Three years can be a long time when you’re missing something you enjoy; something you’ve gotten used to — even if it’s just one restaurant among the many that Tokyo hosts.
When in 2014 Lawry’s The Prime Rib closed its doors in Akasaka (its first of now three locations in Japan) due to reconstruction of its building, many fans of the fine roast beef regretfully bid goodbye, thinking it was the last farewell. But as it is with humans, restaurants too can’t stay away from their roots for too long, so here is the good news: Lawry’s is back in Akasaka just in time for the holiday season and it’s here to stay. Hopefully forever. Or at least until the franchise opens enough branches across the capital to keep our cravings satisfied.
The new Lawry’s in Akasaka, directly connected to Tameike-sanno station, opened its doors on Sept 29 on the third floor of the new Akasaka Intercity Air building, the latest business hub in the bustling area. The spacious venue features a bar at its entrance, a large dining room with 220 seats, and three exclusively private rooms fit for business meetings and secret celebrations. It’s a lavish return to the restaurant’s roots in Akasaka and everything about the ambience makes the experience festive — from the 5-meter-high ceiling and the chandelier elegantly lighting the dining room, to the friendly international staff who gladly welcome you back.
Simple principles, excellent performance
The guiding principle at Lawry’s is simple — focus on one thing and do it well. Boasting a tradition of nearly 80 years, the restaurant specializes in hand-carved roast angus beef, served in various sizes tableside in a performance which goes back to the diner’s early days. The tradition is well preserved at the new Akasaka store, though the menu has been slightly modified to fit the Tokyo clientele, including food item names such as The Tokyo Cut (120 grams) roast beef.
Though it’s tempting to order a la carte here, upon a recent visit I and a fellow meat-loving colleague of mine decided to go for the Exclusive Course (¥10,000), offered as a party menu, a great start for anyone who wishes to taste Lawry’s signature dishes and get a free flow of drinks. The course includes a welcoming glass of champagne, a Shrimp Cocktail and Smoked Salmon for an appetizer, the restaurant’s signature Original Spinning Bowl Salad (made ready in front of you), a clam chowder, a choice between The Tokyo Cut roast beef (served with a Yorkshire pudding, warm corn, creamy spinach and mashed potatoes in an original gravy sauce) or Roasted Atlantic Salmon for fish eaters, an English trifle for dessert and coffee or tea. All that plus two hours of all-you-can-drink, including beer, wine, and special soft drinks, such as mango and cranberry juice.
The course was comfortably filling, the drinks were outstanding, but it was really the beef that — as expected — left a special memory in our minds. Not only for its taste — which was as good as eating melted refined butter — but also for the performance.
A waiter wearing a medallion, approached us with the restaurant’s signature silver cart (which dates back to the late 1930s’ America when one of the two owners, Lawrence Frank, designed it), carrying three huge vertically-placed chunks of meat, each cooked in rare, medium or well cooked styles. We were asked to make our choice and just as we did, the friendly waiter made the cut, exactly 120 grams just by glance. It was an instant of a show that looked … so easily accomplished. But it’s not. We got to learn that the men who do this (yes, those who wear the medallions) are trained for over six months to be able to hand-carve Lawry's prime rib, after which they are allowed to join the Royal Order of Carvers. In other words, you can’t have just anyone cut your meat here — this is how seriously they take it at Lawry’s.
Reasonable offers, abundant variety
Despite the food performance and exquisite taste, one of the best things about Lawry’s is that it’s a high-end restaurant that serves food at relatively reasonable prices. The Tokyo Cut (¥4,000), served with two warm garnishes, is quite filling in itself, a half seafood platter starts at ¥6,000, garnishes range from ¥600 to ¥950. There is an option for a course (for additional ¥2,000) for every main dish, which includes an appetizer, soup, a dessert and after meal hot drink. Customers also have the option of adding an all-you-can-drink plan for an extra ¥2,500 or ¥3,500. Sum that up, and depending on how much you eat, you can have a full course for less than ¥10,000.
A starting and endpoint
If that’s not enough, on your way out, stop by at the Akasaka store’s one and only Frank Bar at the entrance — it’s a chic open-space bar, a lounge, and cafe during the day offering a great variety of America-inspired cocktails, in addition to the restaurant’s hundreds of carefully selected wines (yes, they have an enormous wine cellar). It’s a great venue to grab the last drink of the day, or wait for your co-diners as you relax on the comfortable chairs.
Regardless of the purpose of your visit — whether a romantic dinner, a business gathering or just a casual drink — the Akasaka store will serve you well.
It’s great to have you back Lawry’s Akasaka!
Address: Akasaka Intercity Air 3F, 1-8-1 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Business hours: 11:30-15:00 (Lunch), 17:00-23:00 (Dinner)