingredients Louisiana has to offer. It’s all about simple food executed with good technique.”
Nodding to the French tradition of Compton’s pedigree and the city itself, there are also plates of hog’s head boudin—blood sausage—with frisée and dijon; there’s also pickled shrimp with buttermilk in a nod to the flavors of the South. BAB seems ambitious in its culinary breadth, but then again, so is the city, and so is Compton herself.
On Top Chef, she made a name for herself for being one of the most consistent contestants execution-wise. This year, her hard work has also been recognized by the James Beard Foundation, who named her as a Best Chef: South nominee.
Compton is joined at BAB by Levi Raines, who she says largely determined the menu. He’s sous chef at Compère Lapin, and formerly cooked under Andrew Carmellini’s The Dutch in Miami.