The Shakshuka Hunt Continues - Republique

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.

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can we just have some huevos rancheros and calm down? what’s the obsession? tomato eggs are in so many cuisines… chinese, armenian, italian etc… i dont think i’m ever going to lose my mind about shakshuka unless it’s in israel. i swear this is an insanely $$$ profit margin item for high end places

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Re profit margins, in Republique’s defense, I have to say that there has got to be considerable labor costs in making the sauce from scratch and I am betting those tiny tomatoes came from a farmer’s market purveyor. I don’t think you can compare it to huevos rancheros where 99.9% of the places are using some canned sauce and certainly not adding peak farmers’ market tiny tomatoes.

You could also say that what’s the fuss about hummus – it’s just some garbanzo beans and tahina, but there is something amazing when the simplest dishes are spiced correctly and just come together. Don’t get me started on ful.

Fuul. Now them’s fightin’ words.

yea i’m sure they’re doing it at a high cost basis… still i’m just ranting on the trend lately.

Just curious, is Shakshuka supposed to have heat?

Depending on which country and ethnic group.

I like my Shakshuka with a hint of heat. I went back to Republique’s menu and saw they allegedly use harissa, but I didn’t taste any.

I’m anxious to try the cauliflower at Bavel because I have seen people online complaining that it was too spicy. That means I will probably think it tastes just fine. A bit off-topic but I also saw some woman online ranting about Bavel’s poor wine list because they weren’t able to offer her a “buttery Chardonnay.” WTF? I see someone who wants a buttery Chardonnay (with their Middle Eastern food no less, although I wouldn’t want a buttery Chardonnay with anything) liking bland Shakshuka.

for what it’s worth, I went to Republique for brunch recently with a friend who loves spicy food and grew up eating Middle Eastern/Jewish food, and he loved the Republique version of shakshuka, especially the flavor of the spices. It’s not “hot” but the spices had a rounded flavor, and the tomatoes tasted very fresh. We were fans.

Also loved the pupusa, and the ricotta toast with seasonal stone fruits.

I was complaining to an Israeli friend that the Shakshuka wasn’t spicy enough and he said I should have specified spicy. More harissa would have helped.

I can’t return to Republique though for lunch. Maybe it is better early in the morning for breakfast on a weekday, but the sardine like conditions at 1:30 p.m. were downright unappetizing, and I really don’t want to pay $30 for lunch crammed into a tight space and forced to listen to someone’s self-important proclamations on how much vacation time she “deserves.”

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I kinda sorta get this.
But it’s kind of like complaining about huevos rancheros being on every breakfast menu around. Most versions are going to suck, true. But it’s more about the broad appeal of the dish.

The shakshuka spiciness level issue at Republique has been solved. Per the advice of my Israeli friend to “just ask for it spicy,” I was in the neighborhood today and popped into Republique to try again and specified “very spicy.” And it came appropriately spicy.

The shakshuka was immeasurably better with a higher heat level, but still short of greatness. I was trying to think of why the Republique shakshuka failed to reach the heights of the one I had a Boulud Sud in NYC and I think part of it was that there weren’t enough herbs, and therefore it lacked the wonderful herbalicious depths of the one at Boulud Sud. Plus the eggs were again overcooked.

And I caught a glimpse today at Republique of the dystopian future when the Internet of things fails. I was delighted to walk in around noon and only have two people in front of me in line, but the cashier was taking no orders because the restaurant’s point of sale system had crashed. We stood around for about 7 minutes waiting for the system to reboot (it did not) until finally a manager came by, handed the cashier an order pad and instructed him to handwrite the orders and run them to the kitchen, and to collect payment later tableside. Mid-meal, the manager popped by with one of those old manual credit card machines and ran my credit card while I was trying to finish my shakshuka.

By the time I left around 1:00 p.m., there was a line out the door so I guess lunch is always crowded unless you hit it very early. I know Republique is a very popular place and I appreciate what they are doing using quality ingredients and presumably paying their staff fairly, but Republique just seems too expensive for my tastes given the accommodations and ambience. In light of the malfunctioning point of sale system, the manager filled in my credit card receipt with the 4% health surcharge, but without a tip, and the damage for one shakshuka and one ice tea was over $26. Given the utilitarian group seating, waiting in line, grabbing your own silverware, etc., it just felt like too much for lunch and obviously it would have been even more expensive with a tip. Can’t imagine ever coming back for a leisurely lunch, adding a glass of wine and a dessert and spending over $50. For $50, I can think of a lot of other places I would prefer to lunch.

Often referred to as the POS system…

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