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A Shrine to Prime

Prime Rib Steakhouse pays homage to an almost extinct style

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Diners pining for the Good Old Days — when travelers dressed up to fly on planes, correspondence required stamps, and dining out was always a special occasion — will likely adore Prime Rib Steakhouse.

In a sincere attempt to revive an all but extinct style of dining, the folks behind this new Warehouse District restaurant imported the concept of a prime rib carvery. (Yes, "carvery" is a real, albeit moribund, word.) Like the legendary Lawry's and House of Prime Rib restaurants in California, this one specializes in standing rib roast, sliced and served tableside from brawny stainless steel carts.

Prime Rib Steakhouse does more than simply take its cues from those famed West Coast eateries: It is doing its best to mimic them, going so far as to "borrow" content from their menus and websites. Cleveland's carvery pledges that, "The moment you arrive, you'll know Prime Rib Steakhouse is extraordinary. This is a place of grand style, classic elegance and luxurious comfort." The Lawry's website promises that, "The moment you arrive, you'll know Lawry's The Prime Rib is an extraordinary restaurant — a place of grand style, classic elegance, luxurious comfort ..."

The good news is that, apart from the blatant plagiarism, Prime Rib Steakhouse seems to be doing almost everything right. Made from USDA Prime bone-in standing rib, the roast beef is exceptional. Service is attentive, professional, and fittingly Old World. And the show is equal parts pomp and circumstance.

After being shown to our booth, the host kindly pulled the table out from the wall so the ladies in the party wouldn't have to shimmy down the banquette. While vintages are noticeably absent from the wine list, there are plenty of good and familiar labels sold at typical restaurant markups. But the cocktail list is absent a single classic, with Martinis and Manhattans edged out by tacky, flavored-vodka-fueled concoctions.

Food choices here are gloriously few, with little left to decide beyond the cut and temperature of your beef. There is but one appetizer: a perfectly decent and predictable shrimp cocktail. Meals include salad, mashed potatoes, and Yorkshire pudding. If you want creamed spinach — and we're pretty sure you do — that will cost an additional $6, as will buttered peas. Vegetarians who don't eat lobster tail (set at "market price") are stuck with a pasta dish.

Meals begin in earnest with the "Famous Spinning Salad Bowl," which, coincidentally, is a lot like the Lawry's "Famous Original Spinning Bowl Salad." The server theatrically dresses and tosses greens tableside in a large stainless bowl that whirls on a bed of ice. She dishes the mixed greens onto chilled plates and presents them with chilled forks.

Beef cuts range from the petite six-ounce California cut all the way up to the two-pound, double-bone King Henry VIII. In between are three other sizes, plus a children's cut. For the main event, a white-coated, toque-topped carver wheels the steamship-sized cart up to the table. When he raises the hood on the gleaming beast, a light comes on, illuminating racks and racks of glorious meat.

We sampled three different cuts with three different temperatures of doneness, and not one of us was disappointed. Juicy, well-marbled, and amply sized, the prime rib is as good as you will find. However, we did not enjoy having to request multiple servings of horseradish, which arrive in wee ramekins. Also, both our original and replacement Yorkshire puddings were sadly deflated.

A lack of art and other decorative fixtures leave the space — a former pool hall — feeling somewhat cold. It's also best to supply your own energy in the form of a fun group; otherwise, the vibe can border on somber.

Whether and how often diners are going to be willing to pony up big bucks for thick slabs of red meat is, of course, a huge question mark. But if the demand is there, the supply is waiting for them beneath the hood of a gleaming stainless carvery cart.

Prime Rib Steakhouse

740 W. Superior Ave., Cleveland

216-348-0300

http://primeribsteakhouse.com

Hours: Tues. –Thur. 5 – 10 p.m., Fri. - Sat. 5 – 11 p.m., Sun. 4 – 9 p.m.

Prime Rib Steakhouse In a sincere attempt to revive an all but extinct style of dining, the folks behind this Warehouse District restaurant imported the concept of a prime rib carvery. Like the legendary Lawry's and House of Prime Rib restaurants in California, this one specializes in standing rib roast, sliced and served tableside from stainless steel carts. Made from USDA Prime bone-in standing rib, the roast beef is exceptional. Service is attentive, professional and Old World. And the show is equal parts pomp and circumstance. Meals include salad, mashed potatoes and Yorkshire pudding. 740 W. Superior Ave., Cleveland, 216-348-0300. $$$$

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