Church & State

The bistro at the heart of Downtown’s culinary scene

By Brad Japhe

These days, Downtown is the epicenter of the LA epicurean scene—but Church & State was there at the beginning, helping to kickstart the trend when it opened as the neighborhood’s first French bistro ten years ago. And it’s only gotten better with age. Chef Tony Esnault takes Old World influence for a California spin, plating organic meats and farm fresh fare with impeccable style. And with BBE exclusive lunch and dinner pre-fixe menus, it’s easier than ever to gather a taste of it all.

At lunch, $25 scores you two courses: an entrée and your choice of appetizer or dessert. Keep it light in the middle of the day with the chef’s refreshing green gazpacho—a vibrant puree of juicy tomatoes, cucumber, and cilantro, with a touch of olive oil to bring it together. Follow it up with a masterfully seared sea bream. Slightly charred skin peels away to reveal a flaky filet of gentle maritime flavors. Garden-sourced garnishes—soft corn and umami-rich mushrooms in natural jus—ensure a satisfying meal that won’t slow you down as the afternoon wears on.
For dinner, Church & State breaks out the big guns—a three-course affair with an array of powerful proteins thrown into the mix. For that most classic of French Bistro cravings, the steak frites here is right on target. A grass-fed flatiron steak from Strauss Family Farms is accompanied by a house-made Béarnaise, while potatoes are crisped to perfection.

If you want to explore more exotic flavors, opt for the exceptional lamb tajine. The tender roasted meat falls off the bone at the touch of the fork, imbued with a combination of Moroccan spices known as ras el hanout. On a bed of couscous, carrots, and olives, it’s a savory masterpiece. These probably aren’t exactly the sort of flavors you’d expect to find in a historic, repurposed biscuit depot, but Church & State has sustained its success by serving diners all sorts of surprises. The city’s best three-course pre-fixe is but a feather in its fine French cap.

BlackboardEats exclusive lunch and dinner pre-fixe

Two-course lunch ($25 per person)
Choice of appetizer or dessert and entree

Appetizer
Green gazpacho—tomato, cucumbers, cilantro, crostini, olive oil
or
Bibb lettuce salad with fine herbs, shallots, Parmesan, and red wine vinaigrette

Entrée
C&S ratatouille—eggplant, zucchini, tomato, soft poached egg, and basil pesto
or
Black sea bream with potatoes, corn, mushroom, chives, and natural jus
or
Mary’s chicken breast with vadouvan curry, couscous, tomato, carrots, olives, and lemon confit

Dessert
Lemon verbena tart with almond pâté sucrée, Italian meringue, and lime zest

3-course dinner ($49 per person)
choice of appetizer, entree, and dessert

Appetizer
Green gazpacho—tomato, cucumbers, cilantro, crostini, olive oil
or
Kingfish crudo with pickled shallot, baby cucumber, sumac yogurt, micro herb salad

Entrée
C&S ratatouille—eggplant, zucchini, tomato, soft poached egg, and basil pesto
or
Black sea bream with potatoes, corn, mushroom, chives, and natural jus
or
Lamb tajine with vadouvan curry, couscous, tomato, carrots, olives, and lemon confit
or
Steak frites—Strauss Family Farms grass-fed flatiron steak, French fries, and sauce Béarnaise ($8 supplement)

Dessert
coffee or tea with a choice of:
Lemon verbena tart with almond pâté sucrée, Italian meringue, and lime zest
or
Valrhona chocolate mousse with blackberry coulis and candied cacao nib

hours

Dinner: Sun, Tue–Wed 5:30 PM–9 PM; Thu 5:30 PM–9:30 PM; Fri 5:30 PM–10 PM; Sat 5:30 PM–11 PM
Lunch: Tue–Fri 11:30 AM–2:30 PM

price range

$12 (omelette) to $35 (steak frites)
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