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Note: Click here for a more recent review of Compass.

As part of my effort to catch up on restaurant reviews, here’s a duo on Compass. First, my visit in September of this year:

I last visited Compass during its brief steakhouse phase, enjoying a wonderful rack of lamb on that occasion. The restaurant will still serve you a dry aged porterhouse or a rib-eye, but the emphasis now is on “Creative American Cuisine.” A friend and I looked in on the continuing experiment on Saturday night. She was last there with me three chefs ago, and pronounced the current version a significant improvement.

There is a prix fixe menu at $32 (or $46 with paired wines). It looks like a good value, but the available entrées (chicken, salmon, or hangar steak) didn’t suit our mood, so we ordered ALC. She chose the Gazpacho ($9), I the White Corn and Summer Truffle risotto ($18), a wonderful if slightly watery concoction.

The restaurant calls its ALC main courses “Compositions.” There is also a section of the menu called “Simply Roasted,” which offers mostly steaks (anywhere from $24 for a fillet or $72 for the porterhouse for two); side dishes are extra, at $8. If you order one of the Compositions, I should think the side dishes were superfluous.

Anyhow, I chose the Confit of Halibut, with Baby Squash, Artichokes, Picholine Olives, and Basil Sabayon ($28). She chose the Poached Maine Lobster with Potatoes, Summer Truffles, Leeks and Onions ($33). Both were happy choices, aided and abetted by a terrific Chardonnay on the wine list for about $40.

We concluded with a selection of cheeses ($12), to which the restaurant added a selection of complimentary petits-fours (five apiece). As we were leaving, we were each handed coffee cakes to take home for Sunday’s breakfast—a nice touch usually associated with higher-end places.

Part of Compass’s problem, I suspect, is that it’s an unusually large space for the area. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it full. Here’s hoping that the latest formula will take root and flourish.

And now, my visit of November 5th:

I seem to keep returning to Compass, as it’s one of the better mid-priced fine dining options near Lincoln Center. Last night, I returned with a new friend, and again I was not disappointed.

We both had the $32 prix fixe, which for its quality is one of the better deals at this price point. I started with a salmon tartare, followed by braised shortribs that melted in your mouth. Dessert was a yogurt panna cotta.

My friend and I dined at Blue Hill the night before. Now, if you asked a dozen knowledgeable people, most would say that Blue Hill is the more reliable, but my friend and I had no trouble concluding—at least on this occasion—that we had enjoyed our dinner at Compass more.

With its checkered history of four chefs in four years, it would have been easy for Compass to wither and die. It has a large dining room to fill, but we found it busy last night. It’s a pity Amanda Hesser demoted it to one star, back when Katy Sparks was at the stoves (which seems like ages ago). Compass is back.

Shortly after I wrote this, Frank Bruni restored Compass’s two-star rating at the Times.

Compass (208 W. 70th Street, west of Amsterdam Avenue, Upper West Side)

Food: **
Service: **
Ambiance: **
Overall: **

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