“When was the last time you visited a Patina Group restaurant?” “Uhhm, before Patina moved downtown?” After all, Patina Restaurant Group, the first luxury dining group on the West Coast, isn’t going anywhere.
What’s the reason for this visit to Nick & Stef’s in downtown Los Angeles? To celebrate the new menu by the recently anointed head chef Megan Logan. Every celebrity chef’s conglomerate needs an anchoring steakhouse – Colicchio has Craftsteak, Puck has CUT, Splichal has Nick & Stef’s – but not every steakhouse has a young woman chef. Chef Logan, an LA native, groomed straight out of Cordon Bleu by Patina Restaurants, became head chef earlier in 2010. With her comes a sexy Cal-feminine touch that every steakhouse so desperately needs. Think Jar, but in downtown, with a much worshipped dry-aging meat locker enshrined in glass.
First, a new happy hour menu in the bar lounge is introduced. Out of these, the women tended towards the filet mignon tartare, and the men towards prosciutto flatbread. Go figure – women want raw beef, men love carbs. Things are clearly changing. Even the classic steakhouses want to play mixologists, hence the bar bites are paired with fairly innocuous drinks evocative of the ever-so-popular “classics”.
The “Fizzy Stef’s” is clearly the fave; ginger & cucumber is about as ethereal & effervescent as a cocktail gets without actually being bubbly. If you like cucumber in your water (we do), then you’re in for a balanced drink. The Sidecar, listing ingredients simply as Courvoisier VSOP, fresh lemon juice & cointreau, demonstrated quite a bit of sweetness. With strong ratios of lemony sourness accompanying the sweetness, this is a Sidecar meant for a girly man, a sophisticated girly man who orders an kusshi oyster, yellowfin tuna sashimi and sea scallops with cauliflower puree and raisins, grapes, and almonds.
Beet season is mostly over but late season beets can still be brilliant when prepared simply. At Nick & Stef’s, the salad is dressed very lightly with a crisp cucumber vinaigrette, lovely candied hazelnuts and wee shavings of an easy going gorgonzola. Despite a rather disgustingly large intake of beets this season (young beats with pistachio Fig Restaurant, dig it), these were shoveled into a hole full of teeth with abandon.
While everyone loves window shopping for the soon-to-be-served pieces of 28 day dry-aged rib-eye, the seafood at Nick & Stef’s was spectacular. For amuse bouche, a Champagne mignonette gelee topped oyster, the best seasoned mollusk since a previous meal at Dish Bistro in Pasadena, was served. Kumamoto oysters with yuzu & radish was new and is tasty, but has become a bit molten lava cake-esque. Mignonette, while “classic”, can also be manipulated into gelees and granites, with additional components. No one needs to reach for the champagne flute after the slurp, but a J Sparkling Wine from Russian River Valley was paired with the oyster.
The pan seared sea scallops were really nicely cooked, and not encrusted with a thick salt layer as some are want to do. Again, a classic French sauce (Romanesco) is called to duty, but it is not abused, and can be mostly skipped to allow the tender scallop to shine. Instead of mash or another form of carbs, one’s given the opportunity to nitpick through 2 forms of grapes and some almonds with each bite of scallop. Seafood dishes are not a hindsight for the bovine-averse wives; there are cucumber seeds on the scallop plate.
As is with every chop house, sides (mostly guilt-relieving vegetables to compliment the dry aged goodness) are served communally – let’s not call it “family style” unless there are actually Southern Europeans or Asians families hanging around? Naturally, everyone hunts down the mac & cheese first, but the Szechuan long beans is what comes to mind when “family style” meals are being presented. And really, where else will one find Szechuan anything in a house of steak?
For dessert, instead of the ever-so-popular creme brulee, try the trio of chef’s selection cheese. One of them might be a Hook’s 10 year Cheddar, which happens to pair well with a myriad of hoppy beers available at Nick & Stef’s. Yes, a “craft” beer & cheese pairing. How avant garde is this? Think Hot Knives edgy, but with nice table cloth, and a free shuttle to that Hilary Hanh concert at the WDCH.
Nota bene: Nick & Stef’s is presenting $39 multi-course (think a rather large variety of appetizers and sides) Chef’s tasting menu until December 1st. There is also a $39 turkey feast on Thanksgiving for those not interested in frying their own turkey this year.
Nick & Stef’s
330 S Hope St
Los Angeles, CA 90071
Phone: (213) 680-0330
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