I’ve been wanting to visit Walter Manzke’s Republique ever since it opened. In fact, I wanted to visit the minute I found out about it, and that was a while ago when we were dining at Petty Cash and Chef Manzke stopped by our table for a minute to chat and told us about it — his family was eating at the next table. Many of my friends have dined there and I have heard nothing but praises for its libations and its menu.
We arrived about 30 minutes after the restaurant opened on a Saturday night. We had no reservations and decided to wing it. Luckily, we were seated right away in the front of the restaurant against the window parallel to the bar. It was a good seat, a perfect vantage point for me to people watch. The restaurant is stunning with cathedral-high ceilings and seems to sprawl well on into the far back.
I love the homage to Marco Pierre White, the original celebrity chef and enfant terrible (bad boy) of the culinary world — way before Gordon Ramsey or Anthony Bourdain made it fashionable.
Our server Rosie was absolutely delightful. I had a lot of questions and she answered everything she could. Whatever stumped her, she immediately went to seek out answers.
We started with the essential cocktail, a Whiskey Fix ($12) comprising lemon, berries and rye whiskey. It was refreshing and not harsh at all which is really surprising. Even I liked it. If you prefer wine, there is an extensive wine list and there is a sommelier available to help you out if you’re unsure of what to select.
The breads here are simply incredible. Complimentary baguette is brought to the table on a wooden block with butter. However, I highly suggest ordering the Normandy Butter ($5) as well as a side of Wood Oven Pan Drippings ($5) which arrives in a baby Staub cast iron cocotte. Be careful when you lift the lid as it is still steaming.
The butter is creamy, thick, salty, everything I want butter to be. We slather it onto the warm baguette slices and watch it sink into the bread, melting into the crevices, before devouring it. The pan drippings are a whole ‘nother story. Dotted with bits of onion, this is what dreams are made of — well, MY dreams anyway. We went through the initial baguette, PLUS two more refills and we still could not finish all the drippings and butter on the board. This is definitely worth the 10 dollars, and I highly recommend it especially if you love good bread.
If you’re a Charcuterie aficionado, definitely order a board ($28/or $7pp) as everything is made in-house (I can see the meats hanging from where I’m sitting). It is simply breathtaking and absolute debauchery!
If you’ve been to Chef Manzke’s Petty Cash, you will understand the concept of this next dish. Chips & Dip ($14) is Tasmanian sea trout tartare cubes topped over essentially what we know as raita (cucumber, mint, yogurt, cumin seed). But the best part is the cone of crispy pork rinds sprinkled with espelette pepper, za’atar and salt to use as your “chips”. At Petty Cash, Chef Manzke offers them with a guacamole topped with uni. It is one of the best things I’ve ever eaten.
On the topic of uni, Manzke is a man after my own heart. His love of uni is possibly equal to mine. Therefore, when I scanned through the menu and did not see any uni in sight, I was perplexed, but also, disappointed. Turns out, the restaurant did not receive any uni shipment the day of our visit and therefore, no uni was offered. Guess I’ll have to make another trip.
Eggs on Toast ($11) typically with uni on top of scrambled eggs is instead substituted with smoked yellowtail and a disc of breakfast radish. This might be my least favorite dish of the night. Perhaps it was my pre-conceived notion of it having uni on top, but nevertheless, it was the only item I wasn’t excited about.
If you happen to see Charcoal-Grilled Santa Barbara Spot Prawns ($16 each), order it. The tender flesh almost melts in you mouth and I can’t stop myself from sucking on the head for every drop of the shrimp tomalley (it is actually hepatopancreas in shrimp but tomalley sounds so much better) I am able to find. The corn, peaches and peanut accoutrements are surprisingly well-paired albeit, the Thai curry was a tad on the mild side making it difficult to detect.
Crispy Fried Maryland Soft Shell Crab ($26) is possibly the priciest soft shell crab I have ever eaten. The crab is perfectly crispy accompanied by a Santa Rosa plum sauce, blistered green beans, slivers of garlic and julienned ginger. There is chile, but not enough to cause much damage. It is delicious, possessing familiar flavors of Asian cuisine.
We finish with Spaghetti Rustichella: Carbonara ($19) style. The noodles are sublime, perfectly seasoned and unctuous on the palate. Unfortunately, the bits of pancetta are fatty and gristly. We move them to the side and polish off all the pasta.
The restaurant becomes extremely loud as the evening goes by. The hoards of thoroughfare going through the bar area is frustrating. There is little space for people to hover — yet they do — while trying to snag a bar seat as soon as someone vacates their spot. It reminds me of dim sum in Asia where people are waiting for you to finish eating so they can take your table.
If you are unlucky enough to sit with your back against the bar, it will be inevitable that you’ll be knocked about by passersby who are trying to squeeze between you and the lingerers. There just isn’t enough room for so many people to be in one area without strangers touching you for no reason. My suggestion? Make a reservation and ask not to be seated by the bar.
624 S La Brea Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036