By Andy J. Gordon
Long Beach restaurant James Republic is a welcome newcomer to the vibrant downtown scene. With a modern design, expert staff and dedication to fresh ingredients, this upscale casual place should be a hot spot for quite some time.
Located on 1st Street and attached to a Courtyard Marriot, James Republic has a modern, comfortable design. The bar area is festive and offers a generous selection of fine wines, beers and creative cocktails. James Beard nominated Chef/owner Dean James Max has built several successful restaurants around the country. His vision for the restaurant is shared by his handpicked Executive Chef David MacLennan. MacLennan helped open James Republic after working with Dean James Max at Latitude 41 in Columbus, Ohio. They both look to emphasize local farmers market ingredients and responsibly sourced meats, fish and poultry.
The dining area has well spaced, comfortable seating. A really nice feature is the restaurant’s ability to become open air when the north and east facing floor to ceiling wood doors are opened. When the place is packed, the noise level can be a distraction, but the atmosphere is festive and contagious. Guests enjoy the party vibe as platters of beautiful dishes and fine beverages fill the tables.
We wanted to get a good feel for the farm to table menu so we ordered a variety of items. We started with drinks. The Tajin Margarita made with El Jimador blanco, Cointreau, Damiana (a light, herbal-based liqueur from Mexico), watermelon juice and serrano pepper was very refreshing. A reasonably priced glass of Gruner Veltminer that was nice and crisp was another fine drink to get things started. We sampled the Grilled Asparagas Salad from the appetizer menu. I’m not a huge kale fan so was apprehensive when I saw it listed among the ingredients in the salad. My concerns were unfounded as Chef MacLennan created a beautiful blend of greens, walnut pesto, pecorino cheese and grilled asparagus. Another fine starter was the Heirloom Tomato and Plum Salad. Delicious farmers market tomatoes and plums were complemented by in house, fresh made mozzarella. Crusty ciabatta bread was a perfect accompaniment and contrasted nicely with the melt in your mouth ingredients. Other winners among the starters are the spicy seafood Ceviche and the generous bucket of Pacific mussels.
Before moving on to the main courses we got fresh drinks. The bar has a nice selection of craft beers on tap so trying one seemed like a good idea. The North Coast Blue Star Wheat beer was delicious, light and refreshing. There were a variety of interesting main courses to choose from. The grilled Kurobuta pork chop was particularly tasty. It came with an assortment of vegetables including fresh charred corn, local beans and baby mustard greens. The star of the menu had to be the Lamb Merguez. The smoky, expertly seasoned lamb was joined by sweet potato, swiss chard, pickled peppers and a mint cilantro chutney that enhanced the flavor of everything. For fish lovers, the seared Wahoo was a real winner. It was cooked perfectly and accompanied by an escabeche puree, piquillo chilis, avocado and radish salad.
After this decadent feast we were feeling completely sated. However we could not pass on a couple of the amazing desserts. The Valhrona chocolate cake was dense but not overly sweet and the sticky toffee pudding would definitely satisfy anyone with an intense sweet tooth. Both were served with homemade, delicious vanilla ice cream.
James Republic delivers a highly enjoyable culinary experience with an emphasis on fresh ingredients. The stylish atmosphere, excellent bar selections and creative menu will please discerning guests. You can expect the menu to change frequently as new arrivals hit the local markets. It will be interesting to see what delicious treats they come up with during future visits.
500 East 1st Street
Long Beach, CA 90802
Photos courtesy of Andy J. Gordon and James Republic