When the weather’s warm, almost every customer at O’Steak eats out on the patio, taking in the ambience of the street and watching folks walking their tiny dogs. It also helps them to avoid the tinny speakers and diner-esque tiled floor inside. The community feel is reminiscent of the owner’s other restaurant, French-style Gulou watering hole Café de la Poste. O’Steak is less of a bar than its sister – though if you want to make a night of it, they do have 10RMB Beijing draft. There may be mats instead of tablecloths, but the smiling waiters have plenty of ‘sir’, ‘madam’, and ‘bon appetit’.
The menu is home-style French, starting with the ‘guillotine’ sandwiches – slices of bread served open-face that seem oddly thrown together, like leftovers from the kitchen fridge. The layers of prosciutto (42RMB) are thin enough to blow away and are so dry that, when placed on top of parched bread they become doubly dehydrating.
But the main focus at O’Steak is (obviously) slabs of cow. The meat is brought in from Inner Mongolia, and as such it’s more generously priced than a hotel cut – though that’s like comparing a station wagon to a Ferrari. What you get is simple and pure, without any unnecessary pizzazz. Sizes range from a paltry petit (140g, 86RMB) up to a gut-busting geant (500g, 338RMB) that puts demands on your portion control. There’s plenty to tempt your caveman impulses on lusciously tender steaks, supple inform and with plenty of juicy texture that assures their value. It’s best taken without the included sauces – especially the watery pepper sauce, or the mushroom mush that is only one step away from bland baby food.
The hunk of duck breast (88RMB) looks like a microwave dinner, but is thankfully considerably more delicious. Neon-coloured miniature vegetables lay beside the deceptively soft flesh. Slice off a piece and trawl it through the shadowy sauce on the side, a slightly sweet and aromatic balsamic reduction that complements the fatty duck meat. Portions of the sliced cordon bleu (88RMB) are more Napoleonic, but the coiled layers of light, yielding chicken and tangy ham produce a luscious result. The crispy breaded roll is lightly drizzled with olive oil, which only peeks slightly into the taste, the combination giving us a comforting hug.
The chocolate profiteroles (58RMB) were a pleasing finish. Drizzling hot chocolate syrup over the three cones to form a brittle shell, then gleefully smashing it open to scoop through the crumbling pastry and just-sweet-enough chilled vanilla ice cream, was supremely satisfying. The food found at O’Steak is a straightforward affair, so while it’s good, there’s little to write ballads about. It’s unpretentious Gallic cuisine in concept and execution – sometimes, that’s all we need.
By Sean Silbert