République powerhouse couple Walter and Margarita Manzke are set to debut their Paris-style restaurant Bicyclette Bistro this Wednesday. The pair have totally transformed the former Sotto and Picca spaces in Pico-Robertson, putting bistro classics at the center of the menu. There’s more to this expansion than just food though; the Manzkes and company will open a separate kitchen and tasting menu-only restaurant called Bicyclette Restaurant upstairs later this year, in addition to this downstairs charmer.
The Manzkes took over the shuttered building back in 2019 and worked through the pandemic to turn it on again. Walter Manzke says he feels good about the address, in part because of the businesses that have come before. “We are lucky that the location has had several successes in the past,” says Manzke. “Steve and Dina Samson had the beloved Sotto, and prior to that it was well regarded for the pop-up Test Kitchen where Jordan Kahn, myself, Ori Menashe and many others had the chance to cook. We designed it to feel unpretentious, welcoming, and highly energetic.”
The look and feel is completely Parisian, though some classics have been updated or altered to fit the California mood. There’s duck leg confit, steak au poivre, and — when available — coq au vin with a Manzke tweak: crispy chicken. The desserts and baked goods are sure to be a stunner thanks to James Beard-nominated Margarita, who is preparing a throwback dessert board that mirrors the couple’s days at Church & State and will carry seasonal and chocolate tartes. “I’ll say Margarita’s baguette with what I consider to be the best butter in the world — Rodolphe Le Meunier Normandy Butter — is a pretty perfect way to start a meal with friends and family,” says Walter.
The entire wine list hails from France, and in true bistro manner shows off wines ready to drink right now, or vins de soif. Of course a few older wines make appearances as well, along with cocktails in the spirit of France. Twists abound, including a kir royale made with a crème de cassis the Manzkes sourced directly from Dijon.
Bicyclette’s timing might appear to some to be part of a mini French boom in Los Angeles, with the likes of chefs Dave Beran’s Pasjoli, Dean Yashirian’s Perle, and Lincon Carson’s forthcoming Mes Amis leading the way. But that’s not the whole story, says Walter. “Pasjoli is always a great experience, and we trust Lincoln’s new restaurant will be a success. The truth is, Bicyclette Bistro has been four years in the making so I didn’t really know it was going to open as part of what seems to be a bit of a renaissance of French food in L.A. For us, it was a dream to share our passion for French bistro cooking and love of Paris and I feel privileged to be able to do so here in Los Angeles.”
The bistro seats 80, with 10 seats at the bar, while seating and details for the upstairs restaurant are still to come. Starting tomorrow, Bicyclette’s hours are Tuesday and Thursday, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., and 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.