Walter Manzke was chef at Bastide until this past May; he left and has reappeared, as of this week, as the new head chef for Church & State. Under his reign, the food and service have changed completely, and for the better. Church & State is now, despite the art-damaged setting, a straightforward and excellent French brasserie.

Take the classic salad Lyonnaise—Manzke’s version is an exercise in care: a perfectly poached egg on pale frisée, studded with bacon chunks and dressed in a well-balanced vinaigrette. “In this first dish, you see Manzke’s devotion to perfect ingredients,” says Hobsons Choice. “Many kitchens have no problem serving the green ends of the frisée lettuce; the portion of the leaves that have been exposed to sunlight. Not Manzke. Only the palest (‘blanched’) portions of the frisée make it to the plate. It is a very simple gesture, but one that is much appreciated.”

Bouillabaisse is also perfect, with a bit of saffron and a touch of anise, “the type of broth that forces you, against your better judgment, to ask for a second order of the complimentary bread so you can soak up every last drop,” says Hobsons Choice. Every bit of seafood was perfectly cooked, “which likely means that they were likely all prepared separately and then added to the broth at the last moment—another simple technique that shows Manzke’s dedication to his craft.”

The best value on the lunch menu is the daily sandwich special, generally some sort of pressed sandwich. On the day Hobsons Choice visited, it was a roast chicken and Gruyère pressed sandwich: “very simple and very tasty.”

There are a few oddities, like the fries, cooked in rendered lard instead of the traditional French duck fat: “making these fries a gateway drug to the temple of deliciousness,” says Hobsons Choice.

Service is now prompt and attentive—a drastic change from earlier incarnations of Church & State.

Church & State [Downtown]
1850 Industrial Street, Los Angeles

Board Link: A Visit to Manzke’s New Church & State w/ pics

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