So I went back to Compose the other night, this time for the 10-course tasting menu. Unlike my last visit, when a misunderstanding was compounded by poor communication, the restaurant seems to have found its footing in terms of professionalism. Then again, as I suspected they might, the staff knew I was behind Tribeca Citizen—which is not to say that my companion and I got preferential treatment. One benefit of dining at a single-seating restaurant is that you can see how everyone else is treated.
After I was shown to my spot at the horseshoe bar (where the tasting menu is served), the earnest and well-spoken chef, Nick Currin Curtin, brought over a tiny bowl of popcorn, which he drizzled with duck fat. He asked if I had any food issues—which I had also been asked when reserving—and we agreed that as someone trying to avoid meat, I should probably be served something besides the beef tartare. (As a compromise, I agreed to stet the pork course.) The bartender offered to make a cocktail—the restaurant’s website touts its “dialogue-based” drinks—so I requested a less-potent Manhattan. What I got was a Manhattan with more sweet vermouth and a bit of amaretto, and it was wonderful.
From there we had a procession of courses, more like 13 if you count the amuse-bouche, including uni with a tiny baked potato and caviar, a nugget of mozzarella with smoked grapes, and a gelée cube that I can’t remember the details of (pictured at right). I was reminded once again that I’m a visual person: You’re only given a printed menu—in an envelope sealed with wax—once you’re done with dinner. Instead, whoever is serving you informs you what you’ll be eating. I forgot immediately what the secondary ingredients were. This led to humbling moments such as when I asked what could possibly be giving the poached egg that chocolate-y flavor, only to have the man to our right—a chef, it turned out—suggest that the cocoa nibs were responsible.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to take you through the courses one by one; all you need to know is that they were each interesting and delicious, and some were out-and-out outstanding. Although the courses were paced well, we were there for three hours. You would do well to remember that this is dinner as theater—we were informed that the trout came from Max Creek, wherever that is; the scallops had been harvested just yesterday in Maine and were poached at 104 degrees; and that the pig we were about to eat had been fed nothing but acorns for the last eight months of its life (which did not make my compromise easier to swallow).
General manager Eamon Rockey came over at one point to introduce himself. He told us that the non-bar furniture (where the bar menu would be served) was being replaced with banquettes much nicer than what’s there now. We asked what happened once we were done eating; did the restaurant close? No, he said, it downshifted, serving the bar menu (see photo below) at the actual bar, too. I could definitely understand the appeal of that: I find the room very attractive. There are no photos of it here because I’m not inclined to take photos of people enjoying their dinner. Also, my companion was getting irked by all the photography. When he offered to bring the camera with him in case the bathroom warranted a shot, I accepted—let’s just say I won’t take him up on that offer again.
We had a delightful time, enjoying a meal that we had been trepidatious about—10 courses!—much more than we had expected. But the check was like a splash of cold water to the face: $373, not including the tip. The 10-course tasting is $110 [see comments] $120 per person, and we spent $103 on alcohol; we were prudent not to opt for the $80-per-person wine pairing, given that we ended up hung over anyway, which is unavoidable at a three-hour meal. A side note about the wine: It was all quite good, and not insanely priced—our glasses were $13–$16 for what I think of as fancy-restaurant pours (i.e., not big)—but I will quibble with having to ask what the price of wine by the glass or bottle, if bottles are even available. Then again, anyone concerned with the cost of a glass of wine probably shouldn’t be at Compose in the first place.
Have you been to Compose? What did you think?