Second Impressions: Compose

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.

A single-ice-cube Negroni

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).

Poached egg with cauliflower purée and oyster mushrooms

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.

Shrimp cooking on a hot stone

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?

The bar menu




  1. Another thought occurred to me: The food managed to be both interesting and delicious, never sacrificing the latter for the former (except in one use of Pop Rocks, which I grew tired of by 1980). That can be rare at this ambitious a restaurant, and I wonder if the intimacy—both the smallness and the fact that the chefs serve the food—plays a role. If more chefs had to present what they make, would they care more about pleasing their patrons?

  2. Wow! Sounds amazing but the price – steep!!

  3. I’m having dinner there next week. I’ll keep you posted!

  4. Great review!
    Even though we have yet to go it feels like a concept which is very close to home. And yes, believe it or not, the fact that the chef has to actually look at you while you enjoy their food does matter. You are bound to have a more rich and appetizing experience at such an intimate level.
    Now tell me, was there any additional interaction with the other guests seated next to you or around you?

  5. @Felipe: Good question. The chef to our right, while very nice (and with interesting insight), seemed to want to keep to himself, so we only spoke a few times. (He was dining alone, I believe as a guest of the chef, and I think he may have also been trying not to impose on our meal.) To our left was a group of four, and we didn’t speak to them at all—they were (naturally) there to dine with each other (except perhaps for the one who was on his phone a few times during the meal). There was a couple across the way that I wished we had been near, but they were too far to talk to. I do think that more interaction would make it more of an event, and overall more fun. If my companion and I were more outgoing we probably could have helped things along—the way you and Tamy most undoubtedly would!

  6. It just occurred to me to check your math (like, a month after the post). Don’t you mean $323? Even with taxes it’s only about $350 I think.

  7. @David: Good point! I don’t have the bill anymore, but the 10-course tasting menu is actually $120 per person (I found out only by emailing the restaurant—if it’s on their website, I don’t see it). $120 x 2 = $240. Add $103 for alcohol and it’s $343. That means ~$28 in tax, and there you go. Thanks for bringing it up!

    P.S. I corrected the chef’s name, too. Next time I should wait till the wine clears before I start writing….