Manzke’s Back: Arroyo’s Church and State Brasserie

In an earlier post, I had once declared Bastide (under Manzke) the best restaurant in LA.  I mourned Pytka’s insanity at his departure and could only hope he would show up again soon.  I was hoping for something a bit more upscale than a downtown brasserie, but good food is good food and I was confident that I would be pleased. 

The appetizers were so amazing (and heavy) that we never made it to the entrées.  No matter, it was all great.   The restaurant is in the middle of the newly gentrifying loft district downtown.  Sketchy neighborhood, but that does not keep the crowds away. By the time we left around 10, the crowds were growing, not shrinking.  The atmosphere is at once industrial, Parisian, and Burgundian.  It feels French in the same way of the top Westside sushi bars feel Japanese.  A rather distinctive pro-Obama/anti-bush  post-modern Warhol-style portrait has a significant presence on a key wall.  Open kitchen, open bar.  Very cool and comfortable vibe.

Service was friendly, although sometimes spotty and inconsistent.  It’s a bit unorganized but you can tell it will get better.  At one point, I was trying to decide on one of their higher end burgundies, and since they have no Sommelier the restaurant manager and wine buyer helped me sort through the list.  The wine list, by the way, is great.  100% French, just like the food.  The entire list is pretty much under $100/bottle, most under $50, with plenty of options from Burgundy, Bordeaux, Rhone, Loire, and more.  Lots of options by the glass.  This kind of menu really encourages you to experiment.  We had actually brought a bottle ($15 corkage) and opted not to open it because the list was so interesting. 

The menu was small, but perfect Brasserie.  This was the restaurant I wish they had when I was in Burgundy.  (Burgundy ONLY has upscale dining, unlike Paris.)  We just couldn’t get past the starters.  We shared 5:

Moules Mariniere: Mussels, white wine, pommes frites, aioli.  

These were some of the best mussels I have had in many years.  They had no fishiness at all, and the buttery, flavorful sauce just begged to be sopped by the accompanied crouton.  The fries were fried in pork fat (the new duck fat?) and were perfect, even down to the whipped aioli dipping sauce. 

Escargot de Bourgogne: Snails baked in garlic and parsley butter.  (The menu does not say but each snail was in an individual ramekin and served en croute with puff pastry.   $12

Again, extremely fresh and mildly flavored snails in a butter sauce.  This dish was so rich we just could not do it justice.  It needed to be split over more people. 

Steak Tartare: Hand cut fillet, cornichons, mesclun salad $14

When it comes to steak tartare, we hold  all of it up to the “Max” standard.  Max is our friend from Montreal who used to prepare it in his family’s restaurant.  He has prepared it for us on a few occasions.  I have never had it as good before or since, including a number of Michelin starred restaurants in France.  So when I say that this was a reasonably close 2nd, that is actually a very nice compliment.  For our palate, it could have been chopped a bit courser as it was a tad mushy in texture, and it had a bit too many capers which hid the meat a bit.  A shame, as the quality of the fillet was obviously top-notch.  It is also worth mentioning that the vinaigrette on the mesclun salad was beautiful  – the perfect ratio of acid and oil, and the olive oil used was spectacularly smooth. 

Raviolis des Champignons:  Wild Mushrooms, fines herbs

This dish was the only one that disappointed me.  The mushrooms tasted like they were all white mushrooms.  If there were wild mushrooms in it they were lost on me.  Also, I think at this point all the buttery sauces may have been causing a bit of palette fatigue.

Bouillabaisse: Provencal fish soup, prawns, mussels, clams. $14

This perhaps was our favorite dish.  All I can say is SAFFRON.  And this saffron is not your everyday saffron.  The smell was so pervasive I felt like I was in a field of crocus.  The sensation was both intense and delicate at the same time; quite phenomenal.  And of course the fish again was of the highest quality.  You can tell each fish was prepared separately before adding to the broth as it was all perfectly cooked.  It was not listed on the menu but ours also contained large sea scallops.  It is worth noting that there were two of everything making it very easy to split. 

It was at this point that we sadly passed on the entrées and went right to dessert, as there was one we really wanted to try:

Chocolate Pot Au Creme: Berries, Chambord
: $7

So rich, so mouthwatering.  The chocolate has a high % of cacao, and was European in origin, not sure from where.  I had one spoonful and that was more than plenty for me.  Scot finished every last drop. 

All in all, a great casual eatery with the quality of ingredients you would only expect at a very upscale restaurant.  The menu also has a great selection of salads and tartes ($10-$15) and entrées ($11-$25) as well as items a la carte, cheeses, more.  This is a great place to take a date or a group.  Sample some wine, try a variety of authentic French cuisine, and it won’t break the bank.  This will be a great place for Los Angeles.

Church and State
1850 Industrial Street, Los Angeles

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