After living in LA for almost three years now (I moved from NYC), it’s quite odd that, in the hundreds of dinners I’ve eaten out, I’ve somehow never eaten at a Patina Group restaurant. I have, however, grabbed many a milkshake at Milk, which is owned by a former Patina chef, however I’ve managed to miss all such restaurants that fall within the actual Patina organization.
Trying to evaluate logically how such an oversight could have occurred in my restaurant repertoire (or lack there of), I blame it on the overpopulation of Los Angeles. There are too many cars on the road at any given time, and since LA is relatively spaced out, trekking from the West Side to Downtown can be like commuting to another country, especially between the hours of 4 pm to 7 pm. Yuck.
I guess not alllll Patina restaurants are downtown, but the most notable are including Patina, Pinot Bistro, Zucca Ristorante, Kendall’s Brasserie and Bar, and Nick and Stef’s Steakhouse, the latter of which I recently visited.
I am going to start by saying that I am not the biggest steak restaurant fan. I am more into farmer’s market style dining like Gjelina, and I also love love love homemade pastas from restaurants like Giorgio Baldi, but I am down with a good steak here and there, so at the end of the day, if it’s good food, I am in.
Nick and Stef’s reminded me a bit of Craft in Century City because first one needs to park in some huge structure, hop in an elevator, then walk across a short plaza to find the resto. Once inside, NnS’s has a typical steakhouse feel with large comfy leather booths, a long leather banquette, and a large V-shaped bar that extends into the main dining area. The room is defined by clean shades of brown, beige, and cream, which makes it seem both modern (in a steakhouse kind of way) and sterile at the same time.
One of the cool things about NnS’s is that the restaurant dry-ages its own prime and certified-Angus meats. Guests can tour the “aging room” (which is made from glass so one can see right in anyway), which houses $35,000 worth of beef at a time. Depending on the cut, meats are aged for a 28-day period, first encountering a 7-day wet age, followed by a 21-day dry age.
When in Rome, do like the Romans, so I obviously had to go with a steak-related entrée. I also opted to try the restaurant’s new beer pairing (I am hugely into artisanal beers) which is a great deal because for $10 one can try four different rare beers like Mandite, Firestone, and La Fin Du Monde.
I kicked off my meal with a refreshing and tangy tomato carpaccio with capers, frisee, and a hint of cilantro. Considering it’s not tomato season yet, the tomatoes were quite sweet, and their sweetness was nicely balanced with the acidity in the vinagirette and few capers that were appeared on the plate. The acidity and hint of cilantro also balanced perfectly with the yeasty-sweet Leffe blonde that was served alongside.
It just so happens that I am a sucker for pork belly, so I had to try the braised pork belly that was layered beneath an artichoke heart and scallop, flecked with roasted corn kernels and roasted cherry tomatoes. Unfortunately, the pork belly wasn’t my favorite, I felt it was a bit dry and bordering on the bland side, but the slightly bitter artichoke worked nicely with the sweet corn and acidic tomatoes, and also paired well with the sweetness in the pork. The dish as a whole really complimented the next beer, which was La Fin Du Monde, a triple fermented golden ale (aged in bottle) out of Quebec. This beer was my favorite out of the four I tried, and this malty, creamy beer smoothed over the hint of bitterness in the scallop and artichoke.
As a meat option, I opted to try the slow Black Angus glazed short rib. This chocolate brown chunk of meat was a dream come true, unctuous in the right kind of way, so soft that I didn’t even need a knife to cut it, and jam-packed with meaty beefy flavor…a definite winner (though I wished the glaze was a touch less salty). It was also served with extra buttery mashed potatoes and my motto is “butter makes it better” (actually I just made that up right now but I do really love butter), so I was thrilled with this dish as a whole. I tried a really interesting beer called Maudite (aka “the damned one” in French), and for some reason every time I sipped it, it kept reminding me of red clay, not that I’ve ever consumed red clay, but I think the earthy herbal complexness of the beer made me think that.
I do believe there is always room for dessert, so I tried NnS’s most popular dessert item, the bread pudding. It was definitely yummy, although it was crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside, I think the chef could have upped the soft/creamy factor even more. I tend to be a big fan of challah bread pudding because challah is so light and rich that it really absorbs the custard nicely and makes a bomb bread pudding! Anyway, I did enjoy the one I was served with a small puddle of caramel on the side a dollop of freshly whipped cream. This last course was paired with Maredsous, another Belgian-style ale (all the beers I tried were Belgian-style ales- my favorite type of beer outside of sour beer), and I would say that this beer worked more than it didn’t work with the dessert course. It reminded me a bit of a Flemish-style beer, which tends to be a bit sour (I love that), and the caramel notes in the beer paired with our dessert.
A lot of the restaurants I try, I wouldn’t revisit. I would, however, come back to Nick and Stef’s because the food supersedes traditional steakhouse fare, and the hints of farmer’s market veggies that grace certain dishes bring an element of California freshness that I love. I also love the fact that this restaurant has taken an interest in atypical beers, and has really assembled a nice collection of beers unavailable in most traditional steak spots. All in all, if you are in the downtown area working or catching a show and in the mood for an upscale steakhouse with some fun twists, Nick and Stef’s is a great dining option.
Nick and Stef’s Steakhouse
330 S. Hope St