By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
The STK brand has been around for more than a decade – developed by the New York-based ONE Group hospitality corporation to be the the millennials’ answer to the upscale steakhouse made hip and trendy by sleek décor and a soft (or sometimes not-so-soft) rock lounge atmosphere.
In fact, since the ONE Group opened its first STK (the name is short for steak, as in cellphone messenger-speak) back in September 2006 in the edgily gentrified Meatpacking District of Manhattan, the company has expanded it trendy au courant chophouse empire to include a total of 17 restaurants, five of which are outside the United States.
But it wasn’t until late last year that the first STK opened in Mexico.
And knowing better than to mess with perfection (or at least a model that has proven to thrive in the finicky world of dining preferences), the company’s Mexican partners, Grupo Restaurantero Dinar (owners of the likes of Fogo de Chao, OYA and Umami), followed the original One Group handbook to the letter when they opened their first STK steakhouse in Mexico City, just off the fashionable (and pricy) Avenida Presidente Masaryk in Colonia Polanco, last September.
(Dinar is planning to open a second STK in Guadalajara later this year, and subsequently, one in Los Cabos and one in Monterrey).
But what is that makes the STK brand stand out – besides, of course, the booming disco-like tempo of the pulsating up-front-and-personal music (if you go in the day, when the restaurant is not very crowded, and ask the staff nicely, they will turn the sound down to non-eardrum-bursting decibels) and the ultra-chic white leather and polished wood furnishings in wide open spaces that seem more spread out than the entire state of Montana?
The simple answer is, of course, the meat. (After all, we are talking about a steakhouse here, and, in keeping with the archetypal STK back in NYC, beef is front and center on the menu.)
The food at STK is superb, and carnivores will find just about every cut of quality meat to suit their palate, from a modest 200-gram select filet mignon to a 960-gram bring-your-appetite-and-a-friend-to-share USDA Prime Dry Aged tomahawk (a thick ribeye steak attached to a long, exposed bone).
All the meat served at STK comes straight from the USA, and those who don’t want to spend a hefty 2,000 to 3,500 pesos on a premium cut can choose from the more affordable standard quality beef menu, where prices start at 495 pesos and where topping options include truffled butter, king crab and four-pepper crusts, as well as a tangy chimichurri béarnaise sauce (a happy marriage between French and Argentine cuisine).
In addition to great beef, STK has an impressive selection of chicken, fish and lobster dishes, as well as an exquisite rack of lamb in a yogurt and fine herbs coulis served with glazed heirloom carrots.
There is a wide assortment of accompaniments, from grilled Brussel sprouts and a spicy cauliflower and chillie pepper medley to truffled French fries and melt-in-your-mouth mac and cheese (don’t bother to order two of any of these, the portions are large enough to share between four people).
The salads at STK are also oversized and can be shared.
The kale and hazelnut salad, with freshly diced ginger and radish slices, and a yellow lemon vinaigrette is delightful, and the contrasting sweet and sour interplay of flavors is a great way to open your appetite for the main attraction of meat that will follow.
STK also has a tempting raw bar with jumbo shrimp, chocolate clams, oysters and king crab.
But the short rib-stuffed ravioli in wonton pasta and truffled porcini ragù is reason enough to come to STK, even if it is the only dish you are planning to have.
The dessert list is pretty standard (although chef Alberto Kalash is planning to zap it up with three new additions – including a red velvet cake – in the weeks ahead), and the restaurant has a very decent mixologist on hand to create whatever cocktail suits your fancy.
But going back to the question of what sets STK apart from other high-end steakhouses in Mexico, the answer may well be its unique blend of vibrant elegance and easy-going unpretentiousness.
This is a restaurant where you can sit back and enjoy a fantastic meal without even noticing that there are other people dining in the same room.
As I mentioned earlier, the tables and chairs and king-size booths are so gloriously spaced that they create a sense of seclusion in the midst of an open arena dining hall.
The background music – booming or otherwise – is tastefully modern and the end experience is that of having a private ringside seat in a palatial and aesthetically pleasing mansion as you savor the simple pleasures of a quality meal.
STK is located at Tennyson 117 in Mexico City’s Colonia Polanco (tel: 5280 0858).
It is open Monday through Tuesday from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday from 1 p.m. to 2 a.m., and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m.