Restaurant: Republique [1, 2]
Location: 624 S La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036. (310) 362-6115
Date: January 7, 2014
Cuisine: Modern Bistro French
Rating: Nice (loud) space, tasty hip food, great service
Republique is certainly one of LA’s most anticipated recent openings. Taking over the gorgeous old Campanile space, this replacement is helmed by Walter Manzke and Margarita Manzke (of Church & State and Milo & Olive). As you’ll see, while the core cuisine marries Brasserie with neo-tapas, this is a place that draws intensely on the current (2013-14) trends. LA Zeitgeist for sure.
On this particular night, I was invited by Liz Lee of The Sage Society. She’s a friend of mine, wine dealer, and overall awesome foodie. She sure organizes an amazing evening. This one was mostly top flight Burgundy, and 13-14 bottles for 6 people! (Good thing I never drive to wine dinners)
The building is an interesting fusion of pre-war factory…
And classic LA vibe. This outside fountain is a remnant of the old space, as there used to be a bunch of them.
The main interior is nearly church-like. It’s been all opened up and looks great, but it’s big, tall, and covered in hard surfaces. That means loud!
The bar is packed and setup with all those fancy little fixings that are the hallmark of the fancy mixologist style of expensive yummy weak drink making. Being a wine guy, I don’t much care.
The front appears to be a kind of takeout(?) pastry and raw bar. The presentation was top notch.
Along with the hard (read loud) surfaces, open kitchen, mixologist and the like, our obligatory aged wood communal tables are graced with this paper menu.
1985 Krug. Parker 96 points. The freshest bottling I’ve had of the 85 Krug yet. It tastes so young, in the sense that there isn’t that heavy toast/oxidative character, but just all this vibrant acidity and bright lemon fruit. Really freaking delicious right now.
1979 Louis Roederer Cristal. Parker 96. The 1979 Cristal remains one of my favorite vintages of this Champagne. This bottle is fully resolved, with pretty suggestions of honey, cinnamon, smoke, ash, menthol, hazelnuts and dried apricots. The bouquet remains deeply expressive and melds seamlessly into a succulent, expansive palate. Although the wine is mature, the mousse retains surprising elegance and finesse with a velvet-like softness. This bottle is an original disgorgement from around 1985/1986 and saw 13-14 grams of dosage. 25% of the wine was aged in oak.
As we sit we are offered some yummy bread sticks (a.k.a. grissini). The bakery here is clearly first rate, although there was nowhere to really put them and half of mine ended up tumbling to the floor.
Our Sommelier for evening, Taylor Parsons. Unlike my mostly more chaotic Hedonist Dinners, he opened and poured the wine properly in flights, and even ordered up food to match.
2008 Domaine Michel Lafarge Beaune 1er Cru Les Aigrots Blanc. Burghound 88-90. A less expressive and somewhat somber nose of dried flowers, wet stone and orange peel gives way to supple and detailed flavors that are also admirably pure and transparent culminate in an intensely minerality finish of good if not stunning length.
Escargots en Croûte. garlic, parsley
Like a mini pot pie containing a classic butter and garlic coated snail! Yum.
Eggs on Toast. santa barbara uni, soft-scrambled eggs.
The eggs substantially cut the briny quality of the uni. The taste was great, but I had two textural/physical problems with it. One, the bread was very toasted and hard to bite through, and so cut the mouth. Two, the compression caused the egg to squirt out and drop all over the place.
Warm Baguette with Normandy Butter. A completely first rate piece of bread. Utterly classic and unadorned.
1989 Domaine d’Auvenay (Lalou Bize-Leroy) Meursault Pré de Manche. 94 points. Real treat to try this wine, only 248 btls made! The wine was initially tight knit until about 30 minutes in the glass. After some time it opened up to a nose of nuttiness and ripe apples. On the palate it was alive and vibrant filled with acidity and lean fruit. It wasn’t the most expansive wine on the palate but it had a lively energy that made it an enjoyable drink.
From my cellar: 1990 Robert Ampeau & Fils Meursault 1er Cru Les Perrières. Burghound 93. A truly wonderful nose of simply knockout complexity features notes of yeast and baked bread along with now fully mature aromas of a variety of floral notes and spice hints that gives way to mineral-suffused round intense and detailed medium full flavors that also offer outstanding depth on the sappy and mouth coating finish. This is drinking perfectly now. A beautiful effort of real style and grace.
Forest Mushroom tart. Comte, wild arugula. Lately, French restaurants (and some others) have been serving up these “tarts” as an excuse to basically serve pizza. I’m not complaining, as this was like a really nice cheesy earthy ultra thin bit of yummy.
Smoked Columbia River Sturgeon. Fingerling potato salad, baby beats, horseradish. This dish felt intensely Northern European (Dutch? Norwegian?) It had that dill, fish, potato, mayo thing going on. And it was white. Scandinavians love white food. However, it wasn’t mushy at all, with a nice firmness to all the components.
1950 Berberana Rioja Gran Reserva. Just enough corked to be annoying. Otherwise, lots of young fruit. I wonder if this bottle was re-conditioned. A little too youthful.
1964 Gomez Cruzado Rioja Gran Reserva Honorable. RJon Wine 92. Bricked medium dark red violet color; mature, tobacco, cigar box, cedar, dried black fruit, honeyed nose; mature, dried cherry, dried currant, tart black fruit palate with medium acidity; should go 7-8 years; medium-plus finish.
Our bottle was very young and red fruit.
Wild Atlantic Black Bass. Black trumpet mushrooms, potato gnocchi, brown butter, lemon. A nice classic whitefish in butter sauce. It was cooked perfectly. This is a very brasserie dish and was as good a take as I’ve had.
Spaghetti Rustichella. Dungeness crab. This dish was pretty Neapolitan in spirit. The pasta was perfectly al dente and the sauce a simple garlic, olive oil, white wine? It retained both the sweetness and sea quality of the crab with a bit of heat from the cayenne (which is also Southern Italian). No dairy, as it should be. One of my favorites.
Wood Oven Brussels Sproats. Frisee, applewood-smoked bacon, soft egg. This is like deja vu, as this dish would have been right at home at Playground where I went 10 days before. Can we get more LA Zeitgeist than brussels, pork, and sous vide egg? Still, it was darn tasty. No complaints. Like most other dishes here there is a real precision to the execution.
From my cellar: 1978 Remoissenet Père et Fils Richebourg. 89-90 points. This is a controversial wine. It had a little funk that blew off and, I thought, a very expressive berry nose. There was a lot of red fruit and forest floor with good spice. Some didn’t like it. I happen to drink (and like) my Burgundy old, so I thought it was delightful if not as well made as a few of the other red Burgs tonight. It’s certainly not over the hill, merely not a perfectly balanced wine.
1988 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Romanée St. Vivant. Burghound 92. The perfumed nose has now gone almost completely secondary with hints of sous bois adding nuance to the classic spice box character of a fine RSV. I particularly like the purity of expression (yet no lack of power) which combined with the outstanding length make this an excellent effort that should continue to hold at this level for a number of years.
I liked this a lot, and it had that searing acidity typical of the 88 vintage, but there was plenty of fruit and finish.
1998 Domaine Leroy Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Les Beaux Monts. IWC 91-94. Just two barrels made. Deeper ruby. More complex, sweeter aromas of blackberry, minerals, flowers and smoke. Firm, highly concentrated and very fresh, with terrific gras and volume partly hidden today by firm structure. The ripe tannins coat the entire palate on the very long finish.
This was still a baby, with a bit of oak, not fully resolved, but old enough to have lost that woody harshness I don’t like in young structured wines. Quite excellent. Lots of Vosne spice.
Liberty Duck Breast. Braised taiwanese cabbage, spatzle, whole grain mustard sauce. Another first rate adaption of a classic. Does anything get more French than duck breast and cabbage with mustard sauce? Well, baguettes, steak frittes, and poulet rosti, but we had those too.
Berkshire Pork Belly. Escarole, fuji apple, bacon, cider-peppercorn sauce. This was fabulous too, and not that fatty (which was great). This puppy was probably cooked in the sous vide and finished with some flame. It was awesome.
1995 Domaine Armand Rousseau Père et Fils Chambertin-Clos de Bèze. Burghound 94. Superbly spice aromas just explode from the glass leads to wonderfully concentrated flavors of impressive depth and simply incredible balance for such a big, structured, powerful wine. The length though is what separates this wine from the “merely” great and it just goes on and on. The material here is so good that it would not surprise me if this eventually merits an even higher score as this is a most impressive effort and it has the rare gift of presence, something very few wines have even at the highest levels. In sum, this is killer juice.
Thanks Liz for this bottle, which was pretty clearly WOTN. Rousseau is just so good. It was young, but not a baby and just so so so good.
1995 Emmanuel Rouget Echezeaux. Burghound 91. Remarkably supple and forward with elegant red fruits framed by traces of earth and a touch of oak followed by sweet, sappy, modulated, round flavors that offer excellent detail and fine length and the slight astringency that this displayed for years has finally rounded out. For my taste, this has arrived at its peak and while there is certainly no rush to drink up, neither is there any reason to hold for further upside development. Multiple, and consistent, notes.
Mary’s Organic Rotisserie Chicken. Red russian kale, roasted fingerling potatoes. The rotating spit was right in front of me and all night I watched a procession of these tasting fowl orbiting. Just classic roast chicken en jus but absolutely perfectly cooked. All good.
I don’t know if this was the Prime Strip Loin or the Prime Dry-Aged Cote de Boeuf, I suspect the latter. It was a fatty beefy perfectly cooked bit of cow.
Frittes of course. Just as I like them (crispy).
2011 Domaine Leflaive Mâcon-Verzé. 88 points. A bit of bitterness and some other flaws but frankly it’s nice drinking tipple, esp for the price. It’s clean and crisp at a cool temp.
Cherry tart. Griottines, pistachio ice cream. Classic.
Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake. Milk eau de vie. Good stuff, although I could have easily tried a bunch more desserts (yes I’m a glutton).
And a selection of cheeses, always good with so much wine. However, at this point I was pretty drunk and more worried about getting too drunk than I would have liked. Basically we had too much good stuff.
Overall, Republique is a first rate place. It updates the classic French fare in a way that is contemporary without being ultra modern. And the whole everything here is so painfully (and I don’t mean in a bad way) contemporary. It just couldn’t be more “in” with the current dining trends. Not that I actually have a problem with that — in fact, my only problems with the restaurant was the volume (almost too loud for conversation) and a seeming total lack of large square or circular tables (I eat out in large groups and hate long skinny tables for more than 6). Most importantly, not only are these fresh takes on the classics, but the cooking is really on point. Even only being three months old this kitchen is executing very well.
I’ll certainly be back.
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