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  Beijing Scene


Beijing Scene, Volume 6, Issue 5, November 12 - 18

Smoothly Sweet T-Bone at St. Mark's Steakhouse

St. Mark's Steakhouse does not lead to thirst and hiccups.

St. Mark's Steak House is the centerpiece of St. Mark's Bar Street, a just-completed commercial complex behind the Friendship Store that takes the the Sanlitun-style strip development to new, pre-fab heights. Backed by "art" money from Taiwan (though I'm hard-pressed to think of any art that makes a penny on the renegade island province), St. Mark's Bar Street consists of 15 brand new bars and restaurants, housed within the same colonnaded, neon-adorned building.

While the bars are all empty--despite inviting names like Kung Fu, West Sunshine, Red Wooden Shoes, Cool Bar and Pop--St. Mark's Steak House is already attracting a trickle of customers. This is perhaps due less to its lukewarm draught beer and lousy lighting than to St. Mark's specialty, beefsteak, presented with the zeal of the converted carnivore. The menu, printed on the paper table mats, reads like a manifesto on the virtues of beef-eating:
"Beef is the kind of meat good for human health. It tastes smoothly sweet. It does not lead to thirst and hiccups. It is agreeable for the smooth function of the stomach. Beef is rich with iron element, protein and various kinds of vitamin and it helps to build up muscles and the production of blood cells and is most helpful for the weak and growing children. And the zinc element the beef contains takes care of healthy skin and good eye-sight."

St. Mark's has a lip-smacking selection of steaks to choose from, including fillets, sirloins, T-bones, as well as pork and lamb chops, all of which come with vegetables and pasta. If you don't want red meat, there are also fish steaks, a chicken chop, king prawn and something called 'cheese lobster.' The 'St. Mark's Steak (for man)' consists of hefty whole medallions of beef wrapped in bacon, although if you're not quite up to that and don't mind losing a bit of face, there is always the 'St. Mark's Steak (for lady).' We order both, along with the T-bone and fillet. The menu points out that all meals come with 'complimentary soup, salad, 'needle' (work it out) and tea or coffee.

Our salads and soups come within five minutes of our order. The salad is a little small but consists of an appetizing mix of romaine and iceberg lettuce, tomato, beans and celery, served with either vinaigrette or mayonnaise-based dressing. The onion soup is black, and there is something hard floating in it which we decide is a microwaved Kraft cheese slice. The minestrone tastes a little like Chinese-style hot and sour soup, and the 'consomme' has no discernible flavor at all. But you shouldn't go to St. Mark's for the soups, anyway.

You should go for a good old-fashioned flesh feast, and when our steaks arrive our faith is restored. Arriving Asian-style on an iron skillet (tieban in Chinese, teppanyaki in Japanese) and surrounded by a heart-warming portion of vegetables and macaroni, the meat does not come 'just like raw meat' as the menu suggests rare steak should be, nor is it 'crispy yellow' as the house suggests a well done piece of meat should be. The St. Mark's Steak (for lady) does however look alarmingly like a Scottish haggis and is in fact wrapped in cow stomach lining, but the meat inside is tasty and the portion generous. The fillet, served medium rare, is tender with the just the right juiciness. The man's steak and the T-bone really do make you feel like a man.

All in all, a meal at St Mark's leaves you feeling like you've had a decent meal without being subjected to anything too heavy. All that is left as we finish the main course is to sample the house coffee. Unfortunately, just as we are about to remark how refreshing it is to have a nice filter coffee in a steak house, the DJ starts mixing airport lounge music with supermarket schmaltz and we decide to leave, declining the offer to stay for the disco later on.

If it's style and sophistication you're looking for--go somewhere else. If you want really, really good steak--go to Buenos Aires or Kobe. But if all you require from a good night out is some decent food and entertainment at the expense of your surroundings, St Mark's steak house is the place for you.

To get to St Mark's Bar Street, walk north from the Friendship Store Starbucks. Take the first road on the left.

St Mark's Square
17 Jianguomenwai Dajie, Xiushui South Street, Friendship Store North Tower,
Chaoyang District
Tel: 6507-9966
Food: *** Ambience:** Service: *** Cost:


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