I’d been to Republique for dinner a couple times a while back, but never ordered their pastas. Thanks to @Porthos @Ns1 @djquinnc @Aesthete @T3t @President_Mochi, and everyone, we decided to go back and try their pastas.
Walking in, it’s clear to see that Republique remains one of the most popular places to eat in the city. Packed on every visit for dinner (and their brunch has a line out the door), they must be doing something right.
Helmed by Chef Walter Manzke (Patina, Church & State, and worked in the kitchens of El Bulli and Alain Ducasse), this is his flagship, putting out what looks like a mix of European and American dishes and incorporating ingredients from a variety of cultures.
Grapefruit (Tequila, Oro Blanco-infused Vermouth, Lime):
Really refreshing, citrusy and quite balanced.
Marin Sun Farms Lamb Tartare (Toasted Baguette, Fingerling Potato Salad, Anchoiade):
A visually stunning presentation, the Lamb Tartare was delicious! Well balanced flavors of the chopped up Lamb and the Anchoiade gave it just enough of an interesting briny flavor.
Charcoal-Grilled Mediterranean Octopus (Watermelon, Cabbage, Pistachio, Chile, Lime):
I think I’d agree with @Porthos in that the Octopus itself was so-so (slightly rubbery), but the Watermelon, Cabbage mixed with the Chile-Lime and crunch of Pistachios were light and really refreshing.
European White Asparagus (Asparagus Mousseline, Pee Wee Chicken Egg, Porcini, Parmesan):
Winner! The European White Asparagus tasted tender enough to have been sous-vide / boiled, before being coated in a slightly crunchy Parmesan crust. Breaking the Egg Yolk and mixing it all together resulted in a luxurious mouthfeel that never took away from the White Asparagus’ inherent taste.
English Pea Agnolotti (Brown Butter, Parmesan, Mint, Meyer Lemon):
Fantastic! Well-made little pasta filled with an English Pea filling, delicately sauteed with Brown Butter, with fresh English Peas on top.
Hotel Nacional (Rum, Apricot, Lime, Pineapple):
This was recommended by one of our friends who joined us this evening. What a wonderful Cocktail! It was light, delicate, tropical without going over-the-top, and the Apricot and Lime flavors came through to balance things out. So good!
Bucatini (Australian Black Winter Truffles):
First, the Bucatini was perfectly cooked al dente. Great firmness, yet just soft enough, without being mushy. It served as the perfect vehicle for Black Truffles. This was pretty darn delicious! But they weren’t as fragrant as the best Perigord Truffles we’ve had.
Strawberry (Gin, Amaro, Sherry, Lemon):
Another excellent Cocktail! Republique seems to be churning out some of the better Cocktails for a restaurant currently. Really balanced, refreshing, with farmers market fresh fruit and herbs. The Strawberry was present throughout, but nicely complemented by the Gin, Amaro, Sherry and Lemon.
Marin Sun Farms Lamb Leg (Porcini Mushrooms, Polenta, Salsa Verde, Arugula):
I was looking forward to this. I haven’t had a good Leg of Lamb in a long time. Sadly, this was a disaster!
Chewy slices of Lamb Leg with gristle, it was overly chewy and only partially tender in parts. I would’ve taken a braised Leg of Lamb over this. The flavors were also rather straightforward and a bit boring. At $30 (+tax & tip) for this dish alone, you would hope it would be inspired.
Seeing @Porthos’ report and others, it seems their Grilled Meats are things worth skipping.
Went back for another visit (4th dinner), starting with:
Bread & Normandy Butter (Rodolphe Le Meunier Beurre de Baratte):
Their fresh, in-house baked Baguette, served simply with some of the most amazing Butter on the planet, this was simple, yet amazing! There’s something almost primal about eating fresh-baked Bread with a spread of Normandy Butter. I’ve never tried Rodolphe Le Meunier Beurre de Baratte, but it imparts this real, deep, outstanding buttery taste… like the way “Butter” ought to taste. Wow!
Watermelon (Lemon, Thyme, Vermouth, Bourbon, Aperol):
Probably the only misstep for Cocktails we’ve had at Republique, this was too boozy, and unbalanced. There was a noticeable burn. It was a busy night for the bar (it looked like a mad house), but it’s still disappointing. The Watermelon did come through, but it wasn’t that enjoyable.
Live Santa Barbara Spot Prawn (Cherry Tomatoes, Purslane, Sauce Choron):
You usually see Live Santa Barbara Spot Prawns at top-end Sushi restaurants, or great Hong Kong Seafood restaurants, so I was really glad to see them offered here at Republique! I had to order this.
It was perfect! A beautiful preparation, cooked just through, the Spot Prawn still very tender with a nice meatiness. It also helped that my Spot Prawn was full of Shrimp Roe! Add in the Sauce Choron, the super fresh Cherry Tomatoes, and it was happiness on a plate!
Sonoma Duck Leg Confit (Braised Red Cabbage, Brussels Sprouts, Baby Turnips, Wild Oregon Huckleberries):
Stunning. Crisped Duck Skin on the outside, well seasoned, with a great poultry flavor coming through. The Braised Red Cabbage and Wild Huckleberries were on the sweet, vinegary side (not something I like), but the Duck Confit’s deep flavors on the saline side balanced things out.
But the real winner was just how succulent, moist and tender the Duck Leg Confit was. Hopefully this picture captures that:
Italian Greyhound (Gin, Aperol, Grapefruit, Lime):
This was much better (and made by a different bartender). Really interesting balanced Cocktail. The Gin was apparent, but the Grapefruit and Lime really kept it focused, so the citrus and natural bitterness & fragrance of Grapefruit was the spotlight.
Spaghetti Rustichella (Pacific Dungeness Crab):
And we had to try another pasta, this time, a handmade Spaghetti - which results in a softer, more tender Pasta than dry Spaghetti - with fresh Dungeness Crab. This was another favorite of our meal!
A good brininess, accenting the flavors of the Dungeness Crab, in a lightly buttery sauce. Just a great Seafood Pasta!
Service was spot-on for two of our visits, and sort of semi-absent for two of our other visits.
While the pastas and most of the appetizers were standout and excellent, with great Cocktails (mostly), there’s one key reason I don’t know if I’d go back to Republique that often, and I hesitate to recommend it:
We easily averaged more than $100 per person (on one visit it was about $175 / person with no Wine). It just doesn’t feel like a good QPR, despite putting out fantastic Pastas (that really seem like some of the best in L.A.). At those prices, you would think you’d get white tablecloths, fine dining, top notch service to match it, all in a setting where you don’t have to shout to talk to each other (Republique for dinner is loud).
But clearly from the popularity and constantly packed dinner service, Angelenos have accepted the high price and informality. Republique also seems to have issues with their Grilled Meats, which is prominently featured on the menu, and have random misses throughout the menu. If you’re looking for great Pastas with price as no issue, definitely give Republique a visit.
624 South La Brea Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Tel: (310) 362-6115