Dear Mr. Gold:
As I was having coffee at EuroPane the other day, I could have sworn that I overheard somebody who sounds like you tell a young couple that Church & State was a place they must go as often as possible. My wife's birthday is coming up – is Church & State worthy of the important occasion, or is there another downtown restaurant you'd recommend?
–Eavesdropper Tom, Pasadena
Birthdays tend to be as individual as the wives who have them, and it is often difficult to ascertain just what kind of celebration she might have in mind. Some people may crave the loud party atmosphere of Bottega Louie, others the cozy intimacy of the back room at Rivera; some the chile-stewed meats and free-flowing margaritas at Yxta, others the pupu platters and flaming tropical drinks among the tourists at Trader Vic's.
Church & State is a grotty downtown place built into a former loading dock, nobody's idea of a quiet, elegant restaurant, and while the walls may scream, they do not necessarily scream of romance. But Walter Manzke is an astonishingly gifted chef, and Church & State may be the most accomplished bistro in Los Angeles at the moment. From the cured meats, to the Santa Barbara spot prawns, to the cassoulet, the cooking is light, deft and lively, small essays in the key of contentment. So yes: definitely worthy of the occasion. Make sure to order a good bottle of wine.
Church & State: 1850 Industrial St., Los Angeles; (213) 405-1434.