When does a restaurant go from just being an external place you might visit once in a while to becoming your place; your immediate choice that you blurt out without even thinking?
For some, it might be cost and convenience. Something close by, easy to get into without too much hassle. For others, a great ambiance and great food. For me? I love convenience and QPR. But something happened on a lazy weekend morning. Crawling out of bed, I found myself craving Pastry Chef Margarita Manzke’s absurd Pastries, and something savory from Chef Walter Manzke and staff. So even though it took a good 20+ minutes driving over to mid-city L.A., then braving the zoo that is the line out the door (another 20+ minutes), when we finally got a table and sat down, surrounded by sunshine literally pouring into the gorgeous dining area, and I took a bite of the Creme Brulee Bomboloni…
It all clicked.
Even though distance, price, hassle (long lines) are all there, Republique - Chef Walter and Margarita Manzke’s mid-city eatery - just feels like the place I want to go to for a delicious Weekend Breakfast or Brunch.
It doesn’t hurt that when you enter Republique you come face to face with this:
What seems like a myriad assortment of delicious-looking Pastries and Desserts from the ever talented, award-winning Pastry Chef-Owner Margarita Manzke and her staff.
Sitting down, surrounded by the soft glow of sunlight, you then get to partake in whatever you pointed to in the Pastry case.
Matcha Raspberry Bostock:
A wave of Japanese Matcha Tea flavors hits your palate, followed by the tartness of Raspberries, mellowed by the moist Bostock Brioche-like base. I loved the nuttiness of the Almonds as well.
Looking like a cross between a Mini-Croissant and a Sugar Donut, this turned out less successful: The Cornetti was flaky and quite crispy, but the Sugar exterior + fried shell + burst of Custard just didn’t gel that well.
Hazelnut Paris Brest:
It was probably this precise moment, when I bit into the Hazelnut Paris Brest, that I suddenly heard birds happily chirping and butterflies fluttering about, that I knew Republique was it.
Just one bite of Pastry Chef Margarita Manzke’s Hazelnut Paris Brest will bring an understanding of why Republique is now our favorite Pastry spot in L.A. Light, airy, seductive hand-whipped Cream, the fragrant nuttiness of the toasted Hazelnuts, and the light density of the Choux Pastry.
It is RIDICULOUS how good this is!
Creme Brulee Bomboloni:
But it gets better: Upon taking a bite of the Creme Brulee Bomboloni you could almost hear angels singing as this wave of euphoria sweeps over you. The lightly caramelized exterior of this Italian Donut gives way to a luscious, silky, light, airy Custard oozing out.
LA MILL Loose Leaf Genmai Cha from Japan:
A great way to warm up the day. Fragrant, wonderful.
Granola (Straus Organic Yogurt, Farmer’s Market Fruit, Wildflower Honey):
It comes as no surprise these days to know that Pastry Chef Margarita Manzke happens to make a fabulous Housemade Granola. You can buy it by the bag to-go, for your own piece of heaven at home in the mornings, or enjoy it at Republique served with Straus Organic Yogurt.
The Housemade Granola is aromatic, super nutty from the various Seeds and enticing with a hint of Coconut.
Kimichi Fried Rice (Beef Short Rib, Pickled Radish, Sesame Seeds, Soft Poached Eggs):
Their Kimchi Fried Rice is still too wet to be a real “Fried Rice,” however when accepted as a “Sauteed Rice” instead, this just hits some great flavor combinations: The piquant and heat from the Kimchi, the luscious meaty chunks of Beef Short Ribs, the Pickled Peppers and Sesame Seeds, and then breaking open the Poached Eggs with the liquid Egg Yolks… delicious!
Fried Chicken Sandwich (Cabbage Slaw, Sweet Pickles, Potato Chips):
Is it a fool’s errand to continually order Fried Chicken Sandwiches around the city after experiencing the greatness of Howlin’ Ray’s? Perhaps.
But it had to be done. We just had to know if Chef Walter Manzke and team could create something to rival Chef Zone’s creation at Howlin’ Ray’s.
Sadly, it does not.
However, that isn’t to say it was “bad”: Far from it, Republique’s version is probably our 2nd favorite Fried Chicken Sandwich after Howlin’ Ray’s at this point(!), exceeding the recent ones we tried at Huckleberry, Sycamore Kitchen and 3 or 4 other places.
There’s a slight crunchiness to each bite, but it lacks the ethereal combination of crispy and crunchy that Howlin’ Ray’s achieves. It also lacks that amazing depth of flavor that Chef Zone and team achieves with their Fried Chicken Sandwich.
But it is a good effort: Juicy Chicken meat, slight crunch, slightly too much Slaw and tartness, but this will scratch that itch if you’re in the mood and don’t find yourself in front of Howlin’ Ray’s.
We had a quick dinner one evening with a friend in town.
Amuse Bouche - Potato Puree & Black Truffle Crisp:
Fragrant, creamy, spot-on!
Oysters (Kumamoto, Shigoku, Sweet Petite):
My favorite was probably the Shigoku Oysters on this visit.
We loved all of the Housemade Charcuterie at Republique, but the Pork Rillette, Duck Ballotine and Rabbit Ballotine were probably my favorites. So deeply savory, lightly gamy, meaty and satisfying. And their Housemade Baguette! So good!
The Garden Of… Little Gems (Polito Farms Avocado, Radish, Fines Herbes, Toasted Seeds, Green Goddess Dressing):
They ran out of Little Gems and substituted Arugula, but this was an excellent Salad. Refreshing, herbal, nutty, creamy.
Mafaldine Pasta (Maine Lobster):
Outstanding! Perfectly cooked al dente Pasta, briny, sweet, just cooked-through Maine Lobster meat. If you want a great Seafood Pasta, this is it.
Cassoulet (Butter Beans, Sonoma Duck Leg Confit, Pork Belly, Smoked Sausage):
Hearty, comforting, meaty, the Butter Beans and Smoked Sausage were highlights.
Prime Ribeye Cap (Charred Eggplant, Broccoli di Cicco, Chermoula):
Nicely cooked USDA Prime Ribeye Cap. This was extremely tender and had a good beefiness.
Warm Dark Chocolate Cake (Hazelnut, Banana Caramel):
No, this isn’t a mistake in ordering after seeing @TheCookie and @moonboy403 suffer this travesty: This was from a dinner around the New Year, but I didn’t get to post it yet. We had the exact same reaction as @TheCookie and @moonboy403: It was just not that good and too gooey (not in a good way).
For those that haven’t tried it, this replaced Pastry Chef Margarita Manzke’s most popular Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake, which completely destroys this replacement. I hope they bring back the Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake soon.
More wonderful temptations to start your morning.
Raspberry Cream Puff:
At this point the gold standard for Cream Puffs has to be Patisserie Chantilly and Pastry Chef Keiko Nojima’s outstanding, cloud-like creations. But seeing Cream Puffs being offered by Pastry Chef Margarita Manzke appear this morning? We had to try it!
The Choux Pastry is sufficiently light, not overly doughy nor chewy, and the accent of Raspberry encrusted onto the exterior was visually stunning. You encounter the inherent tart-sweetness that comes with Raspberries, but then you are hit with Pastry Chef Margarita Manzke’s amazing Pastry Cream filling. Not too sweet, it has the consistency of clouds and is incredible!
I’m glad my friends distracted me immediately after this bite, because if not, I would’ve made a beeline back to the cashier to order another one!
Coffee Hazelnut Cream Puff:
Looking similar to the Paris Brest, this one actually uses a Coffee Pastry Cream filling, combined with the Dark Chocolate shell, light Choux Pastry and the Hazelnuts makes for another outstanding Cream Puff!
Creme Brulee Bomboloni:
As great as the previous 8+ times we’ve tried it.
Okinawa Latte (Hojicha, Okinawa Sugar) (Soy Milk):
While Matcha / Green Tea Lattes are appearing more and more around town, seeing an Okinawa Latte had me intrigued. This turned out to be quite lovely, the Hojicha (Roasted Japanese Green Tea) with a touch of sweetness from the Okinawa Sugar made for a nice twist on more commonly found versions of Latte.
Fried Chicken & Waffle (Bacon & Pork Belly Sausage Gravy, Pickled Fresno Pepper, Fried Eggs):
After the surprisingly successful Fried Chicken Sandwich, we couldn’t wait to try their Fried Chicken & Waffle dish.
Sadly, this was not meant to be: The Waffle was very mundane and average. Slightly rubbery / generic tasting, like what many of us have come to expect with “Waffles” at most restaurants.
Not even close to Howlin’ Ray’s nor Gjusta’s amazing Waffles.
The Fried Egg wasn’t really necessary, but being a Brunch dish, sure, why not. It was fine, and the Pork Belly Sausage Gravy was decent, surprisingly balanced and not overly salty.
The Fried Chicken was deboned, so it was really just a pounded Chicken Cutlet, which was OK, except it was only slightly crunchy with no crispiness. (@PorkyBelly @TheCookie @Ns1 and other Fried Chicken lovers, you can save your calories.)
(New) Austrian Pancakes (Strawberries, Maple Butter):
A new menu addition, Chef Walter Manzke and company have outdone themselves here: The Austrian Pancake arrives in a heated cooking vessel and turns out to be more like a cross between a Souffle and the lightest Flan than a typical “Pancake.”
Fluffy, airy, so delicate it hovers the line between fragility and an almost liquid custardy texture, but it holds its shape in every bite. It’s also piping hot and so fragrant.
It is outstanding!
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie:
Hearing our FTC’ers discuss Pastry Chef Margarita Manzke’s Pies, we saw that they just brought over a new Strawberry & Rhubarb Pie. It felt a bit early for Strawberry season, but the person behind the counter said it was “great.” It turns out…
It was too early for Strawberries.
As a result it was a nicely baked Pie of too tart Strawberries, with little-to-no sweetness nor aroma that the best Strawberries have when in season.
It’s always nice to see the Kouign Amann appear at our top Bakeries around the city, and when we saw the heavily caramelized version today, it was a must order.
Beautiful exterior and nice caramelization, a bit darker than Sycamore Kitchen’s version or B. Patisserie’s version. It had a nice sweetness and light interior. (I will defer to our Kouign Amann gurus in @ipsedixit @J_L @PorkyBelly to decide if this is to their liking. For us, we preferred Pastry Chef Karen Hatfield’s Buttercup a bit more, but this was good.)
Rigatoni Bolognese (Grass Fed Beef and Cook Ranch Pork Ragout, Parmesan):
A zestier, spicier version of Bolognese than what we’re used to, the Handmade Rigatoni was a nice touch. With a real meatiness and savoriness to the dish, this turned out to be a great Lunchtime Pasta plate.
However (nitpicking here to focus on our FTC favorites), we prefer the more humble Bolognese at Pasta Sisters and Leo Bulgarini’s interpretation and Felix’s version over this one. And we preferred the pairing with Tagliatelle over a Rigatoni.
Still this is a great Lunchtime Pasta option and I’d happily eat this again.
Fried Chicken Sandwich (Cabbage Slaw, Sweet Pickles, Potato Chips):
This 2nd time trying their Fried Chicken Sandwich was the same as before: Slight crunchiness, no crispiness, and juicy Chicken, a soft, but sturdy Bun, some crunch from the Slaw made for a solid version for a Fried Chicken Sandwich. However the batter slid off in parts of the Sandwich, and the flavors were good, but not Howlin’ Ray’s.
Still this represents the 2nd best Fried Chicken Sandwich we’ve had recently, so it’s noteworthy for that reason alone (a good alternative if you’re craving this and not near Howlin’ Ray’s).
Service for Breakfast, Brunch and Lunch remains functional. You have to wave down busboys and servers for water or to-go containers when needed, but otherwise it’s fine.
Republique by day is a completely different animal from Republique for Dinner. While we love the Handmade Pastas, Salads and some of the Starters for Dinner, in many ways Breakfast / Brunch and Lunch makes for a more enjoyable experience.
Their wonderfully cooked Omelettes, various Toasts, and a few other savory dishes are standout and worth considering. Their new Austrian Pancake is so delicate and airy I dream about eating it again. And for those wanting to see what Pastry Chef Margarita Manzke can do, Republique by day is far superior to Republique by night:
During Breakfast, Brunch and Lunch, Pastry Chef Margarita Manzke is creating some of the best Pastries in L.A. and the sheer breadth of offerings and consistent quality for standouts like the Creme Bomboloni, her various Cream Puffs, Hazelnut Paris Brest, Tea Cakes, and more, elevate Republique to be our favorite place for Brunch in the city right now.
624 S. La Brea Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Tel: (310) 362-6115