Church and State (1 & 2)

Chef Walter Manzke’s smile is infectious. Wait, maybe I shouldn’t say “infectious” since we’re in the middle of the H1N1 Flu scare (I refuse to call it the OTHER name because I love my bacon).

Church and State, MyLastBite.comOn my first visit to Church and State, I didn’t get to meet the chef until evening’s end, when I stole a few seconds of his time to tell him how much Peter and I enjoyed the restaurant. During our entire dinner though, from across the room, I was carefully watching him as he expedited orders and finished off each plate in the open kitchen.

Between bites of the luxurious beef short-rib bordelaise and the perfectly baked (and cute) tiny ramekins of escargot, I would look over and see Chef Manzke’s face beaming. It’s almost like I could feel his joy drifting through the kitchen, then up above the beautiful, antiquated string of lights, and finally, smack down onto my plate.

Delicious food always makes me happy, but seeing chef Manzke’s ear-to-ear grin in the kitchen definitely made me more aware of the joy and care he (and his crew) puts into each dish.

Church & State, MyLastBite.comI love everything about this restaurant; the exterior, interior, the decor. It resides in a beautiful, old brick building that used to be the loading dock for the Nabisco Biscuit Company, and the downtown location makes me feel like I’m in New York City, or at least “New York Street” at Universal Studios. I was shocked how nearby it was as well: Door to door (with no traffic), it’s only fifteen minutes from our home in Studio City.

The bistro is casual enough for jeans and charming enough for a little, black dress. But personally, it makes me feel like dressing up in a boho-chic skirt, over-sized hoop earrings and chunky, cork platforms (something I imagine Ali MacGraw wore in the seventies, on fabulous trips to Paris).

The bar sits directly across from the kitchen, and we were seated near the large, front windows on our first two visits, with perfect views of both. There’s an antique absinthe dispenser on the bar counter which reminded me of the vintage absinthe spoons I started collecting back in 2001, when Peter worked on the marketing campaign for “Moulin Rouge!”

I think Toulouse-Lautrec himself would have loved one of the small tables along the cool, brick wall along the back. And just because I want to try a different view of the gorgeous room, that’s where you’ll find me on my next visit. Just look for the platform shoes and over-sized hoop earrings.

Church & State, MyLastBite.com
The entrance
Church & State, MyLastBite.com
Escargots de Bourgogne: Snails baked in Garlic and Parsley Butter, $12 (for 6). We will always order these on every visit!

Church & State, MyLastBite.com
They were SO GOOD.

Church & State, MyLastBite.com
Pied de Cochon: Pig’s feet and cheeks (made into a fritter cake), lentils, frisee aux lardons with a poached egg on top, $9. My FAVORITE dish so far! (Pied de Cochon means “pig’s foot” in French)

Church & State, MyLastBite.com
Tarte Flambée: Caramelized onions, Bacon, Gruyère cheese, $11. I love thin pizza crusts, and this was perfection.

Church & State, MyLastBite.com
Steak Frites: French fries, Sauce Béarnaise. Classic and DELICIOUS, we got the smaller “Petite Assiette” (small plate) size for $15 (full size, $25). Note: All the main dishes or “Plats Principaux” are offered in two sizes.

Church & State, MyLastBite.com
The whimsical interior.

Church & State, MyLastBite.com
Oreille de Cochon: Pig’s Ears with sauce bearnaise, $7. Courtesy of the nice couple sitting next to us. Crispy, Fatty, Goodness! (the pig’s ears, NOT the couple!)

Church & State, MyLastBite.com
Our wonderful server/pastry chef Marge (aka Mrs. Manzke!), showing us the dessert offerings for the evening.

Church & State, MyLastBite.com
I forgot what dessert we chose TO SHARE. Instead this incredible plank of sweetness was brought to us by Chef Manzke himself!

Apricot Tart, Pot de Crème au Chocolat, I loved the quenelle next to the chocolate (if I remember correctly, there were tiny delicious bits of toasted hazelnuts underneath), Apple Galette (I think), Croustade aux Fraises: Warm strawberry crips, vanilla ice cream.

I didn’t have the heart to tell the chef that I’m not really “into dessert” (one bite and I’m good). Luckily, Peter is INTO dessert, so even though we were full from dinner, we finished most of it!

Church & State, MyLastBite.com
The bar and Absinthe sign (it’s blurry, you’re not drunk)

Church & State, MyLastBite.com
Desserts and Cheeses in front of the open kitchen

Church & State, MyLastBite.com
The kitchen

Church & State, MyLastBite.com
Chef Manzke finishing two dishes, ticket orders

Church & State, MyLastBite.com
Top Left: Immersion Circulator (for cooking Sous Vide). Bottom Left: Chatting with chef Manzke. Right: Chef Walter Manzke expediting. I wanted so stand there all night and watch!

With Chef Walter Manzke, MyLastBite.com
All Smiles with chef Manzke.

Our perfect dinner was made even better by a chance meeting with Tasting Table’s Lesley Balla (former Eater LA editor). We’re “friends” on Twitter and Facebook, but it so was nice to say hello in person!

Church and State BistroChurch & State, MyLastBite.com

1850 Industrial St
Los Angeles, CA 90021
(213) 405-1434

Website (with pdf menu)

Reservations on OpenTable

Dining Dates:
4/5/09
5/2/09

Mentioned Above:

Moulin Rouge!

Toulouse-Lautrec

Absinthe (about)

New York Street, Universal Studios

Ali MacGraw

More about Chef Walter Manzke (work history)

Beef Short Rib Bordelaise that we had on our first visit

All my Church and State photos on Flickr

Church & State on Urbanspoon

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9 Comments

Filed under Eating Out, Food Stories (written by me)

9 responses to “Church and State (1 & 2)

  1. The pizza looks outstanding, thin crust, bacon and caramelized onions, wow that is the perfect pizza for me!!!
    I totally understand why you would want to stand there all night and watch him creating these amazing dishes, and oh… I love the photo of you and chef Manzke chatting, it tops it all!!
    xo

  2. I am positively drooling! What a marvelous restaurant! I’m jealous.

  3. Oh my, a place I can afford! I *must* go there asap. Excellent.

  4. Nice review, Jo! It looks like a Parisian brasserie or bistro — my kind of place. Will be trying it soon!

  5. I want to try everything. And by God, I will (sooner or later)!

  6. cynthia

    Finally going tonight – thanks for the photos, I’m drooling!

    Any chance you are going to the preview of Stefan’s @ L.A. Farm this weekend? I’ll be there tomorrow (Sat) night.

    • Hi Cynthia, Have fun at Church & State. I just love the atmosphere there, and of course the food!
      Please let me know what you think about Stefan’s new place! Cheers.

  7. Hey Jo, glad I saw this review. I need to get my ass over there before Walter splits. Great job.

  8. Pingback: Mid-Week Romance « Rustic Garden Bistro

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