STEVEN ARROYO has a remarkable track record of picking the right spot for his string of restaurants, including three Cobras & Matadors. He's also a quick study when it comes to creating a look for each place -- and his latest venture is no exception.
Church & State occupies the former loading dock of downtown L.A.'s Nabisco Biscuit Co. Building, which dates from 1925 but has been recently renovated to create a series of lofts and this working-class French bistro. "Incongruous," you might say, in a neighborhood where loft dwellers may not feel comfortable walking their dogs late at night too far from the bright-lights, big-city look of this end of Industrial Street.
But what a wonderful find this is in the outer reaches of downtown's arts district. Old subway tiles line the walls. Potted plants define the oh-so-French sidewalk terrace out front. And piazza lights strung across the ceiling of the large space create a festive atmosphere just as much as the terrific downtown mix of people eating and drinking.
It's very early days, and yet the place is jammed, at least on a weekend night. It's high-energy and fun, and the kitchen is working double time, which is hard, because the menu is so large. Church & State proposes everything from oysters on the half shell (served too warm), caviar and chilled shellfish platters to house-made charcuterie, cheese plates and pasta. The menu mostly concentrates on the classics -- onion soup, escargot, steak tartare, duck confit, skate and, of course, pommes frites.