Republique

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Republique
624 S La Brea Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(310) 362-6115
republiquela.com

A group of us went to the new hotness that is Republique during opening week late last month. While it’s not the fine-dining haven that most were hoping for with regards to seeing what Chef Walter Manzke can really do, it certainly does bring back pleasant memories (for most – I’ve never had the pleasure of dining at a Manzke restaurant before my dinner at Republique) of chef’s days at Church & State. Our foursome sat at the chef’s counter, which provided an excellent view of the open kitchen, but was a bit too warm for my liking, as it was directly facing the wood-burning oven. Still, a great setting for a promising meal.

The food here is just bistro fare, but there’s plenty to like on the menu. It appears that the menu has been changing on an almost-daily basis, but the highlights of our meal include: the cote de porc, the charcuterie, and the beef tartare. Definitely order those if you see them (I’m sure the charcuterie will be). Everything we ordered was at least solid, but a couple of dishes were on the saltier side (I personally have a high-sodium tolerance though, so this is more of a warning for others). Desserts were simple, but solidly executed.

I didn’t really want to go into detail because it was opening week, but let’s just say that Republique is very promising. I’m looking forward to seeing what the restaurant can do once it settles down and takes off from a creative perspective (also, there’s supposed to be a more formal, tasting-menu aspect of the restaurant forthcoming). Really can’t go wrong with the meat dishes here – the house-made charcuterie is already one of the better versions in the city, and that cote de porc was downright delicious. Will definitely be back for a more extensive experience in the future.

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Grass-Fed Beef Tartare ($18) – tarragon aioli, pickled red onion, potato chips

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Warm Baguette (*on request*) – butter

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Eggs on Toast ($16) – Santa Barbara uni, soft-scrambled eggs

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Crispy Pork Rinds ($12) – chili-vinegar dip

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Charcuterie Board ($24)

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Cook Ranch Pig’s Head ($12) – lentils, bacon, frisee, farm egg

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Red Wine Braised Short Rib ($32) – potato gnocchi, red swiss chard

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Cote de Porc ($58) – Berkshire pork chop, belly & sausage, salsify, fuji apple, spatzle, peppercorn sauce

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Sage Panna Cotta ($10) – butternut squash, pumpkin seeds

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Bomboloni ($12) – hazelnut ice cream, chocolate sauce

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Caramel Pot de Creme ($9) – roasted almonds

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Passion Fruit Tart ($?) – mascarpone sabayon

Cuisine City/Neighborhood Price Grade
French Mid-Wilshire $$$ N/A

Republique on Urbanspoon

Soban

3/15/12

This was basically the 4th of 5 birthday dinners I was able to go to during the first half of March (in chronological order: Newport Seafood, Lazy Ox Canteen, Urasawa, Soban, and The Spice Table). Soban is a nondescript Korean restaurant located on the western outskirts of Koreatown – my friends (Christina, Jeannie, Jolene) who were meeting me for dinner that night appeared to have trouble finding the place. We chose Soban because this group likes Korean, and beyond the typical KBBQ and soon tofu places, of course (our same exact foursome went to Kobawoo House last time, and it was a good experience).

Not sure how popular it is to the general public now that it’s been featured quite prominently in LA Weekly due to J. Gold’s glowing review, but when we we arrived around 6:30pm or so on a Thursday it wasn’t very busy, and the clientele appear to be all Korean (a confused white guy came in by himself near the end of our dinner). The four of us got menus that had English – I believe there’s a separate menu in Korean (and has more dishes listed). We ordered four items: haemul pajeon, kimchi jjigae, mae un galbi jjim, and ganjang gaejang. The first two were simple enough to most who are familiar with Korean food. The seafood pancake and kimchi stew (which had seafood and pork belly) were fairly standard versions, but executed well. A bit weird that wasabi paste was present in the soy sauce for the pancake though.

But the other two dishes really stood out. The spicy galbi jjim, while not as good as the regular one at Seongbukdong (but lighter and sweeter IMO), was very good. While it wasn’t really spicy, the spicy flavors gave the dish another dimension. The real star, though, was the ganjang gaejang. The marinated raw crab (looks like a variation of blue crab, but not sure at all) was fresh and fully of briny flavors, with plenty of bright roe as well. An order contained two crabs, still in the shell, but cut so that the meat was easy to reach. It was so good I ordered one to-go for Eugenia and Linh-Nam. Note that you should probably eat the crab ASAP: it can get a bit salty if you let it keep soaking in the soy sauce. After finishing the meat, I ate the innards with some rice and sauce – delicious!

Service was very good, despite having only one server for most of the night. I forgot to mention that they bring out 14 different kinds of banchan. Nothing outstanding, but great variety. And they were very accommodating of the silly cake the girls made for me (of a clown – evil women). I will definitely be back, for the spicy galbi jjim, and especially the crab. Maybe I’ll try to order one of their Korean items that aren’t on the English menu as well. Just another one of the homey gems in Koreatown.

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Chris Hei grade: B+

Soban
4001 W Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90019
(323) 936-9106

Soban on Urbanspoon

Four on Fish @ Providence

Photo credit: Linh-Nam Vu

I’ve had this post in my drafts for around three months (the dinner was on June 20), and it’s finally time to finish it. However, after so much time has elapsed, it’s hard for me to recollect the experience in detail. Since it was a one-time dinner anyways, I figured that the details are less important than the photos. So I’ll just be lazy with this post with mainly photos taken by Linh-Nam during dinner (I went with him and Eugenia). This dinner was hosted by Opinionated About Dining, a Zagat-esque guide, at Providence. Upon leaving the restaurant we were given the guide as a gift. Chef Michael Cimarusti (of Providence) was joined by Chefs Ludo Lefebvre (LudoBites), Hiro Urasawa (Urasawa), and Ricardo Zarate (Mo-Chica, Picca), all providing dishes with a focus on seafood.

seabass tiradito – aji amarillo sauce, sweet potato puree

My first experience of Chef Zarate’s food, which led to my future Picca visits. Tiradito is a Peruvian ceviche-esque dish of Japanese influence, and this specific dish is now on Picca’s menu. Great start.

(Left) red snapper and half-cooked ebi botan wrapped in seaweed, marinated radish, shiso, miyoga and plum sauce

(Right) hakkaido scallop and monkfish liver, caviar, pickled turnip, wasabi, shiso, miyoga

The closest I will get to taste Chef Urasawa’s food (that is, until my fated visit next March). The two seafood items were both served with the plum sauce, which provided a sweet and sour taste. I thought the red snapper and shrimp combination was good, but it didn’t blow me away. However, the scallop and monkfish liver combination was amazing! I look forward to this quality of food served at Urasawa.

antichuchos of santa barbara spot prawns with yuzu kosho

The second dish served by Chef Zarate, also now on Picca’s menu. The prawn was perfectly cooked, with a nice char. There was just a touch of yuzu kosho, and with a squeeze of lime that was all this needed, to let the shrimp speak for itself.

santa barbara sea urchin, champagne beurre blanc, fine herbs

This is one of Providence’s mainstay dishes on the tasting menu (I had another variation of this during my visit to Providence later that month). I loved this dish. The creamy uni went really well with raw egg, and the beurre blanc provided a nice flavor, while the little croutons added a nice crunchy contrast.

chawan mushi, summer truffles and ikura

The second dish served by Chef Urasawa. The egg-on-egg dishes served that night were just downright awesome. The egg custard had some sea urchin and shrimp underneath I believe, and was topped with truffle shavings, salmon roe, and dashi broth. Just look all all those awesome ingredients. Only negative might be that the truffle shavings were a bit thick for me, but how can one really complain about truffles, let along an abundance of them.

japanese freshwater eel, soba, soy milk

Another hit by Chef Cimarusti. The eel had a nice, crunchy skin and delicious sweet eel sauce glaze. The soba was served in bits, which were crunchy and tasted more like bread crumbs than soba (but was still good). The soy gave the dish a nice balance.

lobster vadouvan

This dish, by Chef Ludo, is arguably the most aromatically-pleasant dish I’ve ever smelled. The combination of scents coming from the vadouvan butter (vadouvan is a French spice blend that’s reminiscent of curry powder) and an orange-like fruitiness was heavenly. The dish itself, however, was not as good. My lobster, unfortunately, was a little bit overcooked. And I think I would’ve liked the dish to be less…tart. Still good though.

creme fraiche panna cotta, alverta president caviar

A classic Ludo dessert (so I’m told), this panna cotta with caramel sauce had a great salty contrast. But instead of sea salt with caramel like most places use nowadays, Chef Ludo instead uses caviar to provide that salty kick. Once you get over the fact that there’s caviar in a dessert, this was quite the combination. Very creative, and a great dessert.

mochi cake, blackberry & litchi, coconut-kaffir sorbet

The second dessert, provided by Providence. I had a very similar variation of this at my subsequent Providence dinner. On this visit, it was a coconut-kaffir lime sorbet, as opposed to a soy milk ice cream. The combination of the sorbet with the bits underneath had a Froot Loops-like taste, according to Linh-Nam. Nice dessert.

Overall, this was an awesome seafood-themed dinner (albeit a very expensive one), from the minds of four extremely talented chefs. My dinner at Providence was an A, my last dinner at Picca was an *spoiler alert* A- (bumping it up after visit last weekend), Urasawa is by far my most anticipated dinner, and I am praying that I’ll be able to experience LudoBites someday. Only thing that prevented this dinner from being an A was that the different cuisines didn’t necessarily come together as a cohesive progression. I’m not one to be part of the special dinner events scene, but if all of them can be like this dinner, I might have to Paris Hilton the food social scene.

Chris Hei grade: A-

“Four on Fish”
Providence
5955 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038
(323) 460-4170

Umami Burger

After playing basketball outdoors under ninety-degree weather last Saturday morning, I was down for anything to eat. Han, being the whiner that he is, insisted on having burgers. The rest of us (myself, Lawrence, Daniel Zhu, and Mike) really didn’t have a preference (although I think Daniel mentioned Curry House, but I kind of just ignored him – burgers > curry). Anyways, wanting to impress this group with my “foodie” knowledge, I suggested Umami, as it was the closest gourmet burger place I could think of. Han then blurted out: “Oh hey bro! I really want to try that place!” So away we go…

I had some initial concerns about going to Umami despite being the one who suggested it. My experiences there, similar to the ones at Father’s Office, have been quite inconsistent. Plus they seem to be too cool and popular to care about the customers nowadays, from what I’ve heard. Except that while Father’s Office was trending downwards (before the most recent visit), Umami was just the opposite. My last two visits have been great, coming off of two subpar visits. So with Father’s Office being very good earlier in the week, I was worried that Umami would be the complete opposite. Luckily, I was two-for-two in my burger visits for the week. Everyone seemed to really enjoyed their burgers, as did I. Below is a breakdown of each burger and side:

(Left) Umami Burger ($10), (Right) Manly Burger ($11)

Han and Mike each ordered the Umami, and Daniel ordered the Manly. I didn’t try either of these on this visit, but I’ve had both in the past, so here’s my take on it. The Umami, which is their signature burger, is probably still the best. GQ Magazine named it their Burger of the Year. It has house-made cheese and ketchup, oven-roasted tomatoes. caramelized onions, and sauteed shitake mushrooms. Just a great burger. The manly burger is much more conventional, but great-tasting nonetheless. Bacon (or in this case, bacon lardons) make any burger awesome. The onion strings and cheddar also went well.

Port & Stilton Burger ($10)

Lawrence ordered what is basically the joint’s take on the Office Burger. There are port-caramelized onions and bleu cheese, and they really worked well with the burger. I’ve had this one a couple of times, and thought that it was very comparable to the Office Burger.

Kauai Burger ($13)

My burger, which was one of their specials that day. I believe it had teriyaki sauce, pineapple salsa and bacon. I really liked the taste of the burger, though it was kind of a mess to hold. The teriyaki was on the watery side, and it was hard to taste the sweetness of the sauce (it was a little more soy-flavored then the usual teriyaki), but the pineapple salsa did just that nicely. The texture of the bacon was rather soft, kind of a mix between pulled pork and pork belly in terms of texture. Everyone knows how much I love pork belly, so this was all copacetic. Still prefer the Umami though, but this was a nice burger that I can see becoming a menu fixture.

It was a mess to eat, but tasted good.

Sweet Potato Fries ($4)

This time around, it had some brown sugar. Actually, a lot of brown sugar. I don’t know what to say really. On one hand, the brown sugar went pretty well with the fries. On the other hand, however, this combination made the fries taste more like a sweet potato pie than a side for burgers.

Malt Liquor Tempura Onion Rings ($3)

My favorite side at Umami by far. I convinced the group to order two orders of these delicious onion rings. Daniel mentioned that he was hoping these weren’t like the typical type with the coarse, too-crunchy texture. Rest assured Daniel, the tempura batter gave these onion rings a smooth texture, while maintaining a good crunch still. And it wasn’t overly breaded either.

Thin Fries ($3.50)

Damn it, Han. I knew the thin fries were mediocre, having had it multiple times in the past. But you insisted on getting them. That’s why they were on your side of the table. Just like you, thin and limp :P

Recently, there have been reports about SBE (the group behind numerous clubs, hotels and restaurants in L.A. like SLS Hotel, The Bazaar, and Katsu-Ya) investing in the Umami chain, and they are planning to expand it nationally. While I’m glad that more people will get to experience these burgers, I’m afraid that this expansion will dilute the quality and newfound consistency. For now, let’s just enjoy what we have: great, juicy burgers served with a hipster attitude.

Chris Hei grade: B+

Umami Burger
850 S La Brea Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 931-3000

Note: credit Los Angeles Foodie for the first photo. FYI the valet is “only” $2.50 now (a burger joint with valet lot – really?).

Providence

6/27/11My first time at Providence was the week before this dinner (6/20/11) at the Four on Fish special event hosted by Opinionated About Dining (I haven’t gotten the photos taken by Linh-Nam yet, so in the meantime I refer you to KevinEats for the details of that dinner). I had actually planned this dinner before being invited by Eugenia and Linh-Nam to Four on Fish, so I had assumed that this would be my first dinner at Providence. The restaurant had their annual anniversary month 5-course menu at a discounted price ($70 – usually it’s $95 I believe), so I thought this would be a good opportunity to experience what the two-star Michelin had to offer without breaking the bank. However, since my man date Lawrence knew I was easy (with respect to excessive ordering, and maybe in other aspects too), he talked me into getting the chef’s menu – around 15 courses at $175. And it began…

mojito, screwdriver

I was so hungry I forgot to take a photo of Providence’s most famous amuse bouche. The mojito was in a refreshing gelee form, and the screwdriver was a nice and sweet spherification.

Hama Hama Oysterbeau soleil oysters – jalapeno, cilantro, lime

The printed menu which we received after the dinner has this as beau soleil, but the server told us that the oyster was hama hama. First time I’ve had hama hama – the oyster was plump and juicy.

Abaloneabalone

The abalone was marinated in miso and grilled over charcoal. If this was only an option at yakitori…

Squid and Chorizosquid and chorizo

Same goes for this one. I was surprised at how well the squid and chorizo complemented each other. Sorry for the poor photos (I used an iPhone 3gs).

Kanpachikanpachi – red shiso pearl tapioca, cucumber, enoki

Nice and refreshing dish. The little tapioca pearls went well with the kanpachi.

Hokkaido Scallop Sashimihokkaido scallop sashimi – layered with nasturtium, whole grain mustard, and egg salad

I have no idea how the three items on the dish (scallop, mustard and egg salad) fit together, but I liked this dish. Guess this is why I’m not a chef.

Uniuni – eggs, champagne, caviar

One of Chef Cimarusti’s signature dishes. This was so good! I had a variation of this at Four on Fish (there were brioche crumbs in lieu of the caviar), and was thinking about it that entire week. I’m so glad I got to eat this again.

Spot Prawnspot prawn – smoked, brown butter, bitter herbs

I had hoped to have the spot prawns that was served tableside, but this didn’t disappoint. At first I was worried that the prawn looked a little overcooked – wasn’t the case luckily.

Sweetbreadsweetbread – puree of petit pois, white asparagus, summer truffle

These were veal sweetbreads. Offal-ly delicious.

Grilled Freshwater Eelgrilled freshwater eel – bone marrow, grilled green asparagus, sunchoke puree

Another one of Chef Cimarusti’s specialties. The soft coin of bone marrow was a great contrast to the crispy unagi.

Salmon Bellysalmon belly – cherries, morels, arugula

Salmon, really? My thoughts about having salmon in fine dining are, like having chicken, suspect. Not sure how this was the belly (it was rather lean), but like all other dishes that night, tasted great.

American Wagyu Beefamericna wagyu beef – fava beans, porcini, turnips cooked in dashi, dashi butter

In contention for best dish of the night – amazing given that Providence is a seafood restaurant. The wagyu almost melted in my mouth.

Cheese Selectioncheese selection

I know nothing about cheese, so we left the selections up to the server (with the exception of the the bleu cheese on the top right – Lawrence’s call). The varieties were all very bold and pungent. Not a fan of cheese courses, but this was pretty good in general.

Grapefruit Tarragon Sorbetgrapefruit tarragon sorbet – yogurt espuma

The v-sorbet, I mean, grapefruit sorbet was tart and refreshing.

Mochi Cakemochi cake – blackberry & litchi, coconut, kaffir lime, soy milk ice cream

Like with the uni, a variation was served at the Four on Fish dinner. The mochi was good, and the ice cream tasted like frozen Asian soy milk. If you mixed everything on the plate, it tasted like a Taiwanese shaved ice dessert in my opinion.

Milk Chocolate Whiskey Panna Cottamilk chocolate whiskey panna cotta – coconut raviolo, oreo coconut streusel

The server said that there was Bailey’s Irish Cream in here, and it was pretty evident. If I only had this “pudding” at recess back in the day…

Petit Fourspetit fours

Bamboo Genbamboo gen

STRONG drink, my second of the night. I’m not a wine pairings-type of diner, so I prefer to get cocktails if I want alcohol. My first drink was the dorian gray, another strong drink. Both were good, not fruity at all.

Chef's MenuThe chef’s menu is definitely the way to go at Providence. Not only do you get a wide variety of what the restaurant has to offer ingredient and technique-wise, I feel that there was a lot of love and thought given to the progression of the meal. Our meal was about three hours, and I felt that each course was served at an appropriate time after the previous one had been finished. Service, which doesn’t factor into my grade, was fantastic as well. Definitely a place you’d take a date to be pampered.

Chris Hei grade: A

Providence
5955 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038
(323) 460-4170