February 6, 2012
First Bite: STK Atlanta
STK stakes out a lush lair in Midtown
By Nancy Staab
- Photos by Eric Dixon
Delicious, decadent, well-prepared food, excellent service and a sleek setting win over this skeptical diner.
The cynical side of me was prepared to enter STK Atlanta with a dash of skepticism and a raised eyebrow…was this place going to be too flashy/nightclubby, too slick surface over substance, or too flagrantly pandering to the female audience with its overly-sweet strawberry cobbler cocktails and other gimmicks? But our first, albeit early bird (we sat down a bit before 6PM), dining experience at this sultry Midtown eatery next to Loews Atlanta hotel was eminently sleek, sophisticated, tasteful AND tasty. Yes, the décor is more than a little bit reminiscent of a cruise ship lounge with curvy white leather booths and low-slung platform seating; one of the cocktails, Tempest Storm, is named after a legendary Georgia stripper; the DJ booth was already in full operation at cocktail hour; and the crocodile embossed menus read a little bit “circa 1960s playboy club,” but darn if this place wasn’t seductive in a sophisticated way! The décor by one of NYC’s top design firms iCrave is decidedly modern with jagged curved walls, plaster-cast horns implemented as wall ornament, a double-height bar area, dramatic lighting and a glossy black, cream and violet color palette. (iCrave also did the bombastically-fun design at W Midtown). STK Atlanta has got urbane glamour in spades.
Upon arrival, STK Atlanta GM Marcus Marshall, an industry vet, expertly steered us through the menu, as did our officious waiter (black napkins or white? Sparkling, bottled or house (Fiji) water?). As the food and drinks appeared, it was evident that the kitchen was operating as a very tight ship indeed with executive chef Jeremy Miller at the helm. The service, décor and menu may be deliberately calculated to win femme applause as the One Group restaurant team asserts, but their gambit seems to work. And I suppose the thinking goes, where the females flock, the male clientele is sure to follow. In this case the male clientele might primarily consist of sugar daddies, athletes and expense account patrons, who can actually afford the stiff prices, but the food delivers in a way similar to BLT Steak—expensive but worth it. Most entrees fall into the $30-$40 range and that’s before you tack on any sides, sauces, appetizers, etc. Despite the shared focus on steak and the similarity of their consonant-laden names, BLT and STK convey much different vibes (one is old boy’s club, the other sexy, nocturnal steak den that transforms into lounge late night). As Marshall admits, “Conceptually STK is a sceney, vibey place, but if we can also deliver a serious steak house at the same time, we have accomplished something.” Indeed. But if you want to focus on food and not frivolity, go before 9PM. Those seeking a sultry playground, by all means bring your date and stay late. (We heard Dallas Austin was spinning tunes there not too long ago).
An ice-cold White Orchid in a martini glass (a Ketel One Citroen ginger cocktail with white cranberry juice and candied ginger) set the stage for sophisticated pleasures. Up first the restaurant’s Pull Apart Bread served on a wooden breadboard with a green chevril-infused herbed dipping oil that was hardly needed given that the bread was already flavored with an intense and delicious blue cheese butter baked in. The bread was also seasoned with a generous scattering of large-crystal salt on top (a tad too salty). Nevertheless, it was a distinctive start to the dinner. I am sure the foie gras French toast and rice krispie shrimp appetizers have been examined to death by prior armchair food bloggers, as these are staples on every STK menu (Miami, L.A., NYC, Las Vegas) but we couldn’t resist these playful takes on breakfast food and kiddie treats. The foie gras French toast, served with baked apples and light gastrique syrup and dusted with powdered sugar, is an utterly decadent grown-up version of breakfast. The shrimp rice krispies does not resemble the real treat in the least, except for the sound effects. It consists of two jumbo Tiger prawns served in a bowl over rice krispie-like flakes that actually snap, crackle and pop when coral-pink, Asian-esque shrimp bisque is poured over them tableside from a salver. The result is a playful dish that’s not just gimmicky. The soup is both tasty and textural.
Even the serving accoutrements are noteworthy—whether the cast iron serving dishes for sides like the creamed spinach (divine and not too creamy) or a modernist, oval white soup dish for the shrimp rice krispies. Other sides, ordered a la carte and enough for two at $11 apiece, include sweet corn pudding, parmesan truffle fries, asparagus, etc.). There is also lighter fare on the menu too, such as jumbo lump crab salad and a tuna tartare in a plantain-chip shell. It should be worth mentioning here that chef Miller’s most recent post was at Asian seafood palace Bluepointe, so the seafood here should be as immaculate as the much-vaunted steaks. A mix-and-match menu allows diners to customize their beef not only by cut and size (from a dainty 6-oz. filet medallion up to 34-oz. cowboy rib-eye), but also by sauce (red wine, blue butter, au poivre, etc.) and topping (crabmeat, black truffles, foie gras, etc.) for extra charges, of course. This is gilding the lily so to speak. Clearly this is not a minimalist joint.
My filet of beef was delivered perfectly medium-rare, as ordered, with a nice but curiously sweet-ish au poivre sauce on the side. My friend’s peppercorn crusted tuna with wasabi mash potatoes was also flawless. But perhaps the crowd-pleaser was the mushroom pot -pie, a meal in itself, of mushrooms in sherry cream sauce (and maybe a hint of tarragon?) beneath a golden domed crust that’s fun to crack open. Thankfully the pot-pie is delicate--not overly rich. Kiddy thrills and sensual delights continue with the dessert menu: cheesecake lollipops, mini ice cream cones, etc. We will have to return to sample desserts and much more on the menu, but the initial food foray at STK was impressive. It will be interesting to see how the restaurant’s flush, bubble economy vibe and decadence will play out in our economically challenged environment, but maybe a dose of escapist glamour and indulgence is just what the doctor ordered. At any rate, it has never been more delicious to be so wrong.
STK Atlanta, 1075 Peachtree St. NE (next to Loews Atlanta hotel), 404.793.0144 or www.stkhouse.com
BELOW MORE DISHES FROM STK ATLANTA