First Look: Republique's Grand Debut on La Brea
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).