Church & State–An Excellent L.A. Restaurant!

I was at Church & State in Downtown Los Angeles for the first time this past Thursday, and enjoyed one of the finest meals I have had in a long, long time. Food, wine, service and ambience were all clicking at this bustling French bistro. The neighborhood felt like Manhattan, particularly TriBeCa or the Meatpacking District. This isn’t the downtown framed by skyscrapers; it’s what I would, for the lack of a better name, call the southeast portion of Downtown LA. (Does anyone have a label for this interesting area?)

The chef is Walter Manzke, formerly of Bastide and Patina. If it’s not his day off, you will surely see him in the open kitchen and he frequently wanders out into the dining room. I was fortunate to shake his hand when he dropped by our table. He’s a charming,  unpretentious guy who easily transitions between orchestrating the magic in the kitchen and schmoozing customers at their tables.

The menu contains a delicious offering of Hors D’Oeuvres, Pots de Macon, Salades, Tartes, Charcuterie, Plats Principaux, Fromage, and Desserts. It’s a menu built for sharing, and you will certainly want to experience as much as possible. The entrees are available in both regular and small (petite assiette) portions, which makes the entire collection even more conducive to exploration. Some of my favorite dishes were the Gambas à la Grenobloise (Santa Barbara spot prawns, brown butter, lemon, capers) the Tarte de Saumon Fumé (smoked salmon, leeks, lemon crème fraiche), and the Loup de Mer (Sea bass, chanterelle mushrooms, red flame, and Thompson seedless grapes). The salmon tart, done Alsatian style, was particularly good and was a generous portion. We didn’t order them, but I hear the Oreilles de Cochon (Crispy pig’s ears, sauce bearnaise) are also tasty.

Sommelier, Josh Goldman, has built a wine list comprised of all French gems at reasonable prices for both glass pours and bottles. We enjoyed a glass of Huber & Bléger NV Brut Rosé, a delicious sparkler made in Alsace from Pinot Noir. They also pour sparklers from the Loire Valley (chenin blanc, cabernet franc) and Beaujolais (gamay). 21 other white, rosé and red wines are poured, and 35 additional wines are available by the bottle (only five selections are over $100 and most are in the $30 to $70 range). It’s  obviously not a huge bottle list, but there is an excellent pairing for every item on the menu and something for all palates. The selections are admittedly quite geeky, but varietals are listed for each wine, and there are plenty of Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs, Cabernet Sauvignons and Merlots to keep everyone happy. I appreciated the more esoteric appellations that use grapes like tannat, gros manseng, picpoul blanc, and poulsard. Additionally, I am always a fan of any list that contains three food-friendly chenin blancs from the Loire Valley: Montlouis, Vouvray, and Savennieres, for $40, $42 and $45, respectively.

The service is smart, engaging and efficient. Our server was prepared to expertly describe everything on the menu and his suggestions were greatly appreciated.

I’m already looking forward to my next trip to Church & State. I highly recommend it. (213) 405-1434

~ by Thomas on August 23, 2009.

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