Republique | Walter Manzke's Long-Awaited Restaurant Isn't Short Of Ambition | Tasting Table Los Angeles

Walter Manzke's long-awaited restaurant isn't short of ambition

Like a heavyweight prizefighter, Republique has stepped onto the dining scene with no shortage of hype.

Walter Manzke's radiant new bistro may not be fully complete–a bakery-café and a more formal back dining room are set to open by January–but that hasn't kept diners from packing the house come dinnertime.

Inside the soaring open-air atrium, rustic wooden tables pack what was once the lobby and bar area of Campanile, maximizing the seat-to-square-foot ratio. There's a good chance you'll have a view into the open kitchen, where you'll spy whole poulet roti ($29) turning over an open flame and sheaths of baguettes (free upon request) pulled from the oven.

Parmesan beignets with sweet potato (Photo: Darin Louie)

For those who have dined at Church & State, Manzke's focused take on French classics will strike a familiar chord.

The expansive charcuterie board ($24), loaded with slices of saucisson sec, hearty patés, head cheese and velvety duck liver mousse, is an immediate contender for the city's best. Not every dish is an instant success, though: A roasted artichoke salad ($11) had a touch too much vinegar and too few artichokes, and a cherry tart ($12) lacked needed tartness.

But there is immense pleasure to be found in their simple-yet-elegant entrées, such as spaghetti rustichella ($19) with clams, garlic and chili flake, or an unctuous pig's head fritter ($12) served with soulful tarragon-flecked lentils and a poached egg.

Republique is a place with grand and exciting ambitions. Although it hasn't achieved all of its potential just yet, we're certainly glad it's stepped into the ring.