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The Chef Behind One of New Orleans’ Best Restaurants Will Soon Open Another

Nina Compton created a dining destination with Compère Lapin; now she hopes to repeat the feat with Bywater American Bistro.

chef nina compton Photo: courtesy Elsa Hahne

Nina Compton first arrived in New Orleans, not to open a restaurant, but to compete on a reality TV cooking show. Although Compton didn’t win season 11 of Bravo’s Top Chef, the appearance wasn’t for naught. The chef came in a close second to Nicholas Elmi of Philadelphia, became the fan favorite along the way, and actually found a new hometown.

Compton would move to The Big Easy to open Compère Lapin in June 2015. Inside the Old No. 77 Hotel—a space that was once a warehouse—the restaurant has become a destination for food lovers and cocktail aficionados alike. Drawing on her Caribbean upbringing (she was born in St. Lucia and her father was prime minister when the country gained independence from Britain), her love of Italian food and French training to create dishes like scialatielli with clams and cauliflower and hamachi with guava curry and papaya.

With the success of Compère Lapin, she’s expanding. She’s just announced that she, her husband and business partner Larry Miller, and Compère Lapin’s sous chef Levi Raines are working together to open a new restaurant in town: Bywater American Bistro.

Compton and Raines are currently working together to develop the menu, and Raines will run the kitchen day-to-day. Like with Compère Lapin, Italian influences will be present at Bywater, with dishes like seared yellowfin tuna steak with pepperonata, soft herb salad, and almond cream, as well as farro risotto with maitake mushrooms and minted breadcrumbs.

seared tuna

Seared tuna from Bywater American Bistro.  Photo: courtesy Denny Culbert

“If I had to sum up Bywater American Bistro in a few words, it would be ingredient-driven cuisine with a bistro style of service,” Compton says. “Levi and I are having a great time creating this menu and it’s coming along nicely; we look forward to opening soon.”

The restaurant will reside in the Rice Mill Lofts in the Bywater neighborhood to the west of the French Quarter. It will take the place of Mariza, an Italian eatery that closed on New Year’s Eve. Though no set date was given for the opening, Compton and team are targeting early 2018 to start serving.

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