As your waiter shows you to your table, you are led through a noisy front room, past communal tables, and into a quiet back room with dim lighting and pointed fixtures, which create a relaxed, yet sophisticated ambience. This journey perfectly parallels the spot République holds in the Los Angeles food scene. With an overwhelming abundance of different cuisines, styles, and restaurants, and the constant inclination towards hip innovation in the restaurant-scape of the city, République cuts through the noise and offers focused, artfully crafted dishes that will leave you feeling refreshed from the pandemonium of the Los Angeles dining scene.
Immediately upon being seated, not only was I asked which type of water I prefer (I, the plebeian, went for flat water), but I was also offered breadsticks. This thoughtful gesture was the first glimpse I got of the attention and care République puts into the diner’s experience. The breadsticks were fresh, salty, and had hints of parmesan. The crisp noise produced from biting into them signified the beginning of what was to be an elegant meal.
The sophistication of République extends to one of the most primitive yet delicious foods: the french fry. Oh, the french fry. Although this food item is often associated with fast-food dining, République elevates fries through their light handed seasoning, garlic aioli, and pursuit of consistency. Unlike most french fry servings, where the crispiness of the fries vary, all of République’s fries (served in a cone-shaped receptacle) are perfectly golden. The garlic flavor of the fries shines through, and the earthiness and crispiness is retained, due to the deliberate choice to leave the skin on the potato. Although the fries are delicious even when unaccompanied, the aioli elevates the dish even further. Most aiolis are very lemony to mask the taste of garlic that is not fresh. However, République’s conservative use of lemon serves to highlight the freshness of the ingredients in the aioli.
République tries to create art with the dining experience they provide you, and the Hamachi crudo is the dish that best highlights their success in this endeavor. The light pink flesh of the fish is brightened by the red peppers and a yellow-orange yuzu marinade that serves as a bed for the large cubes of Hamachi. The acidic marinade serves as a nice contrast to the buttery fish. The dish was almost radiant; its freshness cleansed the palate, but at the same time the distinct flavors lent themselves to analysis.
Although République is a French restaurant, they have mastered the Italian dish of spinach cavatelli. Automatic curiosity hits when the green rolled pieces of pasta come out of the kitchen and plate is placed in front of you. The pasta is hand rolled, adding a chewiness that makes eating the pasta an interactive experience, as you sink your teeth into the piece of pasta and are forced to pay attention to the layers of flavor released after each time you chew. République’s ultra luxuriant brown butter sauce adds substance to the already intricate pasta, and a mix of mushrooms on the plate gives the dish woody undertones. The springy texture of the mushrooms is almost a play on the chewiness of the pasta. The dish was so rich that my palette almost felt exhausted.
Walter Manzke, the head chef and owner of République, says that his career was made by a handful of dishes; after you try the Mary’s Organic rotisserie chicken, you will understand why it plays such a significant role in Manzke’s career. The rotisserie chicken is everything you would expect of a classically French roasted chicken, but with a twist; the chicken has a distinct smokiness to it, a flavor similar to that of smoked ham. It is served in a cast iron skillet in its own jus, but with some paprika-like heat added. Although the chicken is the star of the dish, there are some interesting accompaniments in the pan. The wilted kale is there more for color, and doesn’t add much to the flavor of the dish. However, the white beans add a density of texture. Although they added a beautiful pop of color to the dish, the blistered tomatoes were sickeningly sweet, tiptoeing dangerously on the line of complementing the savory and smoky aspects of the dish, and overpowering them. It is important to note that of all the dishes I had, this one was the only distinctly French dish.
Throughout the night, I was impressed by République’s sophistication, poise, and innovation. Every detail, from the waiter offering me breadsticks to the uniformity of crispiness of the french fries to the bite of the cavatelli was intentional, and amalgamate to create a refined yet fun experience. République’s exciting ensemble of focused dishes make it an important destination of the Los Angeles food scene.
République is located at 624 South La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90036 (http://republiquela.com)