Compass Rose is one of those places where we put our names down for a table and don’t flinch when the hostess exclaims, “it’s going to be a three hour wait.” Even so, that doesn’t stop hoards of diners from leaving work early to wait it out. The international cuisine, inspired by the travels of restauranteur Rose Previte, is worth the anticipation. The restaurant launched a “tour of the world” brunch series featuring a prix fixe menu and their entire evening menu à la carte. Needless to say, this was a Bitches Who Brunch magnet.
The experience begins when you step into a glamorous, tented oasis filled with glistening lights and candles. You’re immersed in a world of bright fabrics and international street art. The atmosphere is alive with the excitement of loud music and tables celebrating a glorious D.C. Sunday. The beautiful, brick multi-level row house has seating in every nook, cranny, and Bedouin tent.
“Tour of the world” brunch features a DJ, new brunch entrées, and new cocktail selections. We wanted to get a taste of both menus while sitting back, relaxing, and soaking it all in. We ordered the large format secchi di caffè, which is a boozy coffee cocktail ideal for three people. The drink is reminiscent of a petite Turkish coffee with vodka, Georgian brandy, cold brew, and brown sugar. Bottled in a glass flask and served with a gilded Turkish teacup, this drink exceeded the expectation of the batched punch bowl beverage we had in mind. The secchi di caffè is a friendly reminder that it’s possible to delicately savor a brunch cocktail instead of racing against the clock toward the bottom of a bottomless deal. The cocktail was slightly sweet but we would definite it as a cocktail with coffee and its side-essentials, not as a spiked coffee drink. If you fancy an espresso martini, order this.
The excitement for the never-before-seen brunch specials encouraged us to order just about everything (with the exception of a few dishes, which we replaced with Compass Rose classics). Of course, we opted for the brunch khachapuri (the Insta-famous cheese-filled bread-boat with sautéed mushrooms), shakshuka, and breakfast tacos.
You can’t beat the Compass Rose khachapuri. Typically khachapuri is served with an egg yolk beaten with a slice of butter and creamy cheese to make for the perfect bread topping. This one is the best we’ve ever had, and the brunch version has juicy, supple mushrooms to add an extra element of fragrance and texture. It’d be a sin to go to Compass Rose and not indulge in this dish.
The shakshuka was glowing with fresh spices, neon yolks, severed scallions, and a drizzle of cream sauce. Though thoroughly seasoned and well-presented, the eggs were completely overcooked and the dish would have benefitted from the sweetness of reduced tomato-based juices. The accompanying sourdough is still a tasty vehicle to dunk into the sizzling shakshuka, but overall, we were disappointed that it wasn’t the dish we know and love.
Breakfast tacos followed with a similar conundrum. We thought this was a well-filled breakfast taco, with marinated steak, eggs, cilantro, sour cream, and roasted veggies on a grainy corn tortilla. We liked the fact that there were many layers and details instead of just a mess of scrambled eggs and salsa. However, while a cold taco is one thing, ice-cold scrambled eggs are another: unappetizing.
From the regular menu, we ordered a few meat dishes and some vegetable-centric salads and sides to fuel our journey around the world. For meats, the curried lamb and steak skewer were delights we will not soon forget. The lamb was tender and slightly gamy, but countered by a creamy, spicy, brown curry sauce. The dish was a hearty portion size and just spicy enough that it didn’t ruin our appetite for the other things coming out after. The suya was a perfectly-cooked medium steak kebab garnished with peanuts, chilis, and ginger. The flavors satiated our desires for crunchy, salty, and velvety.