It’s no secret that Bunker Hill has seen a surge of redevelopment activity recently. The debut of new housing and restaurants including The Emerson Apartments and Vespaio affirm the neighborhood’s continued role in Downtown L.A.’s renaissance, while the grand opening of The Broad Museum has cemented Grand Avenue as one of the California’s most important cultural corridors. (Click here to take a tour of the new museum and its amazing contemporary art collection.)
For over 15 years, hidden toward the back of Wells Fargo Center, has been a solid, but understated member of The Patina Group family of fine dining restaurants. Nick & Stef’s, named after Chef Joachim Splichal’s twin sons, began its life in 1999 as a traditional, white tablecloth steakhouse ideal for power lunches and expense account meals between law partners or accounting firm execs. Sensing the changes taking place in the neighborhood and the presence of emerging competitors, the restaurant recently emerged from a 4-month remodel with a revamped interior and updated menu that introduces several new items while preserving the high quality steaks and mainstay dishes that made it a favorite in the area.
The restaurant’s new interior is simple and classic with a mid-century aesthetic, expansive bar area, and multiple dining rooms that can be customized for different types of gatherings. The redesign provides an atmosphere that feels elegant without being stuffy. The white tablecloths have vanished into permanent storage and thankfully, there are no vintage Edison light bulbs or overly distressed wood panels in sight, a restaurant design cliché that has hopefully gone on hiatus. The menu doesn’t disappoint, offering a solid selection of well executed dishes and some of the best steaks in Downtown L.A.
On my recent dinner visit we started with a three Kale Salad topped with cranberry bean vinaigrette and pecorino cheese. Kale salads are a dime a dozen in L.A. but this was one of the best I’ve tasted. The bean vinaigrette and pecorino add a really great bite to what could be just another run of the mill salad. I then moved on to a great selection of fresh oysters from both the east and west coasts and the main course, which of course was a signature steak.
My party opted for the Tomahawk Rib Chop, which is large enough to serve 3. The steak is carved tableside in dramatic fashion and can be accompanied by a variety of side dishes that for us included: creamed spinach with fried egg, bacon and breadcrumb, orecchiette mac and cheese with gruyere and shallots, and Szechuan long beans with peppercorns. The side dishes were very tasty, but the steak was definitely the main event. The tomahawk was perfectly cooked and easily sliced by the various steak knives were asked to choose from.
Following the main course, we sampled a selection of desserts including the Meyer lemon meringue pie, buttermilk donuts and oatmeal cookies. I found the pie and donuts to be too rich after a large meal, but enjoyed the cookies, which were served with awesome mascarpone cream and berry compote.
Throughout my dinner at Nick & Stef’s, I was impressed by the service we received. Our server, Rocky was attentive without being intrusive and she made it a point to ensure that our dinner was an experience rather than just a meal. She succeeded. In L.A. it’s not uncommon to receive terrible service at even the priciest restaurants so it was nice to feel taken care of by a server who was both enthusiastic and professional.
The new Nick & Stef’s remains a great dining option on Bunker Hill. It’s the perfect precursor to a nice evening out at the L.A. Philharmonic or Music Center and continues to serve some of the best steaks in town. The remodeled space and updated menu combine the best of the old with solid new additions. It’s well worth checking out if you haven’t been lately. — Lawrence Aldava
Nick + Stef’s Steakhouse Remodeled