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Feb 25, 2014 05:48 PM

Finally Got to Church & State: About Time, Too!!

So the Owen kids went to the Loud LA thing at the Orpheum last night, and afterwards Mr. O just wanted to head to Pete's and home. Mrs. O said, "We've been there. Let's try Church & State," and proceeded to ask the tour guide in her lPhone for directions. After a scenic tour of Skid Row (though a lot better than it used to be) and what seemed like miles of ancient industrial wasteland, we found ourselves in an area showing signs of hip habitation, a very inviting front spread, and a parking space right there. The magic thus began …

Good space, occupied apparently by happy people; a young woman in proper bistro garb showed us to a tiny table in a row of them along the front-window aisle, and gave us a candle, menus and a wine list. A waiter was right behind her with tableware and glasses, and asked our water preferences. Mrs. O's sparkly arrived in an expensive-looking bottle, my still in a nice cheap pitcher, and then she ordered a Lady Windemere – Cocktail of the Day – and a nice Burgundy Pinot Noir for me. The cocktail arrived, then my wine in a stemmed fishbowl; I don't care for show-off glasses at all, but it was a generous pour and nice wine. This was followed quickly by a board of very good bread and big pots of butter, and a bowl with a pair of smallish but fine gougeres, those Burgundian cheese puffs. I make pretty good ones; but these were in a whole 'nother league entirely. I'd be happy with a basket of those and a salad! About this time the waiter noted the empty table to my right and slid it over to double our space, just in time too.

Mrs. O had thought she'd be forced to consume some meat just to get fed, but then spotted the two cheese plates being offered, and requested the three-cheese version. I was trying not to overdo it that late, too, and was happy to see their steak-frites could be had as a smaller plate. Neither of us remembers what we were told about the cheeses, but she loved every last smear of every one, and the bread too. I got about six ounces of a perfectly seared medium-rare steak, not sure of the cut but it was just what I'd hoped for, and the accompanying pot of Bernaise tasted as though it had been made just hours before, and probably had; I'd swear that was chopped fresh tarragon in there. The fries – well, of course they were perfect. And plentiful. And they stayed crisp as they cooled off, even when swimming in steak juice.

They sent the cute server around to offer dessert, of course, pert and personable, and after we'd had some time with the menu she came back with the sample board. The rhubarb ice cream that had intrigued us was not available, but an unlisted rhubarb tart was, and we asked for one wedge and two forks. It came with a good big blob of Chantilly cream, also apparently fresh. The rhubarb had been sliced thinly and not cooked to mush, each slice tender with sweet and tart playing off the sturdy, rich pastry. You could say we liked it. I did not lick the plate.

We decided that the only flaw we could find with this place was that we can't afford to eat there every day. While my plate was a reasonable $23, the cheese plate was just a dollar less; the reds by the glass run from $12 to $16, and mine was at the top end. The tab was about $96 with tax, which with the 20%+ pretax tip came to around $115. We don't eat at that level often, but the food, the room, the pleasant service were certainly worth the entry price. We will save up for a return, and probably some more, count on it. I want to go there some chilly night and try their cassoulet …

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  1. They have cassoulet?

    I haven't been to C&S in a few years - probably not since Walter Manzke left, now that I think about it. After he left, I'd read that it had gone downhill a notch or two, and haven't returned since. Your review makes me think we should give it another try. I absolutely LOVED the place when Mankze was at the helm.

    EDIT: Upon reflection, I think they had cassoulet last time I was there. Is it on their regular [winter] menu, or was it a special that night?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Jack Flash

      It was on the regular main-dishes part of the menu. Had we gotten there a bit earlier I almost certainly would have gotten some. However, steak frites is the dish I like to test a French place on, especially one that's been there a while.

      I'm betting the cassoulet will rotate off around May or June. The menus are one-sided, which to me indicates they just come out of the printer, and can be updated in minutes.

    2. Thanks for the update. I've never been myself and was hesitant post Manzke with several downhill alerts.

      Wow, did not realize Tony Esnault is now heading up the kitchen. He use to run Alain Ducasse's first place in NYC. Will need to make an effort to check it out.

      Do they have bar dining for a quick meal?

      2 Replies
      1. re: Sgee

        I don't know if they have bar service or not. Mr. Observant can't even remember whether they have seating there.

        1. I was at the Orpheum the same night! :) It was a lot of fun, but your dinner sounds tough to beat! I haven't been to Church and State in quite some time, might have to make a trip soon!!!

          1. Good to hear it is still a nice place to go. We thoroughly enjoyed our dinner there, way back when it first opened and Manske was behind the stoves.