Too Many Cooks Spoil The Broth

Mus­ings are thoughts, the thought­ful kind. For the pur­pose of these ar­ti­cles, a-mus­ings are thoughts that might amuse, en­ter­tain and even en­lighten.

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LO­CAL - By Michael Walker

When I heard that Jea­nine was run­ning for of­fice again, my heart leaped. She's such a great per­son. I wish her ev­ery good for­tune in her quest for ways of mak­ing changes for the bet­ter in the coun­try. And at the same time, I could not help think­ing about her sis­ter Nina. For the life of me I can­not fig­ure out why the prime min­is­ter, given his pen­chant to em­brace ev­ery Saint Lucian suc­cess as his own, has not nipped up to New Or­leans by now, ac­com­pa­nied by a whole host of courtiers of course, to sam­ple the dishes at Chef Nina Comp­ton's ex­cit­ing new restau­rant, Com­père Lapin, or as writ­ers of Kwéyòl would spell it, Konpè Lapen.

It's prob­a­bly just as well, come to think of it; Sir John, never too keen on a “Barnard” usurp­ing his throne if I re­mem­ber rightly, would have been twist­ing and turn­ing in his grave at the thought of it.

But it seems that Chef Nina is mak­ing quite a name for her­self if the fol­low­ing ex­cerpts from a piece by Todd A Price of The Times-Picayune are any­thing to go by. Chef Nina Comp­ton, Price writes, “earned a na­tional fol­low­ing when she com­peted on Top Chef: New Or­leans, plac­ing sec­ond in the com­pe­ti­tion and earn­ing the ti­tle of fan fa­vorite.”

Price con­tin­ues, “I have never been to St. Lucia, the is­land where Nina Comp­ton was born. But af­ter years of con­sum­ing tourist pro­pa­ganda about the Caribbean, I can imag­ine (or so I think) what it must be like. And my first im­pulse, when eat­ing at Comp­ton's new restau­rant Com­père Lapin, is to latch onto the ex­otic, trop­i­cal fla­vors.”

Now then, Dear Reader, I re­ally do be­lieve that I have a pretty good vo­cab­u­lary and am able to ex­press my­self in a way that is com­pre­hen­si­ble to most peo­ple, but when it comes to food I like my dishes plain and sim­ple; I like my food to taste of what it is.

Hav­ing said that – got it off my chest as it were – I have to say that Price's de­scrip­tion of the food put be­fore him at Com­père Lapin made my mouth water even though it seemed at times to be ex­pressed in a lan­guage as for­eign as any I ever heard.

“Bits of conch hide in the crisp cro­quettes, stacked two-by-two like Lin­coln Logs and scat­tered with crunch salt crys­tals. The grilled corn, a play on Mex­i­can elote with aioli smeared across the top, is charred and rubbed with jerk sea­son­ing. A tin­gling halo of heat hov­ers around many of Comp­ton's dishes. Even af­ter the plates have been cleared, the burn lin­gered pleas­antly on my lips.”

Po­etic enough, I sup­pose, but I find it dif­fi­cult to imag­ine any “burn on my lips” be­ing pleas­ant; I sup­pose he just got car­ried away a bit, be­came ec­static. He goes on, “The dishes even have their own color pal­ette. The green tones are creamy, like the flesh of an av­o­cado. The pici pasta, tossed with diced squash and nuggets of lob­ster, has the pale red shade of a boiled crus­tacean's shell. Around the glis­ten­ing snap­per topped with cit­rus, chives and curl­ing fen­nel is a swirl of orange oil, which has the bright hue of the kind of trop­i­cal sun­set seen only in paint­ings.”

“The goat, in a curry redo­lent of cin­na­mon, comes with faintly sweet plan­tain gnoc­chi and just enough chopped cashews on top for a con­trast­ing crunch. Tuna tartare is by now a warhorse of fine din­ing. But at Com­père Lapin, the pris­tine cold-smoked tuna tossed with chile oil is just one el­e­ment in a med­ley that in­cludes dol­lops of av­o­cado crema, salty daubes of caviar and sweet banana chips. The hot chicken, a fried, bone­less thigh drowned in a blis­ter­ing sauce, is thought­fully paired with cool­ing pick­les, chunks of mango and squash slaw.”

What­ever the color, it seems that “Our Nina” is do­ing quite well for her­self thank you! And you know what, you might imag­ine that such a flow­ery de­scrip­tion of the dishes on of­fer would be ac­com­pa­nied by even more os­ten­ta­tious prices, but you'd be wrong! Ac­tu­ally, those of you who fre­quent the restau­rants of Rod­ney Bay and know that a meal for two sel­dom, if ever, costs less than 100 dol­lars will be sur­prised to dis­cover how af­ford­able Nina's prices are. Conch cro­quettes will cost you $6; spiced pig ears $5; snap­per crudo $13; mar­i­nated shrimp with roasted jalapeño jus $13; hot fire chicken with pick­les $16; pici pasta with lob­ster $25; and cur­ried goat $23! That's in USD of course!

There's just one thing that both­ers me a bit: the street ad­dress of the restau­rant, which is 535 Tchoupi­toulas Street in New Or­leans. Surely that Tchou fel­low can't be med­dling in things way down in New Or­leans too! Or is that the rea­son U-No-Hu hasn't been there yet?


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