Bicyclette is the newest restaurant from Chefs Walter and Margarita Manzke, a dynamic couple who share a love for French cuisine and Parisian bistro culture. Designed by Chef Walter Manzke himself, Bicyclette unites traditional French home-style dishes with California’s seasonal cuisine, all under the roof of what looks like a Paris bistro. The space features two main dining concepts: Bicyclette Bistro and Manzke Restaurant.
Although located in the heart of Los Angeles, Bicyclette, an East West Bank client, bears little resemblance to the iconic city it resides in. An homage to the Manzkes’ love of Paris, the restaurant is heavily influenced by Paris’ bistro scene not only in terms of the menu, but also when it comes to the aesthetics. Mosaic tiles, dimmed lights, rustic old looks create the atmosphere that transports you to a 19th century Parisian neighborhood.
“We tried to capture the design of the places that we really liked,” says Walter. “Not like the ones all tourists go to on Champs-Élysées, but the ones that are kind of on the back streets, that everyone in the neighborhood knows and loves but almost keeps it as a secret, the ones that are being cramped and packed with people and lots of energy. We tried to re-create that.”
One of the most important components of French cooking lies in using high-quality local ingredients and fresh produce at the peak of their season. Bicyclette follows this philosophy to a tee.
According to Walter, Los Angeles is one of the best places in the world for not only fresh produce, but a wide variety of it.
“Southern California is a very special place, and the variety of its produce is absolutely the driving force behind all my cooking and it’s what keeps it fresh and light and a little healthier and cleaner than the stereotypical bistro menu that is very rich,” says Walter.
Seasonality is also what inspires his menu choices. “I always make sure that I react to everything as quickly as I can on the menu,” Walter says. “When I go to the market and see a new fruit or vegetable that's in season, as soon as it tastes great and looks great, I buy it, and the menu is driven by that. I don’t create the menu and then go out and look for the ingredient. I work backwards. I find the ingredient and then make the menu.”
In addition to the Bistro, the Manzkes are planning to open a fine-dining tasting menu concept upstairs, Manzke Restaurant, which will be different from its downstairs neighbor. “The Bistro is very connected to Paris,” says Walter. “It’s very much Los Angeles produce with the heart and soul of Paris. It has a list of French wines and a lot of classic dishes that are reinvented a bit, but it has that strong ground to France.”
On the other hand, Manzke Restaurant will deviate from the French food concept and will resemble a melting pot of Los Angeles’ many cultures. “The blending of cultures makes the food a little spicier, a little more acidic, and a little brighter,” Walter explains. “Because we have everybody here, from Mexico and Korea, to Japan and the Middle East, it’s a great place to accent all those cultures.” The menu will be set, diverse, and on the higher end. The tables are further apart, giving the patrons the look and feel of a fine dining restaurant.
“Opening and operating a restaurant costs a lot of money,” says Walter. According to a Restaurant Owners' survey, the average cost of opening a restaurant in the U.S. is $375,500, and that number varies by location, size, décor, and service style, among myriad other factors.
“I don’t know if other businesses are the same as restaurants, I just know restaurants. But it’s extremely difficult to get to the point where you can just open the doors and then be profitable and sustainable. It’s next to impossible,” he says. “And without having the proper capital and the right financial back up, such as the one we have with East West Bank, you can’t do it.”
Having a long-term partnership is also key to a restaurant’s success. “As time goes on, things start to fall apart, and you need new equipment,” Walter says. “It’s much better to have the capital and resources to get you back on track, and our partnership with East West Bank does that.”
“East West Bank’s customer service has been absolutely exceptional—we can pick up the phone and talk to someone on a first-name basis,” says Stephen Schmidt, the Manzkes’ business partner. “They understand the dynamic of our relationship, and they are very good at prioritizing our needs.”
Schmidt further adds that East West Bank has been instrumental in doing a lot of research on Bicyclette’s behalf to help maximize the Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness and provided not only the necessary services but also guidance and advice.
“East West Bank doesn’t feel like a big bank—it feels like they are part of our team,” Schmidt adds.