Reflection is my restaurant review series.
Keep this in mind about my blog: Nick & Stef’s is the kind of upscale restaurant that I would rarely be able to eat at without the minor miracle that is dineLA. My perspective is not one of a seasoned national publication writer, but more of a Jim Gaffigan-esque character that would generally shun the title of “foodie.” Food is someting that is and should be appreciated and accessible for everyone, no matter where they’re from or what their relationship with food is. Specifically with regards to price, more doesn’t necessarily mean better.
Nick & Stef’s Steakhouse is located in the Wells Fargo Center, just off the 110 freeway near 4th St. & Hope St. in Downtown Los Angeles. As mentioned, the dineLA deal gave us access to a prix fixe menu consisting of starter, entree, side, and dessert at a discounted price. The selling point of the steaks is the 28-day, on-site dry aging of their meat, appropriately titled “meat experiences.” While these steaks, priced between $63 to $160 on the normal dinner menu, were not included in the dineLA menu, I would guess based on our dinner that they would be excellent.
The interior of the restaurant is chic and sophisticated, but not overly flashy or decorative. Being in the neighborhood of LA Live and countless other pricey eateries, Nick & Stef’s appears to feel comfortable that its food will speak for itself. Our server (forgot to write down your name, so sorry!) was well-mannered and cheerful. During a dineLA experience at another restaurant, my party was kept separate from other patrons that ordered from the “normal” dinner menu. While this may have been a logistical choice, I couldn’t help but feel like that put a small damper on the experience, a subtle reminder that I was here, but not exactly an equal participant. The staff and atmosphere at Nick & Stef’s was the opposite: warm and welcoming throughout the night, like I was eating with family on a special occasion.
The first courses were a simple Caesar salad and jumbo lump crab cake. The salad was seasoned well and the croutons were crispy; lettuce stalk and cheese were used in perfect amounts. The crab cake, though, was on another level – the corn flakes on top were a unique and welcome foil to the soft flakiness of the crab. Think of the world’s-densest-form-of-matter, frozen-burger-patty type of crab cake that make your mouth shrivel and dehydrate on first touch – this is the exact opposite. The texture of the dish was unbelievably satisfying, and was an unexpected star of the evening.
Next were the sides, crispy brussel sprouts in bacon vinaigrette and potato gratin with crème fraîche and Gruyère cheese. I’ve had more than my share of brussel sprouts recently, and they’re paired with bacon-something more often than not, but the potato gratin was seriously appetizing. More liquid than a regular mash, the taste was another homestyle element that just felt like Thanksgiving dinner. I want to also mention that the dishware was gorgeous – the gold-plated bowl handles and muted grey plates were in perfect sync with the of the restaurant interior, the kind of class that typical hipster spots were built to emulate.
Our entrees were grilled, free-range Jidori chicken and a petite filet mignon with mixed greens. Maybe it was the abundance of food preceding it, but the entrees were more than filling despite their apparent sizes in the pictures. The steak was thick, perfectly juicy and paired well with the provided sauce. The chicken was also tender, gorgeously charred without a hint of dryness. Like slipping on a designer suit or a pair of expensive jeans, these are the types of dishes that put a worthy name and price to high-end food.
Appreciation: Seriously, as tasty as the steak was, the texture of the corn flakes and crab cake was etched into my memory.