Was in the neighborhood today running an errand, so I decided to stop by Republique to try the Shakshuka, available for breakfast and lunch until 3:00 p.m.
While I appreciated the effort (unlike other places I have tried in town, Republique is definitely making their sauce from scratch and not using canned stuff), ultimately the dish was a disappointment. Boulud Sud near Lincoln Center in New York City still remains my standard for restaurant Shakshuka. (I ended up at Boulud Sud because it popped up on a list I saw of best Shakshuka in NYC).
The Republique Shakshuka comes with brussel sprouts, which are an interesting addition, although I think I prefer greens if vegetables are added to the Shakshuka, and a few non-cooked down tiny tomatoes added to the sauce. The tiny tomatoes make a nice textural addition and that is something I will definitely try with my home-cooked Shakshuka when I can get my hands on perfect tiny tomatoes in season. Where the Republique Shakshuka fell down was on the spicing – this may be a personal preference, but the Shakshuka had no heat whatsoever, almost as if it was dumbed down for people who are afraid of anything too “spicy.” All I tasted was cumin with nothing to balance the cumin, and for me, ultimately the flavors didn’t sing. The eggs were also a tad overcooked. The Shakshuka is served with a mini baguette, which was tasty. I think I ultimately prefer pita, but a friend of mine says he favors baguette because he likes sopping up the sauce with something crusty.
I have been to Republique for dinner, but never for lunch and I hated the whole lunch set up. Stand in long line to order your food (by the time I left at almost 2:00 p.m. on a Thursday, the line was out the door), try to cram yourself like a sardine into a crowded bar seat or crowded communal table and listen to deafening noise and your neighbor’s conversation about how much vacation she deserves, where she is going and whether or not she should really leave her job in banking and go back to the entertainment industry. Maybe I would put up with that if the food was unbelievably amazing, but this Shakshuka was not. Plus lunch, for one Shakshuka and an iced tea, with tax, tip and mandatory 4% service charge was $30.29. $30.29 is, for me, too much for lunch in a non-pleasant environment and where the food was not unbelievably spectacular. I can definitely think of other places in Los Angeles where I could have had a better lunch for the same money and in a much more pleasant environment. And if I had ordered a glass of wine, or a side salad or a dessert at Republique, my lunch probably would have soared to the $50 range.