Dressed as a 1950s stewardess, Ashley pushed a vintage Pan Am airline beverage cart filled with the makings for a really good Bloody Mary cocktail through the dining room at The Church Key. As she approached our vintage table, we noticed the cart had house pickled carrots, celery, and asparagus in little glass jars to garnish the beverages. Guests have a choice of tequila or vodka to enhance the flavor. Our server prefers tequila in her Bloody Mary, because it’s more flavorful than vodka, and it goes well with the saltiness.
Ashley opened the side door to the cart and pulled out a can of Church Key Bloody Mary mix. In her right hand was a Church Key – a small metal device with a triangular point that punches holes into a can. It also has a rounded edge at the other end to remove bottle caps. She opened the can and poured the thick red liquid into a glass with ice and garnished it with our choice of vegetables.
Church Key is gaining a winning reputation with foodies who enjoy cart service dining. General Manager Joseph Sabato thought up the idea, because he likes the dim sum approach for dinner and brunch.
“Our society is becoming so fast paced. People search for instant gratification,” Sabato said.
Instead of guests waiting for a server to come take a cocktail order or sitting idle while waiting for a dish to be served, Sabato has his staff approach tables after a guest is seated to enjoy an immediate cocktail while looking over the menu. “Guests relax and enjoy the evening when they don’t have to sit and wait.” Sabato said. Carts laden with alcohol and food create excitement in dining at Church Key.
The elegant California modern restaurant also has a champagne cart server pushing a vintage Pan Am beverage cart to various tables for the new Sunday brunch service. Guests have a choice of fresh orange or peach juice in little glass bottles to mix with a little bubbly for mimosas and Bellini’s. After we ordered our sparkling drinks, our server stamped a card and placed it on our table.
A pastry cart followed with a variety of pastry chef Ian Opina’s sugary delights. There were orange glazed buns, cinnamon crumble coffee cake and croissants. Again, our card was stamped to alert the server that we had two from the cart.
The brunch menu includes some exciting entrees such as the Toad in the Hole – a Corque Madame served on brioche bread with an egg in the middle smothered in a Gruyere fondue and topped with crispy smoked bacon. Another dish is the grilled asparagus with a sunny side up egg and the most decadent smoked tomato Hollandaise sauce. Every egg dish should have this sauce. It’s exquisite.
Executive Chef Steven Fretz stopped by our table to check in on us. “Breakfast is my favorite meal to cook,” he said. “I love to be in the kitchen folding eggs.”
Chef Fretz graduated from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and joined the Michael Mina Group. After working at Redwood Park, the San Francisco Chronicle and ARCADIA, he earned the reputation of pushing the boundaries with food and making classic dishes more exciting for diners. He moved down to Southern California to become Mina’s Executive Chef of XIV on the corner of Sunset and Crescent Heights before moving on to The Church Key.
In the evening he is outside of the kitchen inspecting the dishes coming out. He also likes to stroll around the dining room making sure all of the guests are happy and having a good time.
Our server Jamie recommended we try the deep fried French toast with whipped cream and blackberry maple syrup. After eating an entire orange breakfast bun, I decided I had my quota of sweets for the day and chose the Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon. There are two on a plate. Chef Fretz likes to thinly slice the top and bottom of a whole English muffin and place it on the griddle to give it a slight crunch. If you want bacon, sausage, gratin fries, crispy potato cakes, or grilled avocado, it is extra.
As our brunch items were delivered to the table, a friend approached our table and insisted we order the brioche donuts with a brown butter glaze and pool of cinnamon caramel in the donut hole. My husband and I agreed to split one order and take the other two donuts home for later. The plate of fresh donuts arrived with a dish of an exquisite soft-serve espresso ice cream. It was a sweet ending to a fun and satisfying Sunday meal.
Next time you have a special occasion or want to meet a group of friends for brunch or dinner, reserve a table at the interactive Church Key. $$ Open Monday through Sunday from 5:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. and Sunday Brunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.8730 West Sunset Blvd. (424)249-3700.
This article was published in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News on June 24, 2014.