11/09/2012 01:53:00 PM

Best Thing We Ate Last Night: Pig's Ears Nachos a la Walter Manzke

We interrupt this Burger Week burgerness for something that can't possibly go unnoticed. Checking out Walter Manzke's Republique preview at Test Kitchen last night was a very filling, delicious night. The chef continues to show his strength with wonderfully simple bistro dishes made with top quality ingredients and creative twists that are subtle until you taste whatever dish put in front of you.

We're talking wild arugula salad with a bright chili lime vinaigrette, pomegranate seeds and silky hamachi crudo, a wood-oven baked lobster dripping in butter and herbs, and perfectly rare grass-fed beef rib eye with chanterelles. Everything was exquisite, a good sign of what's to come at his forthcoming La Brea restaurant. But while the main prix fixe menu was fantastic, we were particularly taken with the bar bites menu, especially the nachos. Yes, Manzke made nachos, but these weren't just any nachos.

In a perfect world, these would be served with every football game we watch: a swirl of avocado salsa in the bowl, thin and lovely crisp tortilla strips topped with pickled chilies and...pig's ears. Beautifully crisp slices of pig's ear intertwined with the chips and salsas, plus a poached egg for good measure. Holy wow. The flavors and textures all meld together forming one of the best bar snacks we've had in recent memory. Unfortunately, these may have been a one-time thing. When we asked him why nachos, Manzke simply said: "Well, it's a bar menu. You have to have nachos." They were such a hit, he'd be silly not to offer them again when Republique opens.

PS: Bestia, the space where Test Kitchen lives, is an incredible space. Chef and co-owner Ori Menashe (Angelini Osteria) gives his preview this weekend, and if the house-cured salumi we tasted last night is a sign of things to come, we can't wait for it to open (possibly Thanksgiving weekend).

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