First Impressions: Compose

I was looking forward to eating at Compose, the new restaurant on Worth between Broadway and Church. It’s a pretty space, and the people inside seem to be enjoying themselves (and I love eating at a bar). Chef Nick Curtin comes via the highly esteemed Noma in Copenhagen and Jack’s Luxury Oyster Bar in New York, and it had been a while since I’d gone out for ambitious food. While I’m no fan of quirky reservation policies—you can reserve in advance for the 10-course tasting menu, or call same-day (starting at 8 a.m.) for the à la carte menu—I got over it. Having already booked for the tasting menu in January, I called yesterday morning for the à la carte option. The reservationist took my name and the number of people in my party (two), and we were on for 8 p.m.

My partner arrived 20 minutes early: “The hostess led me to a low banquette by the Worth Street windows. I was just happy to have a place to wait, because the restaurant is tiny. I began to realize that there were no open spots for us to sit at and that people were eating at these low banquettes and stools, but I was 90 percent sure we weren’t eating there—it didn’t seem possible. The waitress asked if I wanted still or sparkling water, and I was dumbfounded. There was nowhere to put a glass of water. If I had ordered a drink, what would I have done, hold the water in one hand and the drink in the other? ‘Are we eating here?’ I asked. But the waitress just hemmed and hawed.”

That’s when I arrived. I do like the look of the place: The western two-thirds is a horseshoe bar with glasses overhead, and the eastern third is a smattering of banquettes and stools, one or two of which had tables. And there’s a terrific energy inside. I walked over to my partner; the waitress was still there. She said she didn’t know what kind of reservation we had. So I asked the hostess whether we’d be seated soon or whether we should order a drink. “Well,” she said politely, “what you see around you is all the seating we have. A space might open up at the bar, but probably not until at least 9 p.m.”

“I’m sorry, but I don’t understand. Was my reservation for that little banquette with no table?” While some of the banquettes were more workable, ours was an afterthought tucked in an awkward spot—a decent place to wait at best. She nodded apologetically. I got the sense that she had had this conversation before, even if she had yet to grow comfortable with it. She offered to find the manager, but I didn’t see the point of that, and we left. My only regret is that we didn’t look at the menu first.

The bottom line: When Compose’s website refers to “the bar,” it means the cocktail-lounge seating, not the actual bar. Maybe this is something they assume folks will understand, but I didn’t, and I’ve been following the restaurant like a hawk. The food might be worth the discomfort, but even if it is, Compose should be telling people upfront that if you don’t reserve for the tasting menu, you’ll be sitting at a cocktail lounge where you can order food.

Has anyone actually eaten there? Please share your experiences in the comments.



  1. On Twitter, CosmicGirl24 responded to this post: “Ate at Compose. A la carte menu: lots of $$$ for mediocre glorified bar snacks. Tasting menu wasn’t wowing fellow diners.” I asked if she got a table to eat on. “We sat at the bar, elbow to elbow with those lucky enough to get a tasting menu resy, which made us feel oddly unworthy.”

  2. They know how to take your reservation, they just don’t know how to *hold* your reservation.