helps. The Forman's own the building that houses their restaurant, and,
with decreased overhead, they have more cash to slap on the barrelhead.
They also have room for an in-house cellar where they age steaks at a
secret temperature for a secret length of time. But it's no secret they
buy meat on the carcass, before dry-aging it-unlike some places that buy
meat "wet" (cutup and in plastic bags) before finishing it in aging cellars.
If you've never been to Peter Luger, you may be surprised
by many things beyond the quality of the steak. First of all, if you want a reservation
in prime time you won't be able to get one for tonight; it takes two weeks of
forethought for a weeknight reservation and three to four weeks for a Saturday
reservation. Secondly, those in Manhattan are always happy to learn that this
part of Brooklyn is not in another time zone; a mere $15 covers a taxi from most
downtown points, and about $20 will send you home in one of the limos that hover
outside Peter Luger's door.
The next surprise is the bare-bones menu,
which lists very little beyond steak. You'll probably order only a salad in addition
to your meat plus the signature platter of German fried potatoes. But then comes
the real food shocker: The double-thick loin lamb chops are unbelievably succulent,
and the "fresh fish in season" (invariably a huge hunk of salmon) is crusty without,
velvety within, earthy enough in flavor to be wild salmon.
When it comes
to steak (and you're foolish if it doesn't) you have only four choices (not counting
a steak sandwich)- and some surprises. Steak surprise #1: There's no differentiation
of cuts on the menu. Steak surprise #2: Unlike the meat served at most other steak
houses, Peter Luger's steaks are not super thick (all the restaurant's steaks
are cut to 1 3/4 inches) nor super crusty (most come only mildly charred). Steak
surprise #3: Instead of individuals dining on individual steaks, most people share
their meat. In fact, the "Steak Single" (a shell steak, on the bone and with no
fillet attached, for $29.50) is the only steak for one on the menu.
Those parties of two or more who know the kitchen well, know to order the "Steak
for Two," (doubling the order, say, for a group of four). This steak (for $59)
is a porterhouse, on the bone, with a disproportionately large fillet prized by
fillet- lovers. Larger parties may also order the Steak for Three ($88.50) or
the Steak for Four ($118). Unlike the Steak Single and the Steak for Two, however,
the larger orders are not always exactly the same cuts. Yes, they are porterhouses.
Yes, they are on the bone. But they feature a smaller portion of fillet than the
"Steak for Two," and because a 1 3/4-inch porterhouse is not enough steak for
three or four people, the kitchen puts together a collection of porterhouse pieces
to make up the platters.
And to drink? Well, there is wine and beer
available - decently priced, but not particularly imaginatively chosen. Steak
houses are for Martinis, anyway-and here you can macho-out on your Martini without
having someone out-macho you with a three-foot cigar (smoking's verboten!). A
wonderful, old-world bartender will make your probable wait at the bar a slow,
delightful immersion into steakhouse culture. Later, much later, after sampling
a few heavy desserts drowned in whipped cream, you will emerge sated. You will
emerge happy. And whether this has been your first visit to Peter Luger or your
hundredth, you will no doubt emerge amazed at the exemplary quality of steak placed
on your plate.
Starters at Peter Luger range from $6.95 for sliced tomatoes (for two)
with Luger's own sauce to $16.95 for a large shrimp cocktail. Main courses
range from $18.95 for a steak sandwich to $118 for Steak for Four. Peter
Luger is open for lunch (with a regular menu and a less expensive lunch
menu) Monday through Saturday from 11:45 to 3. Dinner is served Monday
through Thursday from 3:45; last orders are taken at 9:45. On Friday and
Saturday, last orders are taken at 10:45. On Sundays, the restaurant opens
at 1 P.m. with a regular dinner menu only, and last orders are taken at
9:45. Peter Luger accepts no credit cards.
178 Broadway (corner of Driggs)
Tel. (718) 387-7400