We have good news and bad news. The bad news? DineLA ends tomorrow. The good? You still have a day to book at least one more reservation. #Humblebrag time...we luckily thought ahead and have already enjoyed wonderful deals at some of LA's finest restaurants. Nick & Stef's, Downtown's classic steakhouse staple, is offering a 3-course meal for $49; while it's one of the pricier options amongst DineLA's deals, it is undoubtedly a more affordable option than their regular menu and reasonable for a 3-course meal at a premiere steakhouse. True-to-form representations of what DineLA is all about, the menu and total experience are ideal for first-timers looking to sample a bit of the fare without feeling overly stuffed or ripped off. And after the recent make-over that breathed new life into both the atmosphere and cuisine at Nick & Stef's, now is a better time than ever to check it out.
The space is large and timeless; classic steakhouse necessities like large, cozy leather booths and wood tables are modernized with plenty of glass, as well as gold and blue accents. With its new modern twist, Nick & Stef's is still a popular spot for bankers, lawyers, and Downtown power lunches. But don't be intimidated by the never-ending sea of suits (you'll likely see more here than at Brooks Brothers). The staff and service couldn't be more welcoming and friendly-- a remaining relic from a bygone era of steakhouse etiquette.
Though not included in the DineLA menu (possibly my one complaint of the night), we decided to start out with some cocktails...because you can't really have a steakhouse power-dinner without them, right? I had a glass of champagne, which was crisp and a lovely, light accompaniment to the whole dinner. My guest went with the Bourbon Manhattan, which he really enjoyed and sucked down in just a matter of minutes.
Instead of a traditional bread service, Nick & Stef's offers fun, individual-sized popovers. I loved the touch of something a bit unique and different. They were a bit crispy on the outside, and easily broke apart to reveal a fluffy, warm center. Yum.
Despite how much I enjoyed the DineLA set menu, we just couldn't turn down this Corn Soup. In a light and thin broth that was packed with fresh corn and savory flavors, a little bite of lobster and dollop of caviar added a luxe unctuousness that made this the kind of soup you want at every meal. The lobster and caviar added a nice salty, brine to the soup, while the light, corn-flavored broth offset the richness of the other ingredients and made this into a summer-appropriate dish.
Ok, so now onto the actual DineLA menu. We decided to tackle the menu as a team-- each ordering 1 out of the 2 choices for every course so that we could taste everything. My guest ordered the Organic Farro Grain salad as an appetizer. The arugula and farro were a nice combination, both light but not insubstantial. The grilled peaches definitely grounded this dish and gave it a nice sweetness. It was perfectly dressed in a lovely citrus vinaigrette and sprinkled with a bit of cheese. A really nice, light way to start.
I went with the Japanese Tomato, which was a beautiful and delicate starting dish. The heirloom tomatoes paired nicely with the compressed melon and thin slices of cucumber, while the pine nut vinaigrette added a nice punch of flavor to the dish. Another nice way to start.
For the entrée, my meat-loving guest went with the Tri Tip, while I opted for the Branzino. It was cooked to a really nice Medium and very tender, with a great, flavorful crust on the outside: exactly how you would expect a Steakhouse of this caliber to treat their meat. The chimichurri and pickled onions were subtle accompaniments that brightened up the meat.
The Branzino was also nice, though maybe not as much of a standout as the Tri-Tip. It was, again, cooked perfectly, and the crispy skin gave it a great texture. The artichoke cream and marble potatoes were good accoutrements, but were maybe slightly overpowered by the olives (which could've been a bit more of a garnish). Still, a really solid entrée that was light, flavorful, and a great alternative for Steakhouse attendees who maybe don't actually feel like steak.
Few things, in my opinion, are better than a Valrhona Chocolate Cake, and Nick & Stef's version certainly lived up to this belief. The cake was actually quite light, and became molten when cutting into it. Velvety and the star of the dish, the chocolate was tempered by a sweet and slightly bitter rhubarb compote (that was delicious), and an elderflower Chantilly that was a bit floral and fruity, and perhaps my favorite component of the dish.
My dessert was the Poppy Seed Mousse; not nearly as decadent as the chocolate cake, it was a lighter and more savory dessert for those who might not want to overindulge. While the mousse was nice, the stars of the dish were really the citrus fruit salad (sweet, citrus-y, and acidic) as well as the Jalapeno Corn Biscuit, which added a nice savory spice to the dish.
Overall, it was a really fun dinner. While we didn't necessarily get the most indulgent dishes on Nick & Stef's menu (the Tri-Tip and Chocolate Cake notwithstanding), it was still a great (and more affordable) way to sample their fare and get the Steakhouse dining experience. I actually quite liked that their DineLA menu tended towards lighter dishes; if DineLA is all about trying as many restaurants as possibly in 2 weeks, then not every meal needs to be overly-filling or rich. They also accomplished one serious DineLA goal during this dinner: convincing me to come back and try the rest.