UPDATE: (March 2009):
I've now tried Ruth's for dinner - uncrumbed, chunky, sizzling crab cakes for starter, petit filet with shrimp for main and a luscious (and huge) whisky pudding for dessert; supplemented with sides of mushroom and broccoli, washed down with an Aussie D'Arenberg Cab Sav - full bodied and perfect for steak. It was exactly as I expected - delicious, over the top, expensive...and totally satisfying!
Ruth's Chris Steak House is a bizarre name, but it turns out that there was a lady named Ruth in New Orleans who after divorcing her husband in the 60's bought a steakhouse from a man called Chris. Although Ruth has now gone to that great steakhouse in the sky, her enterprise lives on and now extends to Tokyo.
You'll find their Tokyo branch not far from the American embassy on the ground floor of one of the many faceless office blocks that comprise modern Kasumigaseki. The fit out is trying for something classy and clubby like what you'd find in a high end steakhouse in the US, but the effect is fairly superficial, and one visit to the bathroom will quickly remind you that you are in the land of Toto.
After living in Japan as long as I have it's rare that you can shock me with the price of anything but I have to admit to some serious sticker shock when I read the menu. The steaks start at 5,500 yen for a 23o gram petite filet and go to 23,000 for a Porterhouse for two (you can have one all by yourself for 13,000). Now I would be the first person in the world to pay up for great food, but these kinds of prices that don't even include sides for a piece of meat thrown on a grill are just downright silly. You'd have to be mad or, more realistically, on an expense account to even contemplate it. When you consider the quality of food and artful preparation you can buy in this town for under 5,000 yen for a full meal and a wine or two it seems hard to justify.
So, feeling like a peasant, I settled for lobster bisque for starter and a wagyu burger (which came to around 4,000 yen) for my main with a glass of house Cabernet (2,000 yen). Putting aside all this vulgar discussion on prices, I have to tell you the food was really quite good. The bisque was delightfully earthy and had little bits of lobster meat in it. My only criticism was that there was too much heavy cream in it, but expected I suppose given American tastes. The burger which was covered in Swiss cheese, onion and bacon, encased in a delicious toasted bun and served with a pickle, lettuce, thick tomato and fries hit the spot in a big way. Even the ketchup tasted especially good for some reason.
There was no room for dessert after that and I have to admit to feeling kind of OK about the whole experience...until the bill came with a 10% service charge. The service was very pleasant, but not really any better than anywhere else in Tokyo. Although I think the food is of a very good standard I would only recommend this place if you are using an expense account, and I suspect this is where the majority of their custom originates. When I win the lottery or have something serious to celebrate with one of my American friends I may return for one of their steaks!
The Michelin Guide has consistently awarded more stars to Tokyo dining establishments than any other city in the world. I created this blog as my personal Tokyo restaurant guide, but I hope you will also enjoy reading it. If you have been to any of the same places feel free to leave some comments about your own experiences.