Church & State: No Separation Here
Posted by Austios on January 19, 2010
Usually when you hear the phrase, “Church and State”, it typically involves the political debate revolving around the separation of the 2 things in what typically ends up being our schools and sometimes Corporate America. I am personally a little indifferent to the topic myself, as I am with 90% of politically involved discussions and debates.
However, I am not talking politics. I am talking about food. Specifically, Church & State Bistro, located in the industrial district of Downtown Los Angeles. As is with any restaurant in that particular area, it is a little unsuspecting of a location, considering it wouldn’t be the first place most people would think about having a restaurant. However, with some of the old factories and warehouses being converted into lofts and work spaces, it is only natural for eating establishments to soon follow.
This bistro is simply yet beautifully decorated with dark wood furniture, with as minimal details as possible. I particularly loved the large, floor-to-ceiling pane windows. I actually ended up here with Andrea of LA Easy Meals, AK of I’m Not Lawfing, and Nicola for lunch, utilizing a 30% discount courtesy of Blackboard Eats. The restaurant was near empty upon our arrival for an early 11:30 start. However, by 1 PM, the space was at near capacity. We apparently were not the only ones taking advantage of that deal. The open kitchen lends itself to the diners being unceasingly entranced by the delectable aromas emanating forth. It seriously smelled wonderful, and we were probably right about in the middle of the dining room. I could only imagine what it was like at the tables closest to the kitchen.
The menu featured some bistro style regulars, offering a variety of appetizers, soups, salads, tartines (sandwiches), entrees, and a few dessert items. Instead of each of us ordering our own entree, we opted to get a variety of dishes to share. Almost immediately upon sitting down, we were brought waters and a plate of freshly sliced French Baguettes, which they keep in a basket with a wooden chopping block on one end of their server station.
We decided to get a bottle of wine. We collectively decided to get a white wine and I took it upon myself to choose the bottle. We got a 2007 Pouilly Fume (forgot the vintner) which our server, Joben, described as slightly dry with a pleasant nose and finish. His summary seemed acceptable and decided on that. A few minutes later he returned with proper wine presentation. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, he first visually presented the bottle for “inspection”, opened it table side, and proceeded to first pour (label up) a taste. I gave it a quick swirl, sniff, and sip. I actually really liked it and with my approval, he proceeded to pour for the 4 of us. It was just slightly dry with subtle peach on the nose and palate with a soft finish.
We eventually decided to start with the moules mariniere, roasted bone marrow, a smoked salmon tart, and the “le cachat”, which was a little jar of provencal goat’s cheese with a lavender honey gelee. The mussels came having been steamed in white wine with celery and onions, with a side of pommes frites and aioli in what I think was a very generous portion for $16. The mussels were cooked just right and the broth was perfect to sop up with the baguettes we received at the beginning of our meal.
The roasted bone marrow was also very generous in its portion, being one long bone that was sliced length wise, instead of the “traditional” cross-cut, served with perfectly crispy yet chewy slices of crostini (not pictured). I personally love bone marrow, so this was a real treat.
The smoked salmon tart was good too. Instead of a traditional “pie crust” like we were expecting, this was served almost like a thin crust pizza, with leeks and a lemon creme fraiche. It actually took me to look at the menu to realize there was a hint of lemon in the creme fraiche. Good but not spectacular. However, I appreciate the presentation, being brought out on a wooden cutting board past its prime, with a large yet aesthetically pleasing crack.
The “Le Cachat” was pleasantly surprising. An herb goat cheese with a layer of lavender honey gelee on top. Served in a clamp lid jar, I think we were all expecting actual honey, but were taken aback by the texture of the gelee. My only quarrel with this (and actually perhaps my only quarrel of the meal) was that this was taken immediately out of the refrigerator, so the cheese in fact was still on the hard side thus making it a little difficult to spread. Perhaps we should have just let it sit for the cheese to come to room temp as we devoured our other items, but I suppose you can call it impatience? Despite that, the combination of the goat cheese and the honey was quite superb. Served with a generous bowl of crostini, we didn’t leave one last bit.
We were not quite finished there. One of their specials of the day was a grilled shrimp salad with arugula, fennel, and a citrus vinaigrette and opted to get that. Overall the salad was very good with nice flavor contrasts. The dressing was not overbearing nor too sour.
We also ordered the French onion soup and the soup of the day, which was a rich butternut squash soup with bacon and herbs. The butternut squash soup has a lot of depth of flavor, however it was rich to the point that we could not finish the rather large bowl we received.
Toward the end of our meal, some folks that I and one of my dining companions knew had come in for their own party and her and I ended up staying and chatting with them for at least half of their meal. We had been told by a 3rd person in our party that the chef had these really good deep fried pig ears, however upon asking 2 different people while we were dining, we were told there were not any pig ears available. However, Chef Manzke had come by to check on our table, and as soon as we had mentioned the pig ears, he replied, “I think I may have some actually. I’ll bring some out for you”
I have to tell you, I am very glad I decided to stay. The chef personally brought them out to us and they looked like swine gold. Served with aioli, the bowl of deep fried goodness awaited us. Fortunately for it, we obliged. The pig ear was soft and gelatinous, to the point where if no one had told you it was a pig ear, you may not have guessed it right way. I loved every bit of it and would definitely get it again. I had learned that it is normally not a lunch menu item, but kudos to Chef Manzke for being very generous.
My original party and I decided everything was delicious and worth every penny. I am looking forward to my next meal at this restaurant.
Church & State
1850 Industrial St.
Los Angeles, CA 90021