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26 Little West 12th Street (btwn. 9th & 10th Aves.)

TYPE: Modern steakhouse
Meatpacking madness
Trendy dining
DON’T MISS DISH: Sweet corn pudding
DON’T BOTHER DISH: Shrimp rice krispy’s
DRINK SPECIALTY: 230-bottle wine list
PRICE: $70 & up
HOURS: Open seven days a week, 5:30 PM – 2 AM.
RESERVATIONS: Reservations recommended, especially on weekends.

RESTAURANT GIRL RATES (1-10):  5 (average with standout sides)
FINAL WORD: The closest thing to Las Vegas without leaving Manhattan, the food seems besides the point at this see and be “scene” steak spot.

After visiting Porter House New York and STK, two of New York’s newest steakhouses, I’ve come to the conclusion that some things are meant to be
feasted upon in all its gritty glory, the sacred cow being at the top of my list.  Given its location, one could say that STK practically rubs elbows with Old Homestead, a tried-and true steak institution and a pioneer of the Meatpacking district when it was still a culinary and social wasteland.  However, in striking contrast, STK tries to take steakhouse chic to a whole new level, attempting to merge this newfangled genre with a downtown lounge scene, DJ and all.  Designed by Icrave, the posh space is sleekly accented with creamy leather banquettes, dangling light fixtures, black crocodile and a lavender glass fireplace.

Eponymously named STK, the steaks here come in small, medium and large portions,
suggesting perhaps that you order according to your dress size.  Chef Mark Miller, formerly of Steven Starr’s Philadelphia restaurant empire, endeavors a fashionably modern interpretation of American cuisine, concentrating much of his efforts on seasonal salads and fish fare, clearly a female-friendly menu gesture.

At my waiter’s suggestion, I started with the shrimp rice krispy’s, grilled tiger prawns with crushed shrimp chips and cilantro, that supposedly made a “snack, crackle & pop” as a watery and lifeless shrimp bisque was poured tableside (note the action shot to the right).  I’ll just have to take his word for it, since I couldn’t possibly hear a snap, crackle, or even a pop over the blaring music from the nearby DJ booth.  Though I would’ve preferred a bowl of rice krispies and milk to the gimmicky shrimp offering, the lump crab appetizer – a generous portion of unadulterated, fresh crab meat – was worth its $12 weight in gold.

I made a mid-meal trip upstairs to scout out the second floor, equipped with a bar and series of private dining suites, cutely named for burlesque stars, like “The Tempest Storm” and “The Candy Barr”.  Peeking into the “The Betty Page” suite, I observed banker types voyeuristically eyeing diners in adjacent suites through smoky-mirrored walls, as if engaging in some sordid food peep show.

On my way back downstairs, I was stopped by a table of men, who tried to lure me to sit for a drink.  I was now faced with a dilemna: a drink with strangers or a t-bone steak.  Clearly, they had no idea who they were flirting with, as I only have eyes for food.  After graciously declining, I slid back into my booth just as the entrees arrived.  Pristinely poised on a greaseless plate with a dainty cherry tomato
garnish, the kitchen might as well have put earrings and high heels on this poor
emasculated cut of cattle, though it did fit in well with the
fashionably dressed crowd.  I always order my steaks medium rare, so you can imagine my despair when I cut through it and discovered it to be medium to well-done.  Though I enjoyed the zesty salsa verde sauce, the steak itself was tough and severely lacking in the juices department.  Likewise, the STK sauce, an additional $2, was an overly cloying accompaniment.  An overcooked Maine lobster, soaked in butter, brought me back to summer, right down to the overwhelming Citronella notes.

Instead, I attended to the sides, all suprisingly well-executed.  I could’ve eaten the entire bowl of sweet corn pudding, a savory and sweet pool of lush pudding, laced with cornmeal, and dotted with fresh corn kernels; if it weren’t for the seductive aroma of truffles wafting from a brick-like stack of parmesan truffle fries.  Enchantingly infused with parmesan and truffle oil, these thick potato wedges were defiantly crispy on the outside, undeniably tender on the inside.  Even the asparagus, springy and plump, are worthy of mention.

As the music grew louder and trendy Meatpackers poured into the space, it became clear that STK was rapidly transitioning from a restaurant into a noisy nightclub.  Still, I pressed forward to dessert, which in retrospect, may not have been a worthwhile endeavor.  While the raspberry linzer cookies were pleasingly warm and buttery, the raspberry float they accompanied, was just a glass of fizzy raspberry-flavored soda, doused with almond extract and mint.  Ditto on the molten cake, which unfortunately was only a lukewarm distraction from a lovely mound of chocolate wafer crumble, that added a nice crunch to the hazelnut ice cream.

More of a pick-up joint than a serious steakhouse endeavor, the crowd and the noise level undoubtedly muddle the meal at STK, a sceney spot that might be better positioned for Vegas.  Sleek to a fault, I found myself missing the brash accents and worn decor of napkin in your shirt dining experiences, where you finish your meal with a good cigar instead of a lap around the DJ booth to check out the scantily clad women.

Until we eat again,
Restaurant Girl

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