Monday, February 2, 2015
Mark Peel's Campanile was an innovator and powerful influence on the generations of chef's and restaurants to follow. Today we nearly take for granted chef interpreted versions of simple dishes bolstered with first rate ingredients, farm to table vegetables and chef/farmer relationships that produce high quality meat for fine dining tables. Campanile was warm, delicious and truly American. A chef's restaurant before the era of restauranteurs. I loved it and I miss it.
But now there is Republique with Walter Manzke behind the stove. Manzke is no stranger to critic's praise -- having re-opened Bastide and later wowing the press at Church and State. Along the way Manzke found himself on multiple best restaurant lists. Like their predecessors at Campanile Walter Manzke handles the savory and his wife Margarita runs the "bread program," at breakfast time filling the former La Brea bakery space with a selection of pastries, cakes, breads and rolls too sumptuous to ignore. It takes nerve to charge an extra $5 for French butter but Margarita Manzke's breads are worth the splurge. We are living in a golden age of American baking, no doubt in part ushered in by Mark Peel's original partner and former wife Nancy Silverton (now of LA's Mozza).
Perennially crowded, Republique serves three meals a day to grateful LA crowds. Nearly two years after opening dinner reservations seem nearly impossible. So my friend and I wandered in -- well really waited in line to order breakfast and find a spot in Charlie Chaplain's former office.
I can't find fault with the food. The creative menu is executed near flawlessly. Our kimchi fried rice nodded to the popular Korean dish with delicious bites of tender, savory short ribs. Mushroom toast -- hardly an appealing description, paired soft scrambled eggs with sautéed mushrooms and peppery arugula. The bread is crusty and chewy. A bacon date "pop-tart" though light on the bacon was sweet and savory at once and a tasty foil to lattes I wish were bigger.
I suppose there is room in my heart for Republique. But I can't help but hope -- looking up at the portrait of bad boy chef Marco Pierre White that holds court over the bistro's bar -- that the Manzkes understand the debt they owe to chef's like Mark Peel (and Nancy Silverton) and how their innovation made today's Republique possible.