Just relaxing on an islet in the Caribbean

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Church & State

In my last email restaurant review, I noted that I would 'not bore' you with the details of my upcoming multi-course meal at Church & State restaurant. Well, boys and girls, I must retract that comment! Not sharing my out-of-this-world dining experience with you would be just plain selfish. Besides, many of you have asked for a review of this particular restaurant and requested that I "keep 'em coming". Holy goodness...where do I start?!? I guess I will begin by telling you that at 4:30 a.m. this morning I had a food hangover and major gastric distress (yep, expected it and worth every gut pain). Yikes!!!

Church & State is located in the old Nabisco Biscuit Company building in an industrial section of Los Angeles and specializes in French bistro food. The restaurant is designed as a very rustic, industrial style eatery with an open kitchen and Chef Walter Manzke at the helm as Executive Chef. To appreciate my review of this amazing restaurant, you must first understand who the executive chef is. For those how have no knowledge of Chef Walter Manzke he is an excellent chef who has mastered the art of French cuisine. Chef Walter was one of only two Americans "allowed" to study and hone his culinary skills working at the world renown Louis XV ("Louis Cannes", as referred to by those in the know) restaurant in the Hotel de Paris in Monaco (I was fortuante to have dined there!). Folks, please understand Louis XV chooses only 2 Americans a year to enter into their world of gastronomic greatness.

Orange County and Los Angeles, welcome Chef Walter, formerly executive chef at Patina (LA), Bastide (LA), Bouche (Carmel), Auberge de Carmel (Carmel) and Cantinetta Luca (Carmel). I am proud to say he is a dear friend and mentor to my daughter Monica and each and everytime he cooks for us he treats us like royalty creating special dishes not on the regular menu...and, last night was no exception. The 6 diners in my party arrived at 8:00 and were seated immediately.

Please be aware that bistro style eateries are normally extremely casual, loud and can be crowded so go prepared to sit amongst loud diners family style. No intimate booths at this restaurant. Chef Walter greeted us immediately and his sweet wife, Margarita (also a fabulous pastry chef), waited on us throughout the evening. Guys, we had 15 tasting courses plus dessert (decadent to say the least)! Oy vey...the fat and calories. Weight Watcher's take me away!! I won't go into detail about everything we tasted but I will share with you my favorites and the most interesting items on the menu. Out tasting menu:

Kumomoto Oysters - Diced shallots, red wine vinegar and cracked pepper
Tartine au Crabe - Crustini, Dungeness crab, mushroom duxelle (puree), celery remoulade (celery root chiffonade)
Tartine au Oursin - Crustini, fresh sea urchin and Castelas olive oil
Gambas a la Grenobloise - Live Santa Barbara spot prawns, white wine garlic butter sauce
Hamachi Cru - Yellowtail sashimi, blood orange, piment d'Espelette (red chili pepper from the Basque region), fleur de sel, lime rind
Coureau - Fresh razor clams, escargot butter, herbs
Assiette de Charcuterie - Selection of artisan and house made pates, terrines and saucisson sec

Tarte de Brie - Oven-dried red flamed grapes, bacon, brie cheese
Escargots de Bourgogne - Grain feed snails baked with a puff pastry topping and garlic butter parsley

Oreilles de Cochon - Crispy pig's ears, sauce bearnaise
Salad Frisee aux Lardons - Soft poached egg, warm bacon vinegarette w/pigs feet terrine breaded in panko
Turnedo Rossini - Prime beef filet, foie gras, black truffle
Cassoulet du Toulouse - Duck confit, pork belly, sausage, white beans
Gratin de Macaronis et Fromage - Mac N Cheese
Pommes au Lard - Pomme frites, aioli

Profiteroles - Banana ice cream, chocolate-hazelnut sauce
Pot de Creme au Chocolat - Chocolate, hazelnuts, caramel
Creme Brulee - Caramelized vanilla custard
Croustade aux Pommes - Warm apple crisp, vanilla ice cream

So, there you have it...our grand tasting menu. That did not include the cocktails and 4 bottles of wine we all shared (ah wine, nectar of the gods...another blog altogether). They have a full bar and my tradtional pre-dinner Vodka Martini was ice cold shaken to perfection...yummy!

I will comment on my favorites and what I believed to be the most interesting:

The Tartine du Oursin was wonderful. Crustini toast rounds were topped with fresh sea urchin and a velvety Castelas olive oil drizzle. The sea urchin was so fresh and sweet you could taste the ocean in every bite. Just splendid! I am sure the Gambas a la Grenobloise had Long John Silver flipping over in his grave. These shrimp were amazing and it was my favorite dish of the evening. The gambas were split half length-wise then topped with a delicious white wine and garlic butter sauce. Gambas a la Grenobloise was the best shrimp I have ever tasted...seriously! An item one does not see very often in restaurants is razor clams. The clams were extremely fresh and served whole on your plate with the shells split then drizzled with escargot butter and fresh herbs. They were a little sweet so the escargot butter was a great balance of sweet and savory. The Crispy Pig's Ears are not for the faint of heart nor advised for diners with a sensitive palette! Although they were served with a side of béarnaise sauce, one of my dining partners said she thought them to be rather pungent, smelling of a pig sty having the consistency of gelatinous goo. As you can imagine, she did not care for them. In spite of, my other dining partner could not eat enough of them as he dipped his crispy ears in the accompanying velvet mixture of bearnaise sauce. To each his own, right?? The Gratin de Macaronis et Fromage (mac-n-cheese) was not as creamy as I would have liked and had a thinner consistency than the traditional American mac-n-cheese (well, after all, it is a French bistro). The Pommes Frites were cooked in duck fat and had an outstanding flavor. I highly recommend them.

Of the desserts, the Pot de Crème au Chocolat had to have been the most delicious and the richest in flavor of all the desserts. This divine pot of sweetness consisted of a rich chocolate pudding layered with salty caramel and hazelnuts. All I can say is I tried one small spoon and could taste no more. It was deliciously sumptuous but my tongue begged for a break (personally, I am not a huge fan of very sweet desserts). Alas, I could take no more. For all you gooey chocolate lovers out there...this is your dessert!

In conclusion, Chef Walter and staff have done an outstanding job of bringing bistro style French food to Los Angeles. The food is heavenly!! Kudos to Chef Walter and I hope one day you can experience his culinary greatness.

Church & State
1850 Industrial Street
Los Angeles, CA 90021
(213) 405-1434
Open 7 days a week (lunch weekdays)
$$$ (great price point)


  1. Amazing review!!! It's as if I was there...oh wait.....

  2. Hey Monica! I cannot imagine experiencing that heavenly meal without you...with your sophistacted palate and love for fine food and wine! May we enjoy many more together.

    Patty P.

  3. Thanks Ma!! Love you and remember that without you and Saul, I wouldn't be this person!!