One of the america’s oldest Steakhouses
Peter Luger Steakhouse opened in 1887 in Brooklyn, New York. The restaurant was then called “Carl Luger’s Café Billiards & Bowling Alley”. The German immigrant Peter Luger was the owner, with his nephew manning the kitchen.
From the day it opened, it was a restaurant beloved by local residents. But when the Williamsburg bridge began service in 1903, Brooklyn became more accessible from Manhattan. In 1920, Sol Forman of the current owner family established a metal work factory across from Carl Luger’s café. Sol realized that the restaurant was an ideal place to bring his customers; he dined there 2-3 times almost every day.
After Peter’s death in 1941 his son Frederick took over and changed the restaurant’s name into Peter Luger Steakhouse. The Great Depression of the late 1930s seriously impacted Peter Luger and eventually the restaurant had to be auctioned off. Sol, fearing that he will lose the place in which to treat his customers, entered the bidding and purchased the property.
7 criteria in selecting beef
Sol, while running his metal factory, had no knowledge of restaurant business. He hired a retired USDA beef inspector to teach his wife, Marsha how to select the highest quality beef at New York meat markets. He correctly realized that the best steaks are made possible only by selecting the best meat.
Marsha toured numerous packers and learned all the necessary skills in beef selection. For the meat processing industry of New York in those days, a tall Russian lady dressed in fur coat must have been quite a sight. But she was very serious about learning everything about the meat. Only 20% of the meat supplied met her standards. Because of her commitment and dedication, Peter Luger became the culinary icon that it is today.
These commitments were handed down from Sol and Marsha to their daughters Marilyn Speira (former CEO) and Amy Rubenstein (current CEO). Sol and Marsha’s granddaughter, Jody, and great grandsons, Daniel and David, are involved in operating the restaurant as well as selecting the meat. These four make trips to a number of meat markets every week in order to select the meat that meet their special criteria. Those pieces of meat are then stamped with Peter Luger logo, a proof that the meat is approved and purchased by the family. Based on the mutual trust with the suppliers built in the span of 70 years, the family owned the rights to select the best meat before anyone else can.
The secret dry aging method
Marsha, committed to maximize beef’s taste, introduced and adhered to dry aging method. The underground aging room in Brooklyn is locked in order to protect the secrecy of aging method; only the four family members and a handful of cooking staff are privy to the details.
The aging process, with an expert closely controlling temperature, humidity, and airflow, compresses protein and minerals into the center of the meat by drying the outer parts of the beef. The enzymes, present within the muscle tissue and created by a specific bacterial activity, disintegrate proteins and dramatically increase amino acids that maximize umami. What the customers get is the ultimately soft and juicy beef steak.
The aging method adopted at Peter Luger, while basically similar to other dry aging methods, successfully suppresses undesirable smell with its unique monitoring technology. This secret method gave birth to the top-quality steak which contains the original beef aroma at the same time enabling the particular ‘umami’ of the soft beef to come forth.
A pioneer of American Steakhouses
The way steaks are served at Peter Luger has evolved through numerous trial-and-error processes. T-bone steak, in which both sirloin and filet can be enjoyed, are now available at any steakhouse, but it is noteworthy that the style was first introduced by Peter Luger.
Next, the steak is cooked in a 500 degrees Celsius broiler. The steak goes on to be served on the plate at over 180 degrees Celsius, to be further warmed on the rim of the plate. This way the level of cooking can not only be controlled according to the guest’s taste but also the sizzling sound of meat contacting the hot surface arouses appetite. Meat juice jokingly called “vitamin” is then poured as a last touch, maximizing umami.
Beef selected with expertise is then aged with utmost care in the optimal environment turns into prime T-bone steaks. Peter Luger steak has thus been loved by picky New Yorkers, consistently ranked as “No.1 steakhouse of America” by Zagat Survey since 1984.
Challenge of Peter Luger Tokyo
Peter Luger has been quite reluctant to branch out to even Manhattan, let alone an overseas location. That was because the family thought that it was difficult to adhere to commitments concerning steaks in any other locations. However, the family concluded that, provided that they can discover a partner sharing the same values, there was an opportunity to expand the brand’s horizon.
Daniel and David visited Japan in 2016 to have their first taste of Tokyo dining experience, which they thought was an equal match to that of New York City. For the next two years they conducted an analysis of Tokyo’s restaurant market and kept looking for a partner that shares the same values. Chosen as a trustworthy partner was Wondertable, Inc. The company had already successfully introduced such brands as Barbacoa, Lawry’s the Prime Rib, and Union Square Tokyo to Japan market. The experience and track record were critical factors in their decision to work with Wondertable.
After signing the contract, the biggest challenge was to select the locale and the design concept of the Tokyo restaurant. The place in Tokyo that most closely recreates the ambience of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is a building standing next to ebisu Garden Place. The brick wall reminds customers of Peter Luger Brooklyn.
The interior design established a new Peter Luger style, breaking free from the image of Brooklyn. The existing structure between the second and third floors was cleared to create a theater-like layout that exudes the industrial ambience typical of Brooklyn.
On the second floor of the main dining hall, a lively ambience is delivered by the open kitchen while the third floor offers a calmer environment to enjoy steaks. On those two floors, private rooms that can accommodate up to 10 people are available. The first floor is equipped with a waiting bar and four private rooms that can serve up to 8 people. The boutique shop that handles raw meat used for Peter Luger steaks and hamburgers as well as brand goods are also located on the first floor.
Peter Luger Steak House Tokyo is entirely focused on providing the guests with the steaks with the same level of taste and quality. A 90-square meter aging room on the first floor stores 10 tons of select beef which is dry aged to be served later according to the same cooking method used at Brooklyn place. The essential Peter Luger is not complete without the confident and friendly waiting staff, trained to write a new chapter in the 130-year history of the brand.