Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Restaurant Review: Republique

The francophile in me is always on the lookout for bistro fare in a rustic, industrial space in the heart of the city. I am consistently drawn to French cuisine, mostly because it is the perfect representation of everything I value: authenticity, attention to detail and simple elegance. Though I'm attracted to its classic preparation, I continue to seek out surprises and unexpected details every time I try the famed fare. Republique's October opening promised just that: a traditional bistro-style menu with an understated twist.

What started as a birthday dinner for my sister (my foodie partner in crime) quickly turned into one of our most memorable and enjoyable dining experiences. We arrived prepared, armed with a list of menu items both traditional and trendy. We couldn't overlook classics such as beef tartar and a fresh baguette (shipped in from Paris), but stayed true to our adventurous nature by venturing beyond our comfort zones.

Celery cocktail | serrano, tequila, salts

Our first dish was eggs on toast, a savory marriage of perfectly scrambled eggs and a deliciously sweet sliver of uni. True life: I was an uni virgin, an admission that may compromise my foodie status. Verdict: the combination was spectacular, and the spices added just a dash of dimension to the creamy consistency of egg-on-egg.

The beef tartar, though typically regarded as a one-note, shined with the addition of pickled onions and house-made potato chips that scooped up the dill-laced meat. When the chips disappeared, we went at it with our forks and even sopped up the remaining bits with slices of a fresh baguette that was delivered to our table by Tim, possibly the most hospitable restaurant manager in all of Los Angeles.

Oro Blanco | tarragon, gin, egg white

Next up was the salad of gulf white prawns, which blew us away with each bite. Every time our forks hit our lips, we experienced another dimension of this dish. To contrast the spicy bite of cabbage and briny prawns, Chef Manzke added the crunch of hazelnuts, a splash of acid and a hint of  mint. The refreshing herb was unexpected, yet it made the dish explode with flavor. We both agreed that we could eat this salad every day for the rest of our lives.

Ever the fans of squid ink, we opted for the risotto nero to continue the seafood course. It arrived to the table in a sizzling cast-iron skillet and was full of octopus and calamari for contrasting textures. The former was expectedly meaty, while the latter was buttery and satisfying. The clams added the perfect touch of oceany goodness that complemented the hint of citrus on the risotto.

For dessert, the bomboloni came highly recommended. A bombolini is a fluffy, somewhat dense doughnut, usually stuffed. Manzke's interpretation was prepared profiterole-style, sliced in half and filled with hazelnut ice cream. The dough was surprisingly light and the perfect consistency with which to soak up the melting ice cream.

We were also treated to a refreshing, light and crisp rose wine that was the perfect palate cleanser following one of the most delicious meals we've had in Los Angeles. Next time, I plan on trying the massive charcuterie board and one of Chef Manzke's wife Margarita's famed tarts. Next time...

624 S La Brea Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90036

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Merci beaucoup!

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