Saturday, September 27, 2008
Church & State
1850 Industrial St.
I am going to give Steve Arroyo's new offering an A for effort during their first week, for creating something in atmosphere, decor and location that so perfectly suits me I plan to be there weekly. Located in the Biscuit Company Lofts, across the street from a busy convenience store and The Royal Clayton's, the Arroyo's choice of address is the perfect combination of slightly renegade (a marginal neighborhood in downtown, close to the produce markets and the strip clubs) and safe (downtown is burgeoning, Royal Clayton's is across the way, and the lofts are starting to fill up).
The dining room was packed last night, all night, from the time we got there at 8 pm til the time we left around 11. Surprisingly, this is kid friendly. Arroyo was there with his own offspring, and several tables had toddlers of various ages. There is an outdoor dining area, and the door opens onto an expansive sidewalk, perfect for kids to blow off some energy doing cartwheels or walk a crying baby. I love this, like I love 3 year old girls with brown curls and shiny red galoshes.
Church & State has a very New York vibe. Most likely the age of the building helps. But the way they dealt with the interior helps as well. They left a lot of the industrial touches, exposed beams, pipes, the usual. They hung strands of lights, used subway tiling, and kept the colors dark and moody which is beautifully offset by the expansive windows.
I adore the choice in artwork scattered throughout the restaurant.
I even love that bathrooms for both genders feature these OG trashcans. Don't ask me how I know this. I know things.
Now, onto the food. We sat at the bar. They had a table for us, maybe briefly for 5 minutes they had a table for us. People just continued to pour in the door. But another great thing about Church & State is that they managed to steal an amazing bartender from Cafe Luna on La Brea. Several people in our party knew her from visits there. She is pretty awesome. Actually, both bartenders were accommodating and entertaining. The bar seemed to me to have capacity to seat about 10 people.
I like the price range here. Nothing would stop someone of average means from eating here on a semi-regular basis.
The wine list is heavily French, which I am still not good at ordering. But I am very good at drinking almost anything, and was extremely happy with this lip smacking Chateauneuf du pape 2006 Chateau-Fortia. I even went in search of this the next day at Rosso's (Montrose/Glendale's premiere wine shop) 2nd anniversary party.
Onto the food...
My friend C has a wild and wacky ordering style. He just starts calling out random things from the menu, "let's try a couple of these, let's try a couple of those" and so on and so forth. We started, I think, with a couple frisee au lardons, one of my all-time faves. It was nice enough. I would have liked more pork, and a little more tang to the dressing.
Next arrives beef tartare. I prefer a little less egg in the egg/beef ratio. I would have liked the kitchen to have used a smaller egg. But the beef was good quality, tasted fresh and they kept the presentation simple. I liked the accompaniments of cornichons and whole grain mustard. The whole grain mustard was almost all mustard grains, with very little mustardy stuff to carry the grains. I loved the texture, spread on a little bread with tartare on top.
D ordered one of his favorite soups, French Onion. What we liked about it: the perfect amount of cheese. Sometimes a soup is overcheesed, but this was perfect. It was a delicious Gruyere, just a little smelly. So nice. We also loved that the bread was cut into the shape of large croutons. You probably know that sometimes the bread is one or two slices of a baguette, and one has to wrestle with this in the middle of the hot cheesy soup. The smaller pieces of bread made it easier to eat, which would have been a plus in a soup that tasted better. This was the saltiest soup I have ever eaten. They could solidify it and hang it as a salt lick in the Fallow Deer Reserve. Once you got past the cheese and bread and into the broth, this was uneatable.
T ordered the clams. These were rather nice, and when I go again (I pledge to try again in a couple of months, maybe week 10) I will order these because they were a succeed this time. Simple steamed clams, not too much broth and some nice grilled bread.
Grill your bread,
For an entree, D ordered the scallops. Quel Surprise! Little frissee on the side, no sauce to speak of. Meh.
C ordered steak frites. The steak was fine, but the fries were just ok. I cannot wax poetic about the fries because they weren't great. Fries can almost always be great. If you are going to have anything, have great fries. Everyone has great fries. To have mediocre fries is just veird. And the steak sauce was, again, nauseatingly salty. WHAT up, back in the kitchen, people? Someone burn their taste buds while tasting something hot? That's the only plausible excuse for this much salt in two courses.
All in all, it was a fun evening. We had great service and a great atmosphere. We were extremely well tended to. I just wish we were well fed.