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Mar 22, 2007 06:40 AM

Review - Compass (208 W. 70th, 212 875 8600)

Review - Compass (208 W. 70th, 212 875 8600)

We had a lovely dinner at Compass last night before a show at Lincoln Center. The decor is modern minimalist, but well executed with great lighting and plush booths. The tables are set up well: double white table cloths, great table settings (replaced each course) and fine Riedel stemware. In addition, we found our server and hostess to be warm and knowledgeable. To wit: she warned us off a mushroom tasting course as she thought we might miss our show if we went for that more time consuming option, she knew all the ingredients of the dessert my wife was interested in, and cheerfully popped opent the bottle of 1990 St Emilion we had brought while advising us of the (very fair) $30 corkage fee.

They started with an amuse bouche of (I think) yellow tail tuna in a garlic infusion. It was pretty good and even merited a full clearing of the plates. The bowl of bread they gave was pretty large, and varied.

I started with the crispy sweetbreads, which was a pretty big chunk, breaded and then panfried to a very crispy level. It was served with some kind of creamy cous-cous or pasta whose texture was toothsome, then covered with a flavored oil. I liked it -- sweetbreads are a rare treat for me. The wife had a raw oyster appetizer which seemed ok.

We then had our main courses. I had the scallops with short rib risotto. The scallops were pretty large and seared to a beautiful brown while the risotto was pretty rich, with slivers of short rib and cheese. The wife had the tenderloin along which was served with an oxtail stuffed cannelini. That was rich and tasty in particularly, although heavy. The portions were average sized for an haute cuisine place ; we had heard stories that Compass's portions were underwhelming but I didn't find that to be the case.

Afterwards we had a blood orange parfait which was quite nice. While the check was brought out they also brought out a small plate of cookies including white chocolate covered pork rinds, which tasted sort of like yoghurt covered pretzels. As an extra treat they gave us a pair of muffins for the next morning - another nice touch from their inhouse pastry chef.

Dinner for two was $150 all in, which is high, but actually good value for everything we got and the quality/service level. I'd go back and recommend it especially if you are going to Lincoln center afterwards.


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  1. Thanks, AKR. A few questions:

    1. is the cuisine so-called "new american"?
    2. did the $150 tab include tip?
    3. If you had a show to attend what time did you book the reservation? 6:00? 5:30?

    Thanks for the good write-up!

    2 Replies
    1. re: 280 Ninth

      Obviously, I'm not AKR. But, for the past few years, Compass has been our go-to restaurant pre-Lincoln Center. The cuisine is "New American." Come spring, Chef John Fraser will have been there for 3 years, the longest, I think, of the many chefs who have been in charge of that kitchen. I agree with AKR that his food is delicious. AKR mentioned that the $150 cost was "all in," which means it included the tip. That's very much in line with what we spent the last time we were there. We always book for 5:30, which gives us plenty of time to have a relaxing meal without feeling rushed. And we always request one of the cozy, comfy booths.

      1. re: RGR

        Thanks, RGR! Sounds good to me, as well, and I appreciate the clarifications!

    2. good review. $150 (with the $30 corkage fee) seems like a pretty good price for what you got - especially for a night on the town (Lincoln Center). Sounds like a nice dinner though the combo of short ribs and scallops seems like an odd one to me. Care to describe it a bit more?

      3 Replies
      1. re: dkstar1

        It was really more small pieces of short rib folded into the risotto , so flavored like a beefy risotto without being a true meat entree.

        I guess the cuisine is New American, but I'm not really sure what some of these genres mean. I'm glad there is some stability in the kitchen though - it seemed to shine in the food.

        We booked a 5:45 table for a 7:30 show....and barely made it because I dawdled on the stroll over to Lincoln center. Maybe 5:30pm would have been safer, but getting out of work to and getting up there in time to make slot is a little optimistic.

        1. re: AKR

          Another wonderful dinner at Compass last night. Started with the beet salad and then had the venision over a chard/shank/gnocchi mix. The service and food were as great as always. The take home muffin treats are such a nice touch too. I really cannot understand why anyone would go to Cafe Luxembourg over this, and the prices are not dissimilar.

          1. re: AKR

            I'm not sure if you are aware that John Fraser left Compass last fall to open his new restaurant, Dovetail, which I also highly recommend. I've been happy to find that Compass has remained consistently excellent and creative under chef Neil Annis.

      2. I used to live in the neighborhood and Compass is better then Luxembourg hands down. The other thing that people is should know is that Compas has nice, spacious bar / lounge area up front that is typically not too crowded. I used to enjoy popping in for a drink and a snack after work. They offer the regular dining room menu plus a more casual bar menu so it's a nice alternative when the budget / schedule / stomach doesn't permit the full sit down routine. You can also typically find a spot even on busy evenings, which is tough in that neighborhood. Also they have a lovely private dining room if you're ever looking to put together a group event.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Nikitenka

          How lucky to have this fine dining place a block ot two away from me. I hope when I go on May 1st that they will have their killer lobster risotto appetizer because this time I intend to order it as an entree size.
          I really am very pleased with Neil Annis as the chef now.

        2. At Compass, all directions point to great food! Our party of four had a nice experience there a few days ago. The seating is unusually roomy for a Manhattan restaurant. The wine list must run about 70 pages and has numerous offerings in the three and even four digits. I was tempted by a saucy yet winsome little Bordeaux by Chateau Margaux dated 1945 (being the year of my birth) but somehow couldn’t locate the necessary $4200 anywhere in my pockets. There are very few wines in the $40-$70 range, but notably more bargains are to be found in the whites than the reds. We opted for cocktails and a $138 bottle of Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape (delicious). Compass makes a tiptop mojito ($12), perfectly balanced levels of rum, mint, lime, and sugar.

          Entrées range from $24 to $32, but there is also a prix fixe for $35 (appetizer, entrée, and dessert). Among our starters was a fabulous Lobster and Black Truffle Risotto with Matsutake Mushrooms ($26 – that’s right, twenty-six dollars, photo 1). As you can see in the photo, there was a generous amount of truffles, so the dish was fairly priced. The taste was out of this world. It set the tone for the rest of the evening: everything was freshly and fully flavored. Not once did we sense that an ingredient had been sitting in the walk-in day after day, in the hopes of recovering the expense of something being held well past its prime.

          Another starter, the Market Soup (photo 2), opened the Winter Prix Fixe Menu. It was a satisfyingly full-flavored broth with daikon radish and shitake mushrooms, garnished with bits of tomato and cilantro. We also had the Poached Salmon and Confit Rock Shrimp Salad ($16, photo 3), interestingly topped with grape tomatoes, lima beans, radishes, and watercress. The rock-shrimp confit was raw, which was not mentioned on the menu and should have been, and this ingredient was lacking in flavor. Continued...

          2 Replies
          1. re: Reynold

            (Continued ... because I can only upload 4 photos per reply, and I have 7 photos!)
            The prix fixe entrée was Calves Liver and Applewood Smoked Bacon with Potatoes, Mustard Greens, and Muscatel Grape Jus (photo 4), topped with bitter greens and crispy fried onions. Beautiful to see and delicious to eat. Two of us opted for the Pan-Seared Duck with Foie Gras Crepinette, Salsify Purée, and Albufera ($27, photo 5). It was terrifically tasty, comfort food at its best. Finally we had Pan Crisped Organic Chicken with Almond-Leek-Cranberry Topping, Sweet Potato, and Maple-Cider Vinegar Jus ($24, photo 6). Just fantastic.

            The prix fixe dessert was Passion Fruit-Pineapple Parfait with Vanilla Panna Cotta and Almond Streusel (photo 7), which some of us prejudged as decidedly unenticing. Wrong. It was a knockout hit.

            The service was friendly, attentive, and prompt, easily coping with our arrivals at different times and our need to be out in time for the theater. It is somewhat pricey but the atmosphere, décor, service, and food are of such a high standard that there is excellent value for the money. And best of all for chowhounds, the chef is imaginative and accomplished.

            1. re: Reynold

              Don't forget to book a Sunday night dinner. Wines are 50% off and the list is quite extensive.