The bistro with a focus on 'casual elegance', highlighting local ingredients elevated with a global approach, took over the space that once housed Charlie Chaplin's office, then the original La Brea Bakery, and Campanile: and we were glad to see that the breath-taking rustic grandeur of the space is preserved, with just the right amount of personal touches by the Manzke husband and wife team to make it their own (black and white floor tiles, furniture built by chef Manzke's father...). They even kept the lovely fountain from the La Brea Bakery/Campanile era, but moved it appropriately outdoors. A night out at Republique still feels like an intimate event, in some neighborhood gem of a restaurant in some off-the-beaten-path, yet ever so familiar venue that could just as well be in Italy/Spain/France.
*Oh, don't miss out on Margarita Manzke's awesome bread - to avoid food waste Republique has a policy to only bring the complimentary bread to your table on request. Whatever you do, if you're a lover of a good pre-dinner carb-loading - make sure you request this!
Yet we still had coming up: Risotto Nero ($19) with aquerello carnaroli, mediterrenean octopus, manila and razor clam. This was a gorgeous presentation of vibrant pops of seafood against a stark backdrop of black rice. The octopus, clams all tasted as if they were just recently plucked from the ocean. Our only reservation about this one, was that it wasn't as full of flavor as we had expected - though it may have something to do with this being overshadowed by the flavors of the incredible charcuterie. If we had had the risotto first it might have been possible that this would have also made our list of favorites.
All in all, République lived up to the hype for us: they have our vote as a great new place for 'special occasion dining' without the stuffiness.
I also loved the bakery counter, where you can just get some of Margarita Manzke's pastries or delicious desserts (the ones that don't come with ice cream anyway) to go. That's what I opted for one night when it became apparent that there wouldn't even be room for a single diner to slide up to the bar (but GM Christian was incredibly nice and apologetic about it, a rarity for a LA 'hotspot' - a manager who actually cares about every customer! After hearing that I'd driven from West LA in the rain, he did his best to accommodate, personally packing my dessert to go, and even throwing in a free baguette - and no, I absolutely never once mentioned the blog and never asked for anything extra. This level of care made me even a bigger fan of Republique than I was after the first visit!).
***Much has been made about the 3% "Healthy LA" surcharge tagged onto every bill - which will go towards health care coverage for restaurant staff. Whether it would have been more customer friendly to work that into food prices, versus bringing something that's usually 'behind the scenes' into front of house, will likely continue to be a topic for debate - but suffice to say here that you can, if you feel strongly about it, as stated by the restaurant take the 3% into account when calculating your tip (taking it out of your total tip).
On a 7 point scale:Flavor - 6 bites
Presentation - 6 bites
Originality - 6 bites
Ambience - 6.5 stars
Service - 6 stars
Overall experience - 6 bites
Price - $$$ (3 bite marks)
Probability of return visit - 100%