City Bites

City Bites Insider: Luxe Bistro’s new executive chef modernizes steakhouse fare

Fads may come and go, trends wax and wane. But the steakhouse is a constant. And so it is that as Hy’s readies to close (its last night is Feb. 27), Luxe Bistro has a new executive chef who recently tweaked the classic steakhouse menu to include his own signature cuts of meat, a bountiful family-style sharing plate, and menu items cooked with “more craft and finesse.” Ottawa Magazine sat down with executive chef Nick Berolo and Luxe owner Noah Firestone to find out more about what’s next for Luxe.

Looking for a quick taste of Nick Berolo’s skills? Try his signature stew this Friday (Feb. 5) at the annual ByWard Market Stew Cookoff as part of Winterlude celebrations. Insider info: Berolo says he’s finalizing the recipe for a pastrami short rib stew with hints of mustard and a broth that “tastes like rye bread.”

Luxe Bistro’s team (left to right): second-in-command chef Jesse Skeen, owner Noah Firestone, and executive chef Nick Berolo

In the wake of Hy’s closing, do you worry about the future of the steakhouse?
Noah: Not at all. For a while, the tradition of the steakhouse got lost a little because it wasn’t necessarily on-trend. But steaks aren’t going anywhere, so our goal is to reinstate Luxe as the place to come for great steak — really put our stamp on it.

To that end, I hear you have revamped the menu. Correct?
Noah: We didn’t rewrite the book, but what we have done is work with Nick to make the most of his talents. The menu is all about relatable comfort food that’s made with real craft.

What do you mean by that?
Nick: As an example, I make a short rib pastrami that’s part of the surf and turf. The preparation and sous-vide cooking takes about 200 hours. And for the stroganoff everything, including the pasta, is made from scratch. There is a real sense of pride and pleasure in cutting your own meat and rolling your own pasta.

Special cuts. Three of the new cuts on the menu at Luxe include: (top) the 38-ounce bone-in ribsteak to share; (bottom) the 38-ounce Porterhouse steak to share, and (left) the 14-ounce “Byward Cut” bone-in filet mignon.

You’ve got a few new steaks on the menu. What’s special about them?
Noah: We have a meat saw, which allows Nick to order the certified Angus beef, then cut it however he wants. He can cut it exactly to his specifications.

Noah: The “Byward Cut” is one of the popular new menu items — it’s a bone-in filet mignon. So far, people are loving it. It’s even more tender and juicy than a filet mignon and, because it’s not a regular cut, it’s something you won’t get at home.

And your version of the “sharing plate” concept?
Noah: It’s more of a family-style meal! You order a 38-oz Porterhouse or bone-in ribsteak with your choice of three sides. It’s served family-style, which is a nice way to dine. The meat has been cooked sous-vide to rare, then the chef pops it on the grill.

Nick, you’re originally from Ottawa but were most recently working in Montreal. What’s your story?
Nick: I grew up here and went to school with Noah. That’s how we know each other. I studied at Le Cordon Bleu. I’ve cooked at L’Épicier, Bocata, and Barroco in Montreal. Also the Banffshire Club out west.

All places that know their meat.
Noah: We’re both meat snobs.
Nick: Yes, and there’s an appreciation for keeping things classic.

The Luxe look: lots of brown, leather, and big collegial booths at the back. Luxe nails the classic steakhouse ambiance.
The Luxe look: lots of brown, leather, and big collegial booths at the back. Luxe nails the classic steakhouse ambiance.

How’s business in the wake of the federal election?
Noah: Great so far! It seems like people are having a lot of lunch and dinner meetings. There has been a lot of “power lunching.”

What do the power lunchers order?
Nick: The steak salad, which is made with grilled flank steak, is really popular. And the burgers, of course. I take the brisket, season it, marinate it for 24 hours, then grind it and form patties. No filler.
Noah: We’re also getting more “in-office” power lunching. More companies are calling in orders for their in-house lunch meetings, so catering is becoming bigger for us.

Any specific plans on how to make sure the Hy’s fans come your way?
Noah: I know a visit to Hy’s on a Tuesday night has always been a tradition. It would be great to have that after-work crowd come here. So we’re looking at doing some sort of special. Maybe people come by for a drink and free oysters and fries, then end up staying for dinner. We’re working on that.

Luxe Bistro is at 47 York St., 613-241-8805