So, I met the Zoub at Church & State for dinner last week. As a Francophile, I’m always up for French cuisine. Church and State is downtown on Industrial Way, at the base of the Biscuit Factory Lofts. It’s definitely somewhat of a commitment, since there’s not much of anything nearby. Although, I have been to Tony’s Bar around the corner which is a pretty fun dive bar with a ping-pong table. But that’s a different story.
I arrived a little late and parked on the street about a block away from the restaurant. There is a valet lot just across from the entry, but I’m a gambler (and I’m kind of cheap when it comes to valet). The walk back to my car after dinner was welcome, believe me!
Zoubi was checking out the menu while finishing the last of a flute of champagne when I sat down. The restaurant was bustling with people, the lighting was beautifully dim with rodeo lights swaying overhead and candles on all the tables. Our server came over right away to offer me a drink and a tiny little cheese puff pastry. I asked for a recommendation on a white wine (hoping he would suggest Chablis). “Ding” round one was mine, he offered me the most beautiful crisp, dry, mineral finished Chablis! The Zoub was a little more experimental on the bevies. She was choosing from the specialty cocktail menu! So, with my lovely little Chablis, our server came back with an Armegnac concoction for her! He said it was more ‘drinkable’ than the Panache she was eye-balling, so she went for it.
We had fun looking over the delectable menu. Zoub had a good feeling about everything we were about to get into. Maybe it was because everything was in written in French. Doesn’t “Gratin de Macaronis et Fromage” sound romantique? What about “Oreilles de Cochon”? Merveilleux !
We started off with a ½ dozen oysters. Luna Bay + Hog Island= yum. I liked the little Luna Bays and Zoubi liked the big, creamy Hog Islands, so it worked out perfectly. We even asked for 1 more of each just for good measure. Then we had Steak Tartare, Moelle de Boeuf, and Poitrine de Cochon! The Pork Belly (Poitrine…) was amazing. A tall stack of Pork, drizzled with a pesto of peas, little bits of passion fruit and deliciously tender and juicey, oh la la. Just lovely. I think this is when we moved from Chablis to Sancerre and Armegnac to Panache (beer and lemonade).
The transition seafood to pork to Moelle de Boeuf seemed to be as smooth as the transition from Chablis to Sancerre. I don’t know that the glass of Sancerre I was served was enough to accompany my ½ of the Moelle, though. Imagine 2 foot-long bones brimming with marrow! One for you, Zoub, and one for me, right? Oupf! We each had a smear of marrow on a toast point, topped it with the radish salade, and that did it. I wish I had the nerve to tap one of the 7 divorcees at the table next to us and offered to share our Moelle-a-plenty. But alas, we had to throw in the towel. The mere thought of it makes me feel sloth. Look, I won’t say it’s a bad thing to over indulge your diners with deliciousness! No no no! I will say, that Moelle de Boeuf should be taken in moderation. The portion at Church & State is enough for 6. Just sayin’.
More beef was on its way. The Steak Tartare! This was a lovely hand-cut NY strip done up with a little mesclun salad, cornichons, moutarde and frites!! Yay frites. I’ll tell you, the first time I had Steak Tartare was in Paris. It was simply uncooked steak on a plate. On another plate I was given a vast array of condiments to mix into the beautiful mound of beef (which my friend, Ingrid, helped me do toute suite). I have to say I much prefer this to the pre-seasoned ground beef I’ve been served Stateside. Is it just me? Now, none of this should lead you to believe we did not enjoy the Steak Tartare! Oh heavens no! We devoured it, mustard, cornichons and all! I just wonder what it would have been like without all the condiments mixed in for us. A little more mustard, maybe, and less of the garlic aioli-ish dressing, that’s all. Oh, and lemons. But that’s it. Really!
This is when we both felt kind of, well…stuffed. And we still had something coming. What was it? Oh, we had salads. Whew. I had the lovely Endives et Cressons salad with medjool dates, and blue cheese, which was a really nice way to round out the meal here. Zoubi opted for more traditional French fair a la Salade Frisee aux Lardons, which she was barely able to touch, save for a taste. That was all it took to merit a thumbs up.
Her thumb was actually stuck in a Pisco Sour, but I knew what she was getting at. I had a sip of said Pisco Sour, which sounded kind of weird with its whipped egg whites, but it was delightfully refreshing! I stuck to the Vin Blanc, though. I don’t behave so well when mixing the liquors. The wine list is pretty mind-blowing, so not to worry if you’re a wine-o like me.
If this all sounds like a lot of gestation, then I have done my job well. Zoubs and I were feeling pretty gluttonous, which is why we cringed a little when our waiter mentioned dessert. OUCH. We asked for a moment of silence. Seriously, we were stuffed. But we were both so effing curious about what kind of delectable treats would we get to fulfill that sweet tooth that had developed after all that meat!
Our waiter was considerate and gave us ample time to cherish the empty table, but just enough time that we didn’t fall asleep. He sauntered over to us with a long wooden cutting board with 3 desserts beautifully balanced. A pumpkin crème brulee! A lovely little berry tart! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAND…..HAZELNUT POT DE CRÈME!!! You might be able to tell what blew my top on this cutting board of desserts. Oh My Stars. We both frantically grappled for spoons to get them into this little pot of heaven. The creamiest, most delicious softness of chocolate topped with crispy little toasted hazelnuts dripping with caramel. I’m sliding off of my chair just thinking about it. I didn’t care how far my guts were pressing out trying to knock over the table. I had to get more of this chocolate mousse. We were soothed with little dollops of espresso, which hit the nail directly on the head. If you can imagine a dinner and it’s setting being wistfully satisfying, you’ve imagined dinner at Church & State!
C & S, we love you! You’re big! You’re French-ish! You give us ‘Amuse Bouche’ when we sit down!! And you leave us with that heavenly Pot de Crème Au Chocolat, yearning for more as the days pass. I’m making a reservation right now.
-Amy Jo Diaz
Church & State
1850 Industrial St
Los Angeles, California 90021