Friday night and I had rounded up the dinner squad for an evening at STK, a modern steakhouse and party lounge hybrid in Toronto’s flashy Yorkville district. As you arrive, it’s hard not to miss the large sign – three, glowing alphabets glistening against a shiny black facade. A duo of well-suited bouncers usher me in as if I’m a regular here. Clearly, I look the part. They don’t see the confusion on my face as I try to discern if I head up the winding stairs or go around the corner. What is this – a restaurant or a nightclub? I play it cool and head up the stairs. Good call.
At the top, a bevy of attractive hostesses are trying to accommodate three diners with no reservations. They immediately pause and acknowledge me, which only further fuels my now-elevated sense of self-worth. As I’m escorted past this trio of rookies, I find myself sashaying to the low thumping beats of club music…shoulders back, head held high, floating in an air of entitlement.
Thank goodness my squad’s here to keep me grounded.
Nope, too late. They’re already seated, glasses of golden bubbly in hand.
I’m discovering the essence of STK – it’s a place to see and to be seen.
It’s 6:30pm and the restaurant is already teeming with well-heeled diners. I won’t lie – the space is sexy. It’s chic, ultra-modern and perfect for a business meal or special occasion. The availability of several round booths and banquette seating also makes it an ideal venue for large groups – a bit of a rarity with fine-dining restaurants in Toronto.
I find myself suitably impressed with the seared foie gras starter – it boasts a texture of alluring silkiness blended with a mild kick of ginger gastrique. The tuna tartare, as my friend Gastroworld best described it, was “boring but respectable”, and left a little more to be desired.
But we’re here for one thing … and that’s the meat.
We opt for the $150 dry-aged 28oz porterhouse, the “king of steaks” known for its combination of the NY striploin and tender filet mignon. The steak is an admirable chunk of beef, but is served more cooked than the ‘medium rare’ we ordered. It arrives pre-sliced and the temperature is noticeably uneven. The meat has a soft blandness that may appease those who like their beef buttery, but will leave fans of dry-aged steaks a little dissatisfied.
STK is a likable addition to the Toronto steakhouse scene, fitting perfectly into the swank environs of its home neighbourhood. But it must be careful not to rest on the laurels of its global acclaim and perhaps work a little harder to carve its own niche in this unforgiving market.
One final word on branding: enough with the sexist contradictions already. STK’s tagline, “Not Your Daddy’s Steakhouse”, presumably implies that women can love their meat and eat it too. Browse their Instagram account and you’ll find lots of young women enjoying the STK life. Ironically though, most of them are not eating (let alone eating steak), but the drinks definitely seem to be flowing strong.
So much for trying to appeal to meat-loving women. Clearly, this isn’t the meat market I was really, really hoping it would be.
Visit: STK Toronto for information.
Address: 153 Yorkville Ave, Toronto, ON M5R 1C4, Canada
Hours: Sun-Wed 5pm-11pm; Thu-Sat 5pm-12am