Church & State: Bringing Culinary Firepower to Urban Brasserie

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The outlying area of downtown’s Arts District was always an unlikely place to find a good meal, until last September, when Steven Arroyo and Yassmin Sarmadi opened Church & State at the base of the Biscuit Company Lofts building. They started with chef Greg Bernhardt, who was producing a consistent roster of brasserie classics, but have since switched to San Diego native Walter Manzke, a longtime Los Angeles chef who built his reputation at restaurants like Pinot Bistro and Bastide, and by launching three popular restaurants in Carmel. Now Church & State has the culinary firepower to compete with the charming urban setting.

Arroyo and architect David Wick enclosed and transformed the former Biscuit Company loading dock. The space now features an L-shaped marble bar and a glass facade that offers 180-degree views of the exhibition kitchen. You’ll also find brick floors that extend from the tiled-over dock to Industrial Street. Overhead, the dining room is criss-crossed with strings of clear light bulbs that cast a soft glow at night.

Cocktail Los Angeles
Our leisurely meal began with the Church & State cocktail, which contained Cynar, Riesling, orange peel and thyme. Cynar is an Italian liqueur with artichoke as the prominent ingredient. Between the Cynar and the thyme, the drink was overpowering.

French Food Los Angeles
Our waiter delivered a basket of French bread, which turned out to be perfect for sopping up Mankze’s sauces. Still, the bread couldn’t compete with the complimentary bite-sized gougeres, warm and fluffy.

French Food Los Angeles
Tartine de Asparagus ($9) was outstanding – triangles of toast topped with a single trembling poached egg that oozed at the tap of a fork, wild Northern California leeks, vinaigrette and diced red pepper.

French Food Los Angeles
Chef Manzke makes two kinds of Tartes Alsaciennes. Flammenkuche ($11) was crisp-edged and loaded with a smoky mass of caramelized onions, bacon and Gruyere. This was true comfort food.

French Food Los Angeles
Escargots de Bourgogne ($12) were phenomenal – ramekins containing garlic and parsley butter, capped with puff pastry and baked. Pry loose the flaky pastry, dip it in the ramekin and spear the butter-drenched snail meat. Eat and repeat. Best escargots ever? So far.

French Food Los Angeles
Moelle de Boeuf ($9) was a roasted marrow bone served with toast and diced onions designed to cut the richness. It didn’t work. The marrow was still way too intense.

Plats Principaux are Manzke’s takes on brasserie classics, three available as Petit Asiette. It was a great idea to offer smaller portions at reduced prices, a concept that really lends itself to sharing and variety.

French Food Los Angeles
Loup de Mer a la Grenobloise ($16) was excellent, a crisp-skinned sea bass fillet with artichokes, green lentils and capers in a light lemon sauce.

French Food Los Angeles
Steak Frites ($14) came with outstanding frites, crispy and hot, with just the right amount of give. Unfortunately, the steak itself was too buttery and could have used a more pronounced sear.

French Food Los Angeles
Dessert plank held three solid renditions of French classics. Crème Brulee ($7) was a torched caramelized custard, nice and yolky, with a crisp cap. Croustade aux Pommes ($8) was a hot apple crisp with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. You can’t even see the dark-as-night Tart au Chocolat ($8). The rich slice of dark chocolate tart was draped with tangy preserved raspberries, but the color so dark it absorbed all the light from my camera’s flash.

Manager Josh Goldman, previously the sommelier at BIN 8945 and the GM at Bastide during Manzke’s tenure, offered us sips of Zayra to end the meal. The 10-year-old Trinidadian rum was outstanding, with an incredible aroma and raspberry sweetness.

Church & State is a winning brasserie with solid food and a relaxed vibe that inspires lingering. If other restaurateurs are able to tap into Los Angeles history in the same way, downtown will be more exciting.

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Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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[…] Write and post your own user review. Make a reservation and obtain a discount gift certificate.Food GPS Church & State Los Angeles, CA February 6, 2009Los Angeles, CA 90021. Phone Number: 213 405 1434. Reserve Table Now. The outlying area of […]

“a winning brasserie”. We need one of those in Downtown. This one is on our “list”. Great review.

I’ve never had Flammenkuche. Thanks for the post!

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