Words By Logan Hollers, Photos By Armando Gallardo, Clarissa Villondo
I’m not going to sugarcoat it: writing for BYT is usually pretty awesome. But sometimes, *sometimes*, things are extra fantastic.
Take, for example, Compass Rose. Already one of the most fun restaurants in the District, owner Rose Previte has outdone herself with a new dining experience.
For those that don’t know about Compass Rose’s backyard Bedouin tent, here’s the tl;dr: you and some friends take over a gorgeous space out back designed to look like a traditional North African-style tent. I mean silks, cushions, the whole deal. On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, Compass Rose offers a seasonally-rotating, multi-course meal with optional drink pairings inspired by one country or region of the world. (Right now, it’s the cuisine and flavors of Morocco.)
Sounds awesome, right? It gets better.
Now, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, the restaurant is offering a new “Tour of the World” menu. Here’s the deal: your server comes back to get likes, dislikes, and allergies; based on that info, your group gets a tasting curated from the restaurant’s main menu and picked from the menu’s most popular international street foods. Even better, complimentary wines and cocktails based on your specific menu are also available.
For $65 a person, you get food. Then some more food. Then you have some drinks that match that food. Then even more food. As our server put it, “You guys have two jobs tonight: have fun and tell us when you’re full.”
New Executive Chef Angel Franco sees it as a chance to flex his culinary muscle; according to him, the Tour of the World menu is not only an opportunity to show off some of his favorite dishes from the menu, it also serves as a testing ground, allowing the kitchen to send out specials and new dishes they’re thinking of putting on the menu.
Originally from Puerto Rico, Chef Franco recently returned from a trip to Cambodia with Erik Bruner-Yang (formerly of Toki Underground fame, now focusing on Maketto and his new hotel restaurant). While there, Franco accomplished two goals: research to build his Asian cooking repertoire and, even cooler, extensive cooking sessions with local women and children where he and Bruner-Yang taught them the ins and outs of shopping for and cooking local produce.
All of which is to say, with a guide like that, some good food’s coming out.
In addition to some of the menu highlights (brown butter roasted cauliflower with golden raisins and hazelnuts; pakora with chickpeas and a spicy mango chutney; arepas with lamb neck and poblano salsa), we were sent out some new items the chef’s been working on. Tops amongst them: a mix of sautéed mushrooms, asparagus, and a soy vinaigrette. This dish, deeply savory with a distinct Asian flavor profile, was reordered multiple times.
There were Tunisian chicken skewers with currants and a pomegranate molasses, lamb kefta with garam masala and sumac, and crab tostones with sautéed peppers and capers (a Puerto Rican specialty of Chef Franco’s).
We tried pescados fritos, tiny fried fish I’d take over traditional fries any day, and Spanish street potatoes, covered in a garlic and lemon aioli and a spicy tomato sauce.
There were also two standout curries, proof that Chef Franco picked up a thing or two in Cambodia: an incredible fish curry, redolent with Indian spice, and a blazing goat curry with scotch bonnet peppers and white rice.
We had boquerones with peppadew oil and herbed breadcrumbs; we had calamari with red quinoa, toasted pistachio, and feta; we had poké with seaweed, sesame, and ginger; and we had Mozambique-style shrimp laced with garlic and pimenton.
And of course we had Khachapuri, the Georgian cheese and egg “pizza” that put Compass Rose on the map. And on and on.
We even had some desserts that I tried AND KIND OF LIKED.
You get the picture. But honestly, the best part of the night is the conversation and camaraderie you find in the tent itself. You’re removed from the hustle and bustle of the restaurant itself. You start with a traditional Georgian toast, welcoming everyone, and end with an absinthe tea. It really is just you and your buddies, shooting the shit and having an outstanding night. And a lot of delicious food.
The Bedouin Tent is available for groups of 6-8 people, and is only available with a reservation. Do this now.