Nina Compton’s exploration of New Orleans’ centuries-old Caribbean roots at her first restaurant, Compére Lapin, captured the nation’s attention. At two and a half years in, it was already considered one of the best restaurants in the country.
Bywater American Bistro, one of the country’s most anticipated restaurants of the year, opens on March 15, and Compton will turn some of her attention to “American food as it is right now” at a low-key restaurant located in a converted rice mill in her own neighborhood.
She’s not alone in the venture. She and her husband/restaurant manager, Larry Miller, have partnered with Compton’s “culinary soul mate” (and Compére sous), Levi Raines, whom she says is “definitely a rising star.”
Bywater’s eclectic American menu hones in on simple food backed by loads of culinary technique and attention to detail, ranging from the “fresh pasta to charcuterie to plenty of heirloom Southern grains, in a nod to the restaurant’s setting.” With affordable prices, Compton is hoping to convert her Bywater neighbors into regulars.
Compton has some favorites on the opening menu. She says the tuna toast (apps) is one of the most “surprising” dishes on the menu. It’s a take on pan con tomate — with a brasaola-style tuna. Brasaolo is usually a dried, cured, and aged beef, but Bywater cures tuna instead, pairing it with tomato jam and avocado crema. The bread is baked at the restaurant using local brown flours from Bellegarde Bakery. “It’s the most local you can get (besides the avocados).”
She’s also thrilled about the farro risotto, partly because it’s so rare to find farro, an oblong whole grain that looks like a bigger version of barley, on New Orleans menus. The duck with braised cabbage; charred scallion; and roasted, pickled beets (entrees) is one of the most “comforting” items, plus she says it showcases the main menu concept: simple dishes with tons of culinary technique behind them.
And, if there’s any confusion about what American food is, Compton says, “It’s the melting pot of whatever we want to cook.”
Check out the full menu below.
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