Sometimes you just feel like tucking into that classic French bistro dish, the steak frites. In France, the steak isn't usually tender prime. It's typically a flavorful, chewy cut that has to be cooked on the rare side of medium rare to maintain its tenderness. That means hanger or skirt steak — or the bavette, also known as a flap steak. Frites, or fries, should be hot and golden, heaped on the plate or into a separate container. Add a salad and a bottle of Beaujolais cru or Gigondas, and it's hard to find a more satisfying and unfussy meal.
At the re-envisioned Mattei's Tavern in Los Olivos, which dates from 1886, chef-partner Robbie Wilson, late of Nashville, offers a locals menu in the bar. That's where you'll find his 8-ounce bavette with pickled jalapeño-spiked béarnaise sauce and proper pommes frites. Actually, you can get it in the dining room as well or, even better, a larger cut (a.k.a. Mattei's tri-tip) grilled over a red oak fire and served with charred torpedo onions and mounted butter dosed with smoked fish sauce. Pommes frites come sprinkled with coarse salt in a metal measuring cup.
2350 Railway Ave., Los Olivos, (805) 688-3550, http://www.matteistavern.com. Steak frites, $20. Bavette steak, $26; and pommes frites, $11 (a half order of frites is possible too).
Church & State
At this dynamic French bistro in the downtown arts district, Patina alum (and Frenchman) Tony Esnault uses 100% grass-fed beef from SunFed Ranch for his steak frites. The flavorful top sirloin is served sliced and, if you're smart, on the rare side, with pan juices. The frites come hot and crunchy with a béarnaise sauce for dipping. To start, you might want to order the chef's rabbit ballotine with young greens and mustard or the sumptuous roasted marrow bone with a pretty radish salad. And for dessert, of course you must have the profiteroles.
1850 Industrial St., Los Angeles; (213) 405-1434; http://www.churchandstatebistro.com. Steak frites, $35.
I love the concept behind this brand-new restaurant: one dish (steak frites) with a choice of salad or soup for $25. Your steak and frites are served in two courses, so every bite is fresh and hot. The kitchen, however, still has to work out the kinks. Cooked sous-vide and then seared in clarified butter in a pan, the sirloin is tender to the point of mushy and better without the secret sauce. Service is lovely, and the thoughtful design makes L'Assiette feel much more expensive than it is. A bargain. Now if they can just put some chew back in the steak.
L'Assiette, 7166 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles; (323) 274-2319; http://www.lassiettesteakfrites.com. Steak frites, $25.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times