At The Church Key servers dressed as 1950s stewardesses push a vintage Pan Am beverage cart filled with the makings for bloody Marys through the dining room. The cart carries house-pickled carrots, celery and asparagus in little glass jars to garnish the beverages, along with a choice of tequila or vodka to enhance the flavor.
For the signature element to the handcrafted cocktails, our server opened a can of Church Key Bloody Mary mix with a church key — a metal opener with a triangular point that punches holes into a can.
Church Key is gaining a winning reputation with foodies who enjoy cart service dining. General manager Joseph Sabato came up with the idea because he likes the dim sum approach to dining.
“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 beverages and food create an exciting dining experience at Church Key.
For the new Sunday brunch service, the elegant California modern restaurant also has a vintage Pan Am champagne cart. Guests have a choice of fresh orange or peach juice to mix with a little bubbly for mimosas and Bellinis. 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. The fresh-baked offerings included orange glazed buns, cinnamon crumble coffee cake and croissants. Again, our card was stamped to alert the server that we had two pastries from the cart.
The brunch menu includes some exciting entrées such as the Toad in the Hole — a Croque Madame served on brioche bread with an egg in the middle, smothered in a Gruyere fondue and topped with crispy smoked bacon. Another tasty dish is the grilled asparagus with a sunny side up egg and a decadent smoked tomato Hollandaise sauce. Every egg dish should have this exquisite sauce.
Executive Chef Steven Fretz stopped by our table to check in.
“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 for pushing the boundaries with food and making classic dishes more exciting. He moved to Southern California to become Mina’s executive chef of XIV before moving on to The Church Key.
Fretz carefully inspects each dish as it comes out and strolls around the dining room, making sure the guests are happy and having a good time.
Our server, Jamie, recommended 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. 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. For an additional cost, try bacon, sausage, gratin fries, crispy potato cakes or grilled avocado on the side.
The brioche donuts with a brown butter glaze and cinnamon caramel sauce with a dish of an exquisite soft-serve espresso ice cream 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 Church Key. $$ Open Monday through Sunday from 5:30 p.m. to 2 a.m., with Sunday Brunch served from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. 8730 W. Sunset Blvd. (424)249-3700.
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