A hallmark of a great French restaurant is the bread they serve. Any place that serves mediocre bread (or worse, no bread) automatically becomes a suspect in my book of “Faux French restaurant”. Not only is the bread here marvelous, but the butter is so good that when one of my dining partners spilled some on the table, she scooped it up to get every bite of it!
I am not one of those who try a place immediately after it opens or when it is red hot. Staying power and consistency after the initial passion count in both romance and restaurants. That is why I love places like Il Grano (which just celebrated 15 years of business) and why I waited a year to try Bottega Louie.
Church and State has been on my “go to” list for some time, and I finally made the trek to the literally Industrial street of downtown Los Angeles. The restaurant is in the former Nabisco factory building, and the area reminds me of New York City’s meat packing district, but the food is decidedly and wonderfully French bistro.
The Salade de Mesculn had heirloom radishes and fennel in it and the dressing was a superb vinaigrette. The waitress said they grow their own greens, so this plate is quite literally freshly picked for the meal! If you order their daily $19 lunch Prix Fixe, this can be one of the three courses, otherwise it is $8.
The Ling Cod on a bed of lentils with roasted tomatoes, pearl onions, and a wonderful mustard sauce is now one of my favorite fish dishes in any restaurant in Los Angeles! For $24, this main course is both light and filling enough to convert non fish eaters.
Steak Tartare is listed as an appetizer, but for $14, this is a very nice lunch with a side of greens and fries. The hand cut New York strip loin tartare was one of the best I’ve tasted in over a year, and the portion is big enough to share if you are not eating this as your main meal.
The fries were delicate and crisp, served with a side of fresh mayonnaise.
I saw two nearby tables with the Bouillabaisse, a provençal fish stew made with blue prawns, manilla clams, p.e.i. mussels, fennel, tomato, potato, leek and could not resist. They offer two sizes and I went for the larger one, priced at $24. It was perfumed with saffron, and the soup was “comme il faut” with the rich fish stock, fennel, and leeks blending their essences into a heavenly broth. The rouille topped toast and the perfectly cooked seafood reminded me of my favorite Bouillabaisse place in Nice.
The larger plate is a hearty meal, but somehow I managed to finish every delectable bite of this marvelous soup. The prawns were some of the best blue prawns I’ve ever tasted (and that includes ones I’ve made myself)! Their wine list is exclusively French and very reasonably priced with glasses from $8-$20, so I ordered a nice Rosé from Provence for $12 to go with this seaside Provençal dish.
I could not eat dessert, but one of my dining partners could not resist the pot de creme of chocolate and coffee custard, crème chantilly, sablés cannelle cookies for $9. I tried the cookies, which were wonderful, and she loved the creamy pot de creme.
Finding excellent French fare in the heart of an industrial area is like finding a pot of gold buried in your backyard!