SINGAPORE — It was simply a matter of time before a visit to the newest darling of Singapore’s F&B scene, Dan’s Steaks Bar & Grill opened by Daniel Ong, compels me to talk about gender stereotypes. I was running slightly late on a Tuesday evening—only the second day since the resumption of dining-in during Phase 2 (Heightened Alert)—so while waiting, Wani, my dining partner for the evening, ordered herself a glass of ‘In Love with R&G’ (S$14+), a Gin and Tonic concoction with Rosemary and Lime.
I eventually arrived fifteen minutes past six. As I peruse the online menu, a male server saddles up to our table, Gin and Tonic in hand, and, with an air of assuredness, tells Wani, “This must be the lady’s drink.” Both of us look at him, perplexed, genuinely curious, and ask why. He stammers an apology the way only a deer caught in a headlight would before scurrying away like the handmaidens in The Handmaid’s Tales. It’s 2021, sir. Why are drinks still being gendered?
It was only in tracking him back away that I noticed every table had a tray of the complimentary Korean Banchan much raved on social media, tagged to Dan’s Steaks IG page, which, as of the time of writing, is utterly void of posts. A good fifteen minutes later, the same server from before scuttles over and places a tray in front of us.
“I don’t know why I forgot to give your table this,” he says, half laughing, half anxious. “In any case, here you have the Mom’s Black Beans, Sesame Bean Sprouts, Fay’s Kimchi, and, I’m not sure what the rest are. It has been five weeks since I last did this.”
I made a personal note to avoid requesting him for service for the rest of the night.
Through research and some clever sleuthing, I found out that the ‘rest’ of the condiments in the complimentary banchan are the Glass Noodle Japchae, Potato Salad, and Spinach Namul. I question the need for this Korean Banchan, a complimentary tray that, aside from the Soju, is perhaps the only Korean thing on offer. It’s all very confusing for a steakhouse, and it doesn’t help that the menu offers no explanation as to why this exists.
The second snafu happened when a zealous server thought it wise to commit our orders to memory before coming back moments later to reconfirm what we’ve ordered. By then, I assumed the orders to be correct (as they usually are wont to be), so I did not realise that she had swapped out my grass-fed Ribeye for a Sirloin until it arrived at the table.
The menu here presents customers with a choice of either regular or Grass-fed Steaks with the option of Tenderloin (S$30+/S$42+), Ribeye (S$26+/S$38+), or Striploin (S$22+/S$34+) and one complimentary side. There’s also USDA Prime/Angus or Wagyu MB 6/7 to choose from, along with a slew of condiments that would make Aston’s blush with envy.
Here, Dan’s Steaks prides itself on cooking all the steaks in a sous-vide, which, technically, should leave the meat faultlessly tender and melt-in-your-mouth, giving way with ease to the slightest touch. It’s a method that might work well in a home kitchen, but in a commercial joint, it renders the meat too easy to the bite, taking away characteristic elements of what makes a steak such a joy to eat. When cooked to medium-rare like mine, a good steak should still elicit some chewing but not excessively so. Too tender and it takes away this personality, rendering it best, perhaps, for a sandwich.
The meats have also been liberally seasoned before being seared on the grill. Wani took mild offence to this heavy-handedness which she felt took away from the naturally beautiful flavours of such handsome meats. I didn’t mind it in the least bit because, hey, if my steak is going to be this tender, I’d rather have it tender and a riot in the mouth.
For the complimentary sides, we had the Xmas Pasta—boring, severely lacking in personality, and in desperate need of a dash of salt. Elsewhere, the Creamed Spinach with Runny Egg held much promise but was let down by a runny spinach cream that, in its current form, tastes more like a decadent gravy instead of being luxurious and intensely silky.
A slice of Carrot Cake at the end is nothing to shout home about either. Well-meaning friends from the industry remind me never to expect much from a dessert at a steakhouse—I tend to disagree. As long as I’m paying good money for it, everything should, at the very least, be absolutely average, and, I reckon, in that regard, this carrot cake fulfils.
Dinner concludes at 8.30pm, with a lot of waiting around to get the attention of a server—any server. There’s more mulling about to be had, as my bill sits untouched somewhere in billing purgatory and undelivered for a good thirty minutes. Earlier, midway through the very average carrot cake, the same server who made the cocktail faux pas from before approached the couple beside us and instinctively gave the bill to the man at the table. The couple laughed heartily at this assumption before the man tells the server that his girlfriend will be settling this bill.
As luck would have it, the same server was assigned to our table for the bill settlement. He approaches cautiously and, careful not to make the same gender-stereotypical mistake from before, decides to ask Wani and me who will be settling the bill. I told him to simply leave it at the table, watching him scurry away (yet again), hopefully ruminating on the incidents from tonight’s service.
It's easy to excuse tonight's sloppy service to the extended five-week hiatus or even whittle it down to sheer inexperience. But this is not Daniel Ong's first dalliance in the F&B industry. Surely, prompt bill settlement and a quick conversation about the assumption of gender roles in the world of dining is par for the course. It is, after all, 2021. And in this era, men and women are equally capable of settling the check and drinking gin and tonic. Don't let the server at Dan's Steak or anyone else for that matter tell you otherwise.
12 Maju Ave, Singapore 556690
Tue to Sun: 1130am – 2.30pm, 5pm – 10pm
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