The Republic of Israyelyan

Certain people have created culinary leadership in Southern California: such names as Splichal, Puck and the Drago brothers come to mind easily. And now, it’s time to add the name of restaurateur Mikayel Israyelyan for his two contributions of Romanov, possibly the most beautiful restaurant in the San Fernando Valley and Republic, another gorgeous contribution to the La Cienega dining scene.

There are four steps and a massive wooden door leading into Republic. Club fans will remember this huge place in its former life as the dance palace Bliss. Seven million dollars later, Mikayel has renovated, adding and subtracting, and has created a cavern of beauty and delight.  Like Romanov’s spectacular chandelier, Republic features a huge antler-designed beauty, shedding an orange light.  It is surrounded by four massive fixtures with long, silk-ribbons, painting the dark room with light. On one wall is the largest possible wine case, enclosed in floor- to-ceiling glass to maintain the 55 degree climate necessary for the bottles. It is over fifty feet tall, contains over 2,500 bottles, reachable by their bartender who moves up, down, and sideways on a hoist. She shared with me her fear of heights but she has trained herself to always look ahead, never to look down.

Several balconies jut out in round arcs on the second level and are used for private parties. Al fresco dining is offered at lunch for the main dining room opens at six.  And what a spectacular dining room this is: banquettes and tables beautifully decorated, gleaming stemware and a most efficient, earnest staff waiting in the wings. And with all the visual splendor, I am happy to report that the food by Chefs Paz and Medina is a joy to behold and an even greater joy to devour.

We started with our usual assortment of “First Impressions”: herb crusted shrimp and grits prepared with Tasso ham in the chef’s “shrimped” up sauce – simply terrific; spicy, chewy, tomatoey seasonings. Never had it before, can’t wait to have it again and again!

Then came the lobster corn dog – what you can remember of a hot dog is, here, prepared with lobster meat for a delicate, great taste and the Creole-honey mustard sauce accompaniment is memorable. We put in an order of PEI Mussels and Manila Clams which may well be the best I’ve tasted since my visits to New England. Again, the sauce they bathe in was quite unusual; chorizo essence blended with herbs, fennel and shrimp fume and delicious to the max.

Chef Paz’s Maryland Blue crab cakes are crispy outside, delicate inside, with his gentle touch of pink peppercorn tarragon tartar sauce adding amazing flavor to the fish.  His “Huge” chilled shrimp was another example of truth in advertising and the “Bloody Mary” cocktail sauce had me dipping again and again. A rousing, remarkable start.

Sharing their iceberg wedge with its Maytag blue cheese dressing is a wonderfully refreshing way to prepare for the entrees ahead. The salad is enhanced by the warm corn muffins and baby rolls.

There is no one rushing you here except that the Sunday night we were there, it was very quiet and our busboys were about as quick on the draw as humanly possible – a bit too fast when they removed my mustard sauce plate while I was eating my lobster corn dog.

For our main course, Fran chose the seared rare Ahi tuna; the plate was adorned with yellow squash fondue and haricot vert and oyster mushrooms. Her two thumbs up signaled great satisfaction with her choice.  My dry-aged New York was perfectly prepared with a whole garlic flower placed beside it. The gravy was ladled lightly and added juice to the already juicy steak.

Our one negative criticism came for the overly-salted, sautéed mushrooms which came on the side. Rings and bracelets will never fit well from those mushrooms you eat today.  Incidentally, we continued to be entertained all through our dinner as we watched the bartender hoist herself up the wine case four times.

There are eight different desserts available and we chose the seasonal fruit; thinly cut morsels of berries, honey dew melon, cantaloupe, watermelon and pineapple – all sweet, all juicy!

Prices are all in the right range for size, taste and value. One can have a great meal on Republic’s appetizers alone. Everything could be shared to enable more dishes to be tasted and portion size is quite generous.

Plato’s Republic stands as an icon of a philosophy of freedom; Israyelyan’s Republic stands as an icon of culinary excellence.  Do be certain to tell ‘em Joseph sent you.

Republic,650 N. La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles 90069, Tel. 310-360-7070 Open every day @ 6:00 p.m.   Dinner for two approx.  $100  w/o alcohol