One last round of cocktails and bistro favorites at Bicyclette, before it closes forever

Liberty Farms duck leg confit, surrounded by peaches and turnips, at Bicyclette.
(Shelby Moore / For The Times)

My favorite place to dine at Bicyclette, Margarita and Walter Manzke’s soon-to-close Pico-Robertson bistro, was along the bar — a nine-seat stretch of polished wood situated between the restaurant’s entrance and the window of its semiopen kitchen.

Bartenders, led by director of bar operations Shawn Lickliter, were wry conversationalists, and they mixed smart drinks using redolent French spirits like Calvados and Pommeau with tonic or Bénédictine and Chartreuse with gin and orange bitters. I’d swipe potato chips through herbed tuna tartare; appreciate the way duck confit matched with tangerines or cherries or peaches depending on the season; and eat too many fistfuls of fries dunked in tarragon-scented aioli.

Throughout the meal, I’d keep turning around to study Margarita’s fruit tarts displayed on the kitchen window’s wide sill, noting their tapered slices dwindling through the evening. One would be mine before they all disappeared.

A last meal that delivered

Bicyclette doesn’t quite yet exist in the past tense: The Manzkes announced this week that they will close the restaurant and its upstairs tasting-menu counterpart Manzke on March 2. But the days of spontaneously dropping by Bicyclette, which I ranked at number 38 on the most recent guide to the 101 Best Restaurants in Los Angeles, have already passed. Reservations are so in demand since the news became public that the staff has had to start booking bar seats as well.

I did manage to score a table in the dining room this week for a final dinner, and it was both heartening and heartbreaking to witness the entire team giving their everything to the restaurant in its final weeks.


The cooking delivered, just as it always has during my experiences: escargot baked individually in small ramekins with a mushroom-shaped cap of puff pastry; the spectacularly caramelized onion tarte tatin, fanned in a meticulous spiral and offset with a creamy layer of goat cheese; and beef Bourguignon, its flavors homey and its presentation sculptural, made with blocks of short rib rendered to wobbling.

soft-scrambled egg with caviar at Bicyclette
Another Bicyclette favorite: soft-scrambled egg in the shell, layered with smoked salmon and topped with caviar.
(Anne Fishbein)

Cocktails hummed in their harmonies of herbal liqueurs or distilled fruit notes. And I’d forgotten how deep the wine list of French varietals dives. Sommelier Elizabeth Kelso is a wonderful guide through regions and nuances and price points.

The Manzkes did not publicly disclose a reason for the closings, and the couple also ended the 10-year-old run of their taqueria Petty Cash in October. It follows what has felt like a string of accelerated restaurant closings over the last year. They happen for so many reasons: untenable rents, rising operation costs, loss of business (some of that due, specifically, to last summer’s twinned Hollywood strikes), partner disputes and a broad-spectrum fatigue with the brutalities of the restaurant industry.

Our group of three at Bicyclette talked about the strangeness of last meals at beloved restaurants. The dissonance of savoring a dish that you’ll likely never be able to taste in quite the same way again. The gentle, organic conversations with servers and bartenders about what their next moves might be. (They usually begin: “I’m going to take a couple weeks off to regroup and then … .”) In one sitting, we cycle through bouts of grief and anger and elation that link to the chain of other life events, big and small, that jumble our emotions at once.

Then I sank my fork into a sliver of Margarita’s apple tart, grateful that I was able to say goodbye to the place, and thankful we could all still find similar creations every morning in the pastry case of the couple’s flagship restaurant, République.

Six dessert tarts at Bicyclette
Tarts cooling on a rack at Bicyclette.
(Shelby Moore / For The Times)

Chef Jonathan Whitener has died

The terrible news of Jonathan Whitener’s death rippled through the Los Angeles restaurant community on Thursday night. Whitener, 36, was chef and co-owner, with business partner Lien Ta, of two modern L.A. staples: Here’s Looking at You (or HLAY) in Koreatown and All Day Baby in Silver Lake.

Like many food lovers, I was an admirer of his talents from my first encounter. The fifth and final list of the annual “38 Best Restaurants in America” list I wrote as Eater’s national critic honored HLAY. It read in part: “Salsa negra, smoked beef tongue, nam jim, carrot curry, blood cake, almond dukkah, sprouted broccoli, New Zealand cockles: All have a place on his menu; all make sense in his electric, eclectic compositions; all reflect Los Angeles’s wondrous pluralism.”

HLAY opened in 2015, and though it might have closed permanently as one of the pandemic’s countless casualties, Ta and Whitener fought to reopen in January 2022 after a 17-month hiatus. How good it was to again taste Whitener’s improbable, high-acid, full-throttle cooking: his salt-and-pepper frog’s legs, his steak tartare that channels Korean galbi, a plate of bay scallops in smoked soy ponzu crowned with passion fruit pulp.

All Day Baby was my last Times review to run before the March 2020 closings. If you’ve ever known and loved their biblical biscuit sandwich, now might be a good time to revisit its comforts.


Or as Ta, an eloquent writer, put it in her tribute to Whitener on HLAY’s Instagram account: “What all of us in our industry need is for you to keep going to our restaurants. All the small independently-owned ones that are feeling challenged to compete with … everything. This business is hard, but it is fueled by passion, stress and care, and it is difficult to understand or articulate. I hope that you will not lose faith in HLAY and the magic of little restaurants like ours.”

Here's Looking At You Co-owners Lien Ta and Jonathan Whitener
Here’s Looking At You co-owners Lien Ta and Jonathan Whitener outside their Koreatown restaurant in February 2022.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Also ...

  • At Array 36 in Temple City, it’s all about the tableside flaming duck — or as the staff likes to call it, the “fire show.” Read my review.
  • Jenn Harris throws shade at a certain Venice outpost of a famous Florentine sandwich shop ... with suggestions for alternatives to Italianate sandwiches she much prefers.
  • Writer Leila Miller and photographer Marcus Yam have a gorgeous article about the vanilla bean crowns worn by the queens of the Corpus Christi festival in Papantla, Mexico. The vanilla orchid is native to Mexico and Central America to Brazil.
  • Lastly, Stephanie Breijo has a list of heart-shaped tacos, pizza and cake for eating your feelings on Valentine’s Day.