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Nick & Stef's Steakhouse -- Los Angeles, CA
Wells Fargo Center
330 S. Hope Street
Los Angeles, CA
Date of Visit/Class: 05 March 2005
OVERALL EXPERIENCE (5 is Best)
So one night, very bored, I am sitting in some nameless hotel room in some equally nameless city, cruising restaurant web sites. (I amuse rather easily.) I read on the web site for the Patina Group that several of their restaurants offer Saturday morning cooking classes. So I decided that the Chief Meat Inspector and I needed to attend the class at Nick & Stef's, the Patina Group's signature steakhouse in downtown Los Angeles. The class schedule runs from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm, and is billed as "hands-on". The class fee also includes lunch.
The note on the closed front door of Nick & Stef's informed cooking school students to walk around to the kitchen entrance. I knew we were off to a good start! Greeting us in the kitchen was Steve Mayer, General Manager of Nick & Stef's. Steve said that there would be five in the class today and introduced us to the other student who was there. (The last two students would be about 30 minutes late.) He then offered coffee and pastries and talked about the restaurant a bit.
After an introduction, we were joined by Jason Balestrieri, the new Nick & Stef's Executive Chef. Jason outlined the schedule for the day. As he gathered items that would be needed for the class, Steve took us on a tour of the restaurant and the outside of the impressive dry ageing room. After the tour and our return to the kitchen, Steve demonstrated the preparation of the Nick & Stef's Caesar Salad.
The next two hours were spent in a variety of activities. These included an in-depth tour of the entire kitchen and dry-ageing room. We learned while inside the dry-ageing room that it takes about three to four weeks to dry-age a strip steak. And there is considerable loss of product during this process. For example, what starts out as a 20-pound "slab of Dead Cow" ends up as about 7-pounds of dry-aged strip steak. Other morning activities included the selection of the meat for lunch (we voted for the dry-aged New York strip), preparation of the beef, and making creme brulee. The class then assembled in the private dining room to individually prepare our own Caesar Salad. That was the first course of our lunch. The salad was accompanied with a very nice sauvignon blanc, whos origin, sadly, did not make it into my notes. (Just chalk one up to another Senior Moment!)
The remainder of the lunch consisted of the dry-aged strip steak with grilled asparagus. Two wines were served with the entree. One was a 2000 Chateau Guibot Saint Emilion Bordeaux. The other was a 1999 Belvedere cabernet sauvignon. Both were fine wines, but the majority of the students thought the cabernet was the more enjoyable wine. The dry-aged strip steak was superb with both wines. Earlier in the day, the lady classmate mentioned to all of us that she had dined at Nick & Stef's before and that the macaroni and cheese side dish she had was excellent. So as a surprise to all of us, chef Balestrieri brought out their rendition of "mac & cheese" for all to enjoy. It was, indeed, superb. For dessert, we enjoyed the creme brulee that we all assisted in making earlier in the day. That was accompanied by a very enjoyable semi-sparkling wine from Italy called Michele Chiarlo "Nivole" Moscato d'Asti. Not too sweet and with enough bubbles to make it fun, this was an incredibly enjoyable dessert wine. I usually do not like sweet wines, but this was exceptional. Just the right amount of sweetness to accompany our creme brulee.
We could not have asked for a more enjoyable Saturday. Chef Balestrieri and Steve Mayer put together an enjoyable and educational day for everyone. The experience and fantastic lunch were well worth the $75 per student fee. The downside? Parking. Downtown Los Angeles is not "parking friendly". The restaurant does validate, but we were charged $28.00 for four-hours parking in the recommended lot at the Wells Fargo Center. I do believe that Nick & Stef's needs to address this issue. That is an obscene amount of money to pay to park in downtown LA on a Saturday.
Both General Manager Steve Mayer and Executive Chef Jason Balestrieri are relatively new to Nick & Stef's, but long-time Patina Group employees. Chef Balestrieri indicated that he will be making some changes in their menu and preparation offerings in the coming months. Based on my short time with both Chef Balestrieri and Mr. Mayer, I can only imagine that those changes will be exceptional. They both "get it", and understand what we as customers want. And I am confident they know how to deliver. I will be awaiting these changes with marked anticipation.
Check out the Patina Group's web site. Similar classes are offered at most of their restaurants. I highly recommend the experience. We will definitely be back to Nick & Stef's soon.
ALL RATINGS FOR NICK & STEF'S COOKING CLASS, LOS ANGELES, CA