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First Impressions: Republic Kitchen & Bar

Usually my First Impressions posts are based off of only one visit, obviously not enough time to do a qualified full review.  Some of the “professionals” in town apparently feel that a full review can be done with only one visit…I guess that’s why they must be “professionals,” right?  However, I’m breaking my own rule with this First Impressions post, as this first impression is based off of three visits.  My reasoning for still calling it a “first impression” is because of how brand spanking new Republic Kitchen & Bar is, and I feel that they are very much in a tweaking / feeling-out-what-their-customer-base-is phase. They must be, they’ve only been open for a little over a week.  I write all of this knowing that it is a terrible setup to this post as it kind of sets a tone of “what you’re about to see is the complete annihilation of a restaurant,” but that couldn’t be further from the truth.  I like Republic Kitchen & Bar.  I like it a lot.  I think you should go there, but be prepared to have an occasional dud along with some really great food as Republic progresses from mostly great food to all great food.

Republic Kitchen & Bar - Good Food Is Made Here

Republic Kitchen & Bar - Good Food Is Made Here

While I like much of what is happening at Republic, one of the big changes I hope to see is actually more of a philosophical difference.  It’s one of the most miniscule actions in the kitchen that make the biggest world of a difference on the plate.  It’s often the number one thing that stands between a miserable plate of food and a fantastic plate of food… Salt.

Upon our third visit, which was for the Sunday Jazz Brunch (more on that later), I was approached by Jeff Kovatch, one of the owners.  Jeff recognized me on our 2nd visit there, so my whole weak attempt at anonymity is shot to hell at Republic.  After our brunch, he asked what I thought and I gave him the “It was ok,” complete with face wince and hand twist.  He was further inquisitive of my body language and I told him that the number one gripe I have about the food so far, and this wasn’t just with the Brunch but in all three visits, was a lack of salt.

In many of dishes I’ve had there I’ve had to add salt to brighten it up.  And just so you know, I rarely put salt on food.  Especially since I’ve stopped eating factory-made fast food back in January (with only one set back, thank you very much), my salt tolerance has gone way down in food.

Jeff replied (something to the effect, not an exact quote), “I’ve heard the same thing from friends and family that come in, but we want the customer to add salt to their personal taste.”

It’s a profound idea, to which I immediately dismissed and told him that when food hits the table, I want to taste what the chef wants to taste. I don’t think salt and pepper should even be at the table.  But, since Sunday I’ve thought about it quite a bit.  With the health conscious continually waging a War on Salt, with people’s personal preferences so varied, and with the fact that you can always add but you can’t take away, maybe Jeff and Chef Josh Green were on to something.  A chef that is humble enough to let the customer season food to their own personal taste? Interesting.

But now, even after thinking about it quite a bit, I still shake my head and say bullshit.  I want to taste what the chef intends us to taste.  It’s an interesting debate to have of which I’m not sure there is a correct answer.  So when you go there, taste it first and if you think you need a little bit of salt…you know why. This is really my main gripe about the place which spans from the Burger to the Beef Carpaccio to the Mozzarella Squares and a few others.  To get all the negative out of the way now so I can end on the positive, which really, this place is mostly positive, let’s talk about the Sunday Jazz Brunch.

An OK Chicken with Very Good Waffle

An OK Chicken with Very Good Waffle

The Sunday Jazz Brunch needs a lot of work, most of it will be ironed out as time goes by.  How Republic has it set up is they have three different levels of brunch offered; Continental ($7.99), Continental & Hot Dishes ($12.99) and Continental, Hot Dishes & Specialties ($16.99).  It is an All You Can Eat setup, but the dishes are made / plated to order and thankfully not buffet style.  With each level up, you get to have everything on the menus that are below in price, so the $16.99 level gets you everything on the menu.  I think All You Can Drink Mimosas and Bloody Marys were offered for an additional $14 or somewhere around there.

The pacing was pretty rough, although certainly expected at this stage in the game and perfectly acceptable at this incredibly reasonable price point.  I like to think back on when Bachi Burger first opened and how rough service was and how discombobulated the back of house was.  It was the food that kept us going back to Bachi which allowed them to fix what needed to be fixed.  I see Republic as much of the same.  Now Bachi Burger is running like a machine, and so will Republic.

I think this was the first Sunday that Republic has even been open, so only an asshole would let them live or die by this meal.  But as an asshole, I’ll now publicly list off the things I think need to happen to make the Jazz Brunch at Republic Kitchen & Bar to be the best one in the Hendo.

Over-Poached Eggs + Foamy "Hollandaise" + Stank Lobster = No Bueno

Over-Poached Eggs + Foamy "Hollandaise" + Stank Lobster = No Bueno

The Monte Cristo That's Not A Monte Cristo at Republic Kitchen & Bar Sunday Jazz Brunch

The Monte Cristo That's Not A Monte Cristo at Republic Kitchen & Bar Sunday Jazz Brunch

First of all, I think the overall quality of the food and the pacing of the brunch would be greatly helped if the menu was simplified a bit.  There’s over 30 items on the menu, and I don’t think there needs to be.  I can see the middle level being completely eliminated and combining the Hot Dishes and Specialties Menus to offer only the best they do and make it more reasonable to focus on the quality of what is being put out.  Over-poached eggs, funky lobster meat, underdone potatoes and oil-soaked Monte Cristos do not make people come back for more, no matter how cheap the price is.

Truffle Eggs Sans Truffle

Truffle Eggs Sans Truffle

If you’re going to put expensive sounding items on a cheap menu, they still have to taste good.  No one with half a brain would expect shaved truffles on eggs for a brunch that only costs 17 bucks, but when it’s advertised as shaved truffles on the menu and none are present on the dish, that is where the problem lies.   Also, there’s no reason to have lobster on a $17 brunch if it’s going to taste like lobster on a $17 brunch.

Outstanding Lemon Ricotta Pancakes at Republic Kitchen & Bar Sunday Jazz Brunch

Outstanding Lemon Ricotta Pancakes at Republic Kitchen & Bar Sunday Jazz Brunch

Tasty Banana Wrap at Republic Kitchen & Bar

Tasty Banana Wrap at Republic Kitchen & Bar

And although I’m being tough on the brunch, it’s not like it was all bad.  The Lemon Ricotta Pancakes were fabulous as was the Banana Wrap with strawberries, peanut butter and granola.  Two really outstanding breakfast dishes, I think those two alone were well worth the $17.  And remember, it isn’t just called Brunch, but it’s called Jazz Brunch, another big (surprising to me) positive of the outing.

As a professional musician that pays for all of this damn food I write about because of live music, I almost feel guilty to say that I usually hate live music in restaurants.  It’s almost always too fucking loud and more often then not it’s some self-trained twat that can’t tune his guitar, nor has a discernible connection between his mouth and his ear.  I’m pleased to say that Republic has hired two very fine musicians that play at a perfect background level so you can both enjoy what they’re playing and still have good conversation with your friends and loved ones.  And what a nice space they get to play in.

Speaking of the space, Republic Kitchen & Bar took over the space that was vacated by Fadó Irish Pub just a short while ago.  Fadó had an abrupt end and by all accounts…how can I put this…did not go gentle into that good night.  What Republic has done to that space in such a relatively short turnaround time is nothing short of miraculous.  It’s a really nice space to be in.  One of the big draws for the late night crews will be the upstairs loft that features a whole slew of board games, a pool table and even a Wii to play with.  Walls were moved, the decor is totally overhauled and all that was ripped out has been replaced.  I think Republic will become a space full of regulars, so if you want to claim your plot of land in your new neighborhood bar and restaurant, now would be the time to do so. Like a dumbass, I forgot to take pictures of the interior, so you’ll either have to take my word for it or go see it yourself.

The Best Rendition of Tuna Nachos I've Had - Republic Kitchen & Bar

The Best Rendition of Tuna Nachos I've Had - Republic Kitchen & Bar

The ultimate success of Republic, however, will be in the food.  And the food here is good, some of it spectacular.  One of the most impressive dishes are the Tuna Nachos ($12.95).  Very fresh tasting fish with a perfect balance of spice and acidity, this plate of food is incredibly addictive.  The fried wonton rounds are perfectly light and crisp. My only thought was that the rounds could stand to be a tad larger so it’s easier to handle the dice of tuna, but I was quickly shot down by both The Wife and The Dave who said it was just fine.  Once you taste this dish, you’ll understand my desire to fit as much of it as I can in my fat mouth. They’re good. Really good.

Buffalo Chicken Bites, and yes, they're already been a Weekly Bad Picture Of Good Food

Buffalo Chicken Bites, and yes, they're already been a Weekly Bad Picture Of Good Food

Another big winner for me are the Buffalo Chicken Bites ($8.99), which are bits of chicken and I think carrot in a buffalo sauce wrapped in a wonton and deep fried.  They know how to fry food here at Republic.  Everything we had fried, which being the bar-food-centric menu it is, has a lot of deep fried items, still remained light and not greasy.  The creamy Maytag crumbled over the hot wontons gets perfectly melty and makes for a fabulous late night gorge dish.

Key Lime Pie Martini at Republic Kitchen & Bar

Key Lime Pie Martini at Republic Kitchen & Bar

Speaking of late night, Republic is open until 2am (so far everyday) so it makes for a good stop for industry people getting off the late shift.  They also have a happy hour that goes from midnight to 2am, and the drinks are pretty good.  They have a decent selection of beer on tap at a reasonable price and their specialty cocktails are tasty.  They’ve got Dogfish Head 60-Minute on tap as well as Stone I.P.A.  For my personal tastes I wish they would get one more boutique brown or dark ale on the list.  There would be no complaints if local favorite, Tenaya Creek Nut Brown Ale made it on the list, although they do already have Newcastle.  Deschutes Black Butte Porter would be a good bridge from the Newcastle to the Guinness and I think round out an already great draft beer list perfectly.

Jesus H. Nom - PB&J Bites. So. Good.

Jesus H. Nom - PB&J Bites. So. Good.

It’s not all boozing and bar food at Republic as dessert looks to be slamming here.  What is it with kick ass pastry chefs popping up all over the place these days?  The PB&J Bites ($6) are a destination dessert, meaning that you need to get in your car, drive down to Republic and eat these immediately. Pure crack. Lovely crack.  I promise you that no matter how stuffed you are, you will eat every single last crumb of these bad boys. A kind of deep fried peanut buttery pound cake sort of thing with strawberry, grape  and chocolate dipping sauces.  Nothing but love.

Even though I’ve already been here 3 times, there’s much of the menu I have yet to try.  They have a whole gaggle of entrees that look tasty, including riffs on TV Dinners and other staples of American comfort foods.  At its core, Republic is a very good place to eat.  It’s safe food, but it’s decent food and at very reasonable prices.  All knocks I have against the place are easy fixes which I think will be ironed out in a short matter of time.  Henderson needs a place like this; an independently owned joint with good food and a good hang. It’s up to us to support it.  I say go forth to Republic Kitchen & Bar…eat, drink and be merry.  Remember to taste first, salt later in case they take the advice of yours truly, a lowly know-nothing amateur that can only aspire to be at the level of talent usually only reserved for Children’s Museum PR Directors. (we all have day gigs, don’t we, asshole?)

—–

Republic Kitchen & Bar
9470 S. Eastern Ave.
Henderson, NV 89074

(702) 463-3500

http://www.republickitchenandbar.com

Follow Republic Kitchen & Bar on Twitter at @republickitchen

—–
Mike Dobranski is a professional musician, amateur blogger, eater of good food, poker junkie, master of the inappropriate comment and bad husband to a wonderful wife.

Follow Mike and Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas

You Have The Chance To Turn This Lowly Know-Nothing Amateur Into  A Lowly Know-Nothing Professional! You can vote once per day from now through 09/30/10! Thanks!

You Have The Chance To Turn This Lowly Know-Nothing Amateur Into A Lowly Know-Nothing Professional! You can vote once per day from now through 09/30/10! Thanks!

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9 comments to First Impressions: Republic Kitchen & Bar

  • Is that where Fado’s was?

  • BillK

    Is this the old Fado location?

  • Yup. When Fadó was at Eastern and Richmar, the same strip mall complex with BJ’s in it.

  • Pam

    This food was AWFUL for the price, okay for even a small price. DON’T get the crab cakes, they’re expensive and SMALL, the only good part was the sauce. Don’t get the Portabella mushrooms, you can do them at home with cream cheese and mushrooms from CostCo and don’t get the stuffed tomato with weird stuff in it. The only good part was the crusted cheese on top. We ordered appetizers and my husband had fish and chips and it was ridiculous and expensive. The waiter was nice, but duh. This restaurant won’t last 3 months, it sucks.

  • Yikes! Sorry to hear you had such a bad experience, Pam. I know they’re still working some recipes out in the back. It is odd that some things there are so good, yet some are so horribly thought out. The cheeseburger for one. Great idea to have toast rounds instead of a bun, but it’s the wrong kind of bread and wrong kind of toasting technique to make it work. It totally falls apart.

    I think they’ll pull through though. I think they are the kind of people that take criticism well and are open to working on it. Some other restaurants in town…sort of in that same part of town….aren’t so good with adapting and they continue to wonder why their place is always empty. I might be wrong. We’ll see!

  • First impression using my scientific, fully authorized by the board of science thingies, rating system –

    Service – :(
    Food – :|

    Oddly, my wife thought the corned beef and cabbage soup was too salty, but we’re a low sodium household and a bit sensitive to the stuff. $7 for an iced tea and a hot tea ($4) was a kick in the taint.

  • First impression using my scientific, fully authorized by the board of science thingies, rating system –

    Service – :(
    Food – :|

    Oddly, my wife thought the corned beef and cabbage soup was too salty, but we’re a low sodium household and a bit sensitive to the stuff. $7 for an iced tea and a hot tea ($4) was a kick in the taint.

  • It’s no joke man, I don’t think I’ve ever regretted giving a place a nod like I have for this one. There’s a few good dishes on there, and if anything is ordered outside those 4 or 5 plates, it’s a disaster. I’m not going to head back until after the New Year (if they’re still open) to try it again and re-review the place. They need to get their shit together. I’m hoping its still just a staff settling thing.

  • Peter White

    The Sunday Brunch was awesome…the ambience was a little loud because they were hosting some kind of party upstairs and the noise just barreled over the bannister into the downstairs eating area.
    All in all though, I was impressed. The $15 all-you-can-drink mimosa was different but good. The food was fresh and choice selection was very tasty.
    I will go back…

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