Stark’s Steakhouse521 Adams St.
Lunch Mon.-Fri., dinner nightly
Entrées (dinner): $20-$41
Full bar, excellent wine list
Stark’s Steakhouse, owned by Mark and Terri Stark of Willi’s Wine Bar/Seafood Bar and Monti’s, has the polished ambiance of a deco-era supper club, complete with dark wood furniture, deep red accents, soft lights and a sound system playing the likes of Louis Prima and Frank Sinatra. The lounge area has plush, red leather seats, a fireplace and a shapely bar.
My friend Amy and I perused the cocktail list, which features traditional American favorites and the interesting tales behind them.
The meal started with a small, fresh-baked loaf of bread, topped with melted butter and fresh chopped garlic and parsley. Our appetizer was the Ahi tuna tartar, rich with a truffle oil/miso dressing and placed atop thin-sliced cucumbers. Accented with toasted pine nuts and string-thin fried leeks, it was dusted with a fine black truffle layer.
The butter lettuce salad had whole leaves topped with thin-sliced green apples, candied walnuts, gruyere cheese and a light amount of a peppery, creamy dressing.
Starks specializes in steaks, but has a little something for almost everyone, from a beet and goat cheese ravioli to duck, chicken, arctic char and more. Amy and I, however, went for the beef. We also chose a half-bottle of Robert Biale Petite Sirah (meaty nose, deep color, spice and earthy flavors—it matched the steaks perfectly) from the extensive wine list that has the most half-bottle selections I’ve ever seen.
The a la carte menu divides the steaks between corn-fed, grass-fed and American Kobe beef. There are seven choices of sauces (served on the side, they’re not too overwhelming) and “toppers” including a fried egg, roasted bone marrow, foie gras, fried sweetbreads or a lobster tail. There are also a variety of sides.
Our waiter explained the difference between grass- and corn-fed beef and also helped us with our sauce selections. Turns out grass-fed beef is a bit leaner than corn-fed, and that corn-fed is what most Americans are used to eating. Who knew? We also ordered cauliflower gratin and sautéed exotic mushrooms (a nice variety of sizes and flavors) for sides.
My grass-fed filet cut was very tender and clean-tasting, with an earthy flavor and a thick, almost custard-like texture. The herbed truffle aioli was an ideal accompaniment, but I liked the steak by itself, too. Tasting it alongside Amy’s corn-fed ribeye cut, which was noticeably more fatty but equally delicious, was a treat for the taste buds. The salsa verde sauce (a light mixture of olive oil, parsley, cilantro and maybe a touch of garlic) accompanied its heavier flavor with a light, bright edge.
For dessert we had chocolate caramel fondue with banana fritters (crisp/moist/perfect) and rice crispy treats with peanuts; and the bourbon crème brulee, which had salt in its caramelized top—and loved every bite.
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