From République’s 10-year bash to the rush on Thanksgiving turkey and pie orders. I’m Laurie Ochoa, general manager of L.A. Times Food, with this week’s Tasting Notes.
What Charlie Chaplin began …
When I walked into République Thursday night for the restaurant’s 10th anniversary dinner, the two chefs standing behind the counter were not Walter and Margarita Manzke but Mozza’s Nancy Silverton and Elizabeth Hong. Was I in the wrong restaurant or the wrong decade?
Way back in 1989, just a few feet from the spot where she was now standing, I watched Silverton, with a baker’s razor blade dangerously held between her teeth, shape and cut some of the first sourdough loaves for what would become La Brea Bakery and Campanile. I’d been assigned by this paper’s restaurant critic and editor Ruth Reichl to spend a few months (between other stories) observing the long, complicated and often frustrating process of opening two restaurants: Joachim Splichal’s Patina (now the site of Providence) and Campanile, started by Silverton and the late Mark Peel.
Not long after that story, I became the co-writer of “Nancy Silverton’s Breads from the La Brea Bakery,” which required more late nights in the space, and I married the late restaurant critic Jonathan Gold inside Campanile’s high-ceilinged dining room. So I’ve spent a lot of time in this L.A. gothic building that Charlie Chaplin commissioned the architect Roy Selden Price to design.
Now, 10 years after République inhabited the building, the space feels as vibrant as ever. It still takes me a beat when I spot the repositioned Malibu tile fountain, which used to take centerstage at the building’s entry — and where my daughter, like many other restaurant kids, used to watch the goldfish between courses. But the Manzkes were the right people to keep the spirit of this space thriving. Walter even says he ended up designing much of the space when others he brought in wanted to take away a lot of the building’s architectural flourishes.
During the first of two anniversary dinners the restaurant has planned, courses were contributed not only by Silverton and Hong, but Eric Bost of Carlsbad’s Campfire and the Michelin one-star Jeune et Jolie, and Alisa Vannah of Mr. T Los Angeles. (The second dinner is Nov. 14 with two three-star Michelin chefs, the French Laundry’s Thomas Keller and Addison’s William Bradley.)
Bost started things off in full luxury mode: a croque madame topped with Ibérico ham and caviar. He also presented a dish of Maine sea scallops with artichoke, a sauce made with vin jaune from France’s Jura region and slices of matsutake mushroom. Vannah served a lovely hamachi crudo with Asian pear, kohlrabi and a Thai-style vinaigrette as well as a later ocean trout course with a purée of baby hakurei or Tokyo turnips, trout roe, shiso, yuzu zest and seaweed butter.
Silverton and Hong went for elegant simplicity in one of their courses, a two-part Caesar salad in which a crostini acts as a mega crouton with garlic aioli, braised leeks, anchovy, sliced soft-cooked egg and chives. You take alternating bites of the crostini and the crisp lettuce. For their dessert course, they revised another classic, tiramisu made luscious, almost like a tres leches cake, with espresso caramel, mascarpone and wonderful toasted hazelnuts.
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The Manzkes’ courses ranged from Margarita’s perfect baguette and and almost funky butter from Normandy to Walter’s rich and rosy Wagyu beef surrounded by a satellite of delightful little bites. There were also duck-filled agnolotti with chanterelle mushrooms and shavings of white truffle. And to end the night, a flower-sprinkled slice of buko pie reimagined as millefeuille.
Over time, the Manzkes have built a mini empire of restaurants — the Michelin-starred tasting menu spot Manzke and bistro Bicyclette in West L.A., the Grand Central Market rice bowl spot Sari Sari and the growing Wildflour group of restaurants in the Philippines run with Margarita’s sister Ana Lorenzana de Ocampo. But both during the day — when you can take a deep exploration into the baked goods that helped Margarita Manzke win this year’s James Beard Award for best pastry chef — and at night for the couple’s sophisticated dinners, République, No. 4 last year on Bill Addison’s 101 Best Restaurants in L.A. guide, manages to be a neighborhood breakfast and lunch spot as well as a destination restaurant for Angelenos to show off. We need another 10 years of République.
Have you ordered your Thanksgiving turkey yet? Heritage Foods has already sold out of all but its biggest pasture-raised birds for mail order, and supplies are already spotty at Whole Foods. This would be a good weekend to check with your favorite market or butcher, maybe Alexander’s Meats inside Howie’s Market in San Gabriel or the expanding McCall’s.
And if you’re looking for something different, Moo’s Craft Barbecue and Bludso’s BBQ are just two of the places that are taking orders for whole smoked turkeys to be picked up Thanksgiving week. I like smoked turkeys as my second bird (we usually have a crowd) to serve with my main turkey that I usually dry brine with Tuscany butcher Dario Cecchini’s herbed salt blend Profumo del Chianti plus some of his fennel pollen.
Columnist Jenn Harris is focusing on dessert. Her most recent dispatch surveys the best picks for your Thanksgiving pies.
Once you’re ready to plan your meal, check out cooking columnist Ben Mims’ 12 essential recipes for your classic Thanksgiving. Note that we have something spicy for your Thanksgiving meal planning coming next week.
And one more thing for your to-do list: Tickets are going fast for our L.A. Times party where Bill Addison’s 101 Best Restaurants in Los Angeles list will be revealed.
- Jenn Harris writes the newest of our This Must Be the Place guides. This one on Monterey Park.
- Stephanie Breijo has news on the week’s restaurant openings, including “Top Chef” contestant Jackson Kalb’s red-sauce Italian American restaurant Jemma in Hollywood; B’ivrit, now a “permanent pop-up” from Israeli chef Amit Sidi, known for her falafel; LA Chef’s Kitchen, a new food hall in Panorama City; Auntie Beulah’s Biscuits & Chicken in a Mid-City strip mall; Shim Sham in Historic Filipinotown from Dustin Lancaster and Tyler Bell (L&E Oyster Bar, El Condor), and a new Sticky Rice on Third St.
- Julie Giuffrida has recipe ideas for leftover Halloween pumpkin.
- Graffiti at L.A.’s beloved Canter’s Deli is being investigated as a hate crime.
- Danielle Dorsey has gone through our recent reviews and features to compile a guide to the best places to eat and drink in L.A. this month.
Eat your way across L.A.
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