By Cole Casey.
Is it a chic, sexy lounge with theatrical lighting, a sultry vibe and a DJ spinning house music? Or, is it a world-class steakhouse featuring 10 cuts of dry-aged beef, from bone-in filets to a 34-ounce tomahawk? Actually, it’s both.
San Diegans have been waiting for nearly three years for The ONE Group’s revered STK Steakhouse— perhaps best known in the west for its outpost in the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas—to land here. In the heart of the Gaslamp, the ground floor of the Andaz Hotel is now home to the city’s new upscale dining experience—STK San Diego. And, simply, it is phenomenal.
While STK boasts locations across the U.S.—including New York City and Los Angeles—one can also dine globally in Ibiza, Milan and London. The menu remains consistent throughout these locales, but here in San Diego, a significant portion of it is the brainchild of STK San Diego’s Executive Chef David Burke.
When I entered STK for the first time, I was welcomed by a wave of cool, sultry ambiance punctuated by glamorous purple lighting, and modern, upbeat music. (I can only take so much Frank Sinatra in a steakhouse. We get it, guys, Frank liked steak.) Remarkable, contemporary artwork adorns the walls, along with leather booths and picture windows that allow guests to see and be seen by the bustling Gaslamp foot traffic outside.
A brief stint at the cocktail bar found my name being called by the “… Not Your Daddy’s Manhattan.” Thankfully, it was not another tired, clichéd hipster knockoff of a classic drink—far from it. Rye whiskey combined with zinfandel port and sweet vermouth made the first sip a memorable one, and it only got better. STK features a respectable list of cocktail variations, most of which blend the classic go-to libations with a modern edge.
Now, onto the dining experience. Tantalizing, warm pull-apart bread topped with blue-cheese butter is provided first, complimentary. Heroic discipline is required to not eat every piece. It’s the best bread I’ve ever had in a steakhouse.
And, as I knew I’d be eating steak, a bottle of Bordeaux from STK’s impressive wine list was in order.
For starters, I explored the grilled octopus with crushed fingerling potatoes. Braised for exactly one hour and 47 minutes, this smoky, silky delicacy is an experience unto its own—a perfect appetizer to entice the palate without being too heavy or filling. I also tried the wagyu carpaccio with truffle Parmesan crisps—a divine complement to the octopus. Other available starters include sea scallops (only available at the West Coast locations of STK); beef tartare with kimchi aioli and a soft boiled egg; and a raw bar with oysters, shrimp cocktail, Alaskan red king crab, a daily ceviche, and seafood platters.
For my entree, I chose the STK signature steak: the 14-ounce, dry-aged Delmonico. It’s a bone-out ribeye, and the STK menu invites you to adorn your steak with toppings such as Alaskan king crab (“Oscar” style), truffle butter or a peppercorn crust; or with sauces such as béarnaise, chimichurri and au poivre. However, the cuts and preparation of the steaks do not need any of those to increase their succulence. I chose to have my steak prepared, as I always do, “chef’s choice,” and it was prepared perfectly medium- rare—with the chef basing the temperature and color on the exact cut of the meat. The combination of the Delmonico interlaced with sips of Bordeaux was simply sublime.
STK offers an impressive arsenal of side dishes, including sweet corn pudding, Brussels sprouts, foraged mushrooms and their famous Parmesan-truffle fries. But if you are only ordering one, I recommend the jalapeño-cheddar grits to accompany your steak. Spicy, sharp and salty, this West Coast native became a fan of grits for the first time ever.
STK and Burke have hit a grand slam with their latest collaboration— delivering the allure of a posh, upscale lounge coupled with the authority of a globally recognized steakhouse. The wait was well worth it.
D (nightly); Br (Sa-Su). 600 F St., Gaslamp Quarter, 619.354.5988.