After being laughed at when trying to make a reservation for 9 people at the Keg Mansion, and after similarly exhausting all the other affordable steakhouse options in the city, a group of friends and I finally settled on STEAK, 96 Richmond in the Sheraton Centre, for a last night out before the holidays dinner on Wednesday night. Formerly the site of Le Biftheque, the room has obviously undergone a re-branding, and now presents itself as a higher-end steakhouse – the hostess on the phone took the time to tell me they had the prices of the Keg, but their steaks were the quality of Ruth Chris’. Overall, my experience suggests they’re trying to look and play the part, but there are still some major things, like atmosphere, missing from STEAK’s attempts at greatness.
Our party was 7, in the end. We arrived progressively for our 6:30 reservation, and the first two apparently had their coats taken by a hostess as they were seated. The rest of us, not so much. This was the first of many service inconsistencies and gaffes of the evening. Our server tried to take drink orders as members of the party arrived, but most of us just ordered with our meal. Still, he did bring one G&T with a lemon instead of a lime for one of the ladie. After not too much time spent perusing the menu of seafood-based apps, salads, steaks, a few fish, and a good variety of sides, we ordered. Our server took the time to tell us that all the steaks were “Sterling Silver” (I’m not a steak person, so I don’t know what it’s all about), and offered a few notes about some of the apps as well. He let us do separate cheques, which was nice, but a gratuity was added to all our bills that we weren’t advised about (I’m sure some of us would have left less than the gratuity took from us!). Most people ordered steak (filet mignons, prime ribs) but one person had chicken and I had salmon, which I was told was steamed, then told grilled, then steamed. Interesting.
My glass of shiraz arrived with cork in it, and was returned after it took me about 5 minutes to get a server. Bread was a while in coming, too, as were water refills, and the bread was so hard that some of the party actually complained of jaw pain! Even worse, bread was placed on our bread plates by a server rather than on the table, and when I asked if they had whole wheat rolls, I was promptly told “No, we don’t”. Four of the party started with salads, the Caesar being huge and good, I’m told. I ordered a side of garlic rapini and had that to start, and it was good, but got a bit tiresome (no variety in flavour/texture) near the end.
Meats arrived plated on their own, as did sides, probably to facilitate sharing. Most of my party, not used to this foodie presentation, were miffed by the multiple plates. We had three sides of the garlic mashed, one person had a baked potato, my SO and I split a side of mushroom caps and one person ordered the half and half – onion strings and frites. The onion strings were by far the best part of the meal. The frites were large cut, not crispy enough on the outside for my liking and underdone on the inside, in my opinion.
My supposedly steamed salmonarrived with obvious char grill marks on one side and skin still on the other, and tasted largely of char and steak. My SO enjoyed the prime rib, and was pleased that it was not too fatty. There were a few complaints about meats not being cooked quite as ordered – a medium-well that was too pink for one’s taste, a med-rare that looked really rather rare to me, but generally people enjoyed the meats. We certainly filled up fast as the potatoes were quite dense and served in large portions. The mushrooms I had were okay, but made much yummier when I added some of the SO’s peppercorn sauce.
The meal was decent, but the server had very awkward tableside manner, and there were gross inconsistencies in service. Further, the prices were not, as I was told like, the Keg’s, because sides were seperate. My salmon without any side was $24.95 as was the prime rib. A sea bass would have run me $35. Sides were $4.95 and salads up around $9. My glass of wine was $8. The thing is, for prices like that and for the look of the room as the service they seem to aspire to (checking coats, plating out the bread, etc), the atmosphere and food just doesn’t live up. The room was half-full on a Wednesday at 7:30, but yo couldn’t tell anything was happening. There was no audible music and the space was way too bright. All the lovely dark wood and dark leather was not effective with the poor lighting. A little jazz, dimmer light, and it might have felt a little nicer, and might have done a better job convincing my party that our meal was worth the big bucks we shelled out. As it was, we still wished we had gotten in to the Keg.