October 6, 2008 | Insatiable Critic
Compass Realigns: I’m a Little Dizzy
The kitchen honors the sweet voluptuousness of great scallops. Photo: Steven Richter
In yet another premature mid-life crisis, Compass has redesigned itself for the third time and emerged looking good with a new seafood focus. I give the powers here A+ for perseverance. Chefs have come and gone and come and come and gone. The kitchen has been brilliant, stodgy, inventive, derivative, and often seemed to try too hard. The room's been coral and blue, the tables clothed and bare. I found it handsome with all its fidgeting in every costume change and it’s dapper now with striped upholstery – though noisier since the tablecloths have been banished.
Hamachi sashimi with crispy capers and orange-vanilla reduction. Photo: Steven Richter
I’m not sure who gets the blame for some fussiness right now - consulting chef Neil Annis or his executive chef Milton Enriquez, but I do love their sashimi-style hamachi with crisp capers and orange-vanilla reduction, the voluptuous diver scallops with curried couscous on fennel puree and the exquisitely-cooked skate wing with French lentils (this on the commendable $35 prix fix).
Porcini and parsnip puree and Serrano ham is a “not fish” choice. Photo: Steven Richter
The daily whole fish – it might be a good-size branzino – is a steal at $36 (especially if you’re a Milos regular used to paying by the pound. Only one $42 Arctic char was Milos enough for me.). And then there are the thoughtful extras I’ve come to expect at Compass. The bread sticks (a little different with each new pastry hand), tonight’s cheddar and chive biscuits, old-fashioned cornbread, runners who know the ingredients (and can sometimes pronounce them), apricot gels and chocolates at the end, and that last endearing lagniappe, a small coffeecake to carry away for breakfast.
Though not exactly daring, the house’s new à la carte menu hits obvious favorites – blue fin tuna tartare (deftly dressed and then wrapped in an innocuous filo drape), monkfish with bacon, luscious lobster on rather stolid tarragon bread pudding (great for Thanksgiving stuffing freaks) and for seafood abstainers: foie gras, steaks and squash ricotta ravioli.
Baked lobster on bread pudding with lemon buerre blanc. Photo: Steven Richter
All of it is arranged pretentiously under categories of “fin fish,” “flat fish” and “no fish” rather than by appetizer and
entree. That affectation is not even original. I can’t remember who did it first but I found it annoying then too. Perhaps it’s meant to disguise how many starters are now $18. Happily, items on that neighborly prix-fixe are less. Those worth ordering à la carte include both the splendid chopped vegetable and the roast beet salads, the Arctic char with cauliflower and that crusty skate. Confit of apple and a tasting of chocolate are my desserts of choice. The peaceable kingdom of Compass would never want stress, so of course there will be four of each little goody at the end if you are four. And only the fiercely disciplined will be able to leave the goody bag behind. Obviously I am not one of that admirable tribe.
| Desserts play up seasonal fruit, rarely leaving well enough alone. Photo: Steven Richter
208 West 70th Street between Amsterdam and West End Avenue 212 875 8600