ADVENTURES IN LA LA LAND – CHURCH AND STATE

There was a time when I was in touch with trendiness, when I could rattle off the latest in jeans, shoes and clothes brands, hip bars, clubs and restaurants – all that information just seemed to come to me, probably because I worked with people who set trends. Nowadays, it’s all too much of an effort to keep up and I rely on those girlfriends who are still avid magazine readers or the odd piece of information that comes my way. Even trendy restaurants don’t much hold my attention any longer. Definite sign of aging.

But with my hip younger sister in town, I did want to make an effort and take her to where she could mingle, or at least see, other fellow beautiful and self-possessed people (not that she is self-possessed, just younger). It had to be downtown as the Westside lost any patina of trendiness a decade ago and we had already scoured Hollywood. So last Friday, wearing our best jeans, and leaving the matriarch behind to watch the Lakers, sis and I navigated our way to the fringes of downtown and, getting lost only once in a neighbourhood where getting lost might not be a pro, we landed on Industrial Street, where an 8:15 reservation at Church and State was awaiting.

We didn’t have to contend with a pricey valet. Industrial Street is on the dodgy side of downtown and parking is aplenty. Despite the restaurant being already filled to the brim, our table was ready – none of that “it will be a few minutes before your table is ready and would you like to have a drink at the bar (for the next half hour)?” business. The positively weird maitre d’ apologized for the 30 seconds we were left waiting while he was fumbling with menus. Still in the pros category, the cocktails were amazing. Our server suggested L’aeropostale, a take on a mojito but not as sweet (with Chartreuse as an added ingredient) and absolutely spectacular. I could go back just to have it again. The restaurant is located in a former Nabisco factory, one of those lovely downtown buildings that are being transformed in pricey condos. The beautiful room, vaguely reminiscent of a French brasserie (in keeping with the food being served) has the air of a New York loft and a decidedly Greenwich Village atmosphere – for over an hour, I didn’t feel like I was in LA at all.

The $11 salad we were served was very good (we were wearing tight jeans, you understand) but the goat cheese advertised on the menu was discovered after a lengthy search underneath the frisee and it amounted to a nickel size of it. Still, the Marcona almonds were abundant and the raspberry vinaigrette excellent. The fries were stellar, as you would expect from potatoes fried in lard. Not many restaurants do that but, boy, is it worthy. The noise level, due to the high ceiling of metal pipes, wires and light fixtures is pretty unbearable. Sort of ok, as you are left watching the other diners, feasting on moules or poulette or steak frites – they are the artsy type, with hairstyles and clothes to match. We spent a lot of money for the amount of food we ate but the service was attentive and the place fun. It was a good way to start our downtown crawl that followed – details of which will remain unpublished…

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