Located in the heart of industrial (ie. ghetto) downtown LA is Church & State, a quaint French bistro. This unassuming restaurant inhabits the first floor of a biscuit-factory-turned-luxury-lofts-building—a welcome sight for two ravenous foodies. Walking inside the airy space reminds oneself of a lively New York eatery, sans the communal tables.
Before we had even taken our seats, our server immediately asked if she could bring us a bottle of flat or sparkling water. Notice the key word “bottle,” which equates to “would you like to pay $6 for a bottle of water?” Not knowing any better, my friend and I unwittingly chose the former.
Minor pique aside, my meal can only be described as a starving man’s foray in a desert oasis—I ate till I could eat no more.
They started us with an amuse bouche of lighter-than-air Grougeres, a wonderful concoction of savory cheesy cream puffs.
Next was the freshest baguette I’ve ever had. It had a hearty crust with a fluffy and steaming-hot interior— they must have pulled the bread right out of the oven before rushing it to our table. Magnificent.
We were barely done with the baguette when our server brought us the beignets de brandade de morue. Or as I like to say, little fried balls of goodness. They take traditional brandade, which is a humble French casserole of cod and potatoes, form the mixture into golf ball-sized spheres, then fried for maximum effect. Paired with saffron aioli, these beignets kick traditional crab cakes to the curb.
Now we’re warming up. Our next dish was moules mariniere—steamed mussels steeped in white wine, garlic and shallots with fries fried in lard. That’s right, pork fat. Forget about your diet and what you have been told about the evils of saturated fat. Just dive in because this is one of those life experiences that you’ll never forget and will always remember with a smile.
At this point, I was getting quite full, but our main courses were arriving so the show must go on. My friend ordered the Loup de mer, a solid dish of pan seared sea bass with a caper lemon sauce, while I had the beef short rib a la Bourgeoise. This was the only dish that failed to amaze due to the chef’s liberal use of salt—the tender beef and accompanying fresh vegetables’ natural taste were subjugated by the overly harsh sauce. Even after a redo by the chef, I still had alternate each bite with a sip of water before resigning all together.
Luckily, my friend suggested we get dessert, which ended the meal on a very high note. We shared their strawberry and rhubarb cobbler a la mode and it was amazing to say the least. A tart fruit mixture, baked with a cookie crust, and finished a scoop of vanilla ice cream made for a delightful interplay of textures and temperature. A perfect end to an (almost) perfect dinner.