Having soft-opened since February 9th, Lawry’s the Prime Rib is ready to put on its best face for Shanghai’s beef lovers beginning with its grand opening tomorrow. Shanghaiist was able to do some preview dining and we were left with one distinct impression: this place takes its prime rib traditions very seriously.
The Xintiandi restaurant is this famed Los Angeles chain’s first foray into the mainland, but it is plenty experienced in Asia with successful restaurants in Jakarta, Singapore, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Taipei. We spent some time with Thomas, the general manager and 30 year veteran of Lawry’s who helped open all of its Asian locations, who told us of their plans to open a second China restaurant in Beijing once rents come down after the Olympics. Meanwhile, they have taken the corner location that used to belong to La Maison and introduced an old-school American elegance that is perfect for expense account dining. Most of the details we remember from our lone childhood visit to Lawry’s back home appear to have been assiduously transplanted over here, from the attire of the wait staff to to the stainless steel carving carts (4 of them at $30,000 USD a pop) that are pushed around from table to table for diners’ meaty observations.
And of course, the menu. Like the decor, the selections are simple and uncomplicated. Starters include lobster tail, shrimp cocktail, crabmeat au gratin, and three choices of superbly made but conventional soups (lobster bisque, cream of mushroom, pumpkin soup), all priced at around 120 RMB. But why be unconventional when convention, in the form of the restaurant’s marquee rib roast, can be so delicious? Diners have the option of four different cuts of juicy prime rib, ranging from the 6 oz. California cut (335 RMB) to the heavy-hitting 20 oz. Diamond Jim Brady cut (560 RMB), with cuts at 7.5 oz. and 10 oz. taking up the middle. Each order is served with mashed potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, and one of three sides (creamed corn or spinach and peas). The beef, imported from Australia from the same ranch that supplies the Lawry’s in Tokyo, was tender and succulent, with even marbling and a perfectly creamy layer of fat that we were loathe to neglect. All of this was washed down with Lawry’s very sweet house merlot from their own private reserve which, at 330 RMB, is the most inexpensive item on the wine list.
All in all, with the pedigree that it has, we expected Lawry’s to deliver to expectations for the meat that literally made their name, and we certainly were not disappointed. It takes a lot these days to make it on this prime stretch of real estate, and it appears Lawry’s strategy is to dispense with the adventure and stick to what has been working for them: first-rate service and some of the best prime rib you’ll ever have. Of course, this is Xintiandi, and we’ll need a grace period before we’ll be able to afford going again (sodas are 40 RMB a glass, just for reference). Still, we are admirers of restaurants who know what they are doing and do it well, so we are admirers of this one.
Lawry’s The Prime Rib – Unit 1, No 22 and 23, North Plaza, 181 Tai Cang Road, Xintiandi (新天地太仓路北里广场181弄22-23号01单元) Tel: 6387 0097, Hours: 11:30am-3pm, 5:30-10:30pm (11pm on Fri/Sat)
Eric Hu is Shanghaiist’s Food Editor. Email tips, recommendations, and news and gossip about Shanghai’s food scene to food at shanghaiist.com.