First Look: Republique's Grand Debut on La Brea

By Lesley Balla  |  November 15, 2013
Credit: Lesley Balla

Opening a couple weeks before they really wanted to, Walter and Margarita Manzke and business partner, restaurateur Bill Chait, debut their grand new project, Republique, this week. Previews are now open to the public, albeit with hard-to-get reservations: they're letting only about 50-70 people in each night before the official November 25 opening. The former Campanile space is once again full of life and energy, the whole place having been gutted and replaced - every floor tile, the open kitchens, impressive new bread ovens, counters, the bar, lighting and table. The bones are there, including the fountain, which is now outside, but this is most definitely a new restaurant. What a transformation.

The bar has been turned around, now jutting into the dining room with wood-topped stools all around, just the place to sit for a Negroni or spicy, mezcal-soaked Arnette Farms Carrot. A bench lines the front window so many diners will have their backs to the street (if you're lucky; you want to look at that room), and communal tables are scattered throughout the space. There's a tall one in the front, just as you walk in through the bakery, and a couple sandwiched between the two kitchens - the one with the wood-burning grill and stove, and the other with its massive bread oven and baking tables. Sit too long, and eventually you'll make friends with whomever you're dining with, maybe share some frites or extra wine. It almost feels like a wedding or a celebration, or at least it will in these early days when Manzke fans cheer the chefs for their bistronomie dishes like the gorgeous multigrain bread with housemade ricotta, the tarte flambe with blood sausage and duck gizzards, escargots, frisee and frizzled Brussels sprouts topped with a poached egg and lardon, rib-eye with frites, and more. 

Once the restaurant gets its legs, the back rooms will open for more formal dining and private events. And the front will become a cafe during the day, a spot to pop in for breakfast, lunch or brunch served from the bakery counter. Until then, here's an early sneak peek at the space and some of the first plates (624 S. La Brea Ave.; 310-361-6115).

  • Old Campanile space, new Republique life. A reconfigured front area with communal tables, open kitchens and more.

  • The bar now juts out into the dining room, great for walk-ins (when they accept them on November 25 and beyond).

  • The Arnette Farms Carrot with mezcal and borscht is a spicy and savory way to start the meal. The Monte Carlo is a fine rendition of a classic Old Fashioned.

  • New bar seating.

  • The former La Brea Bakery space is now incorporated into the restaurant, acting as a charcuterie, cheese and dessert station at night, and a bakery during the day.

  • Marge Manzke on the far left, Walter Manzke on the far right.

  • Manzke's charcuterie is back - the pork shoulder rillettes, rabbit ballotine, country pate and more. Ask about the surfboard-long charcuterie and cheese board. It takes at least four people to walk it through the dining room.

  • Individual escargots topped with puff pastry.

  • The kitchen has been opened up more with a few seats at a chef's counter.

  • A frisee and lardon salad gets extra texture from frizzled Brussels sprouts.

  • Tarte flambee topped with duck gizzards, blood sausage, caramelized onion and bitter greens.

  • Wild Atlantic sea bass with chanterelles, lemon confit and charcoal-grilled maitake mushrooms.

  • Rib-eye with frites.

  • Sage panna cotta with butternut squash and pumpkin seeds.

  • The gorgeous bakery and impressive ovens are wide open for diners to see the action.

  • Marge Manzke's beautiful baguettes.