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Butcher Brothers: Quality meat dishes that won’t break the bank

by Robbie Swinnerton

Rib steak, bangers and mash, lamb chops, simmered tripe: At Butcher Brothers, meat is much more than just an option; it’s the main event, the reason you’re there. And with a name like that, what else would you expect?

Vegetarians avert your eyes. Not just because of what’s on the menu, but because the atmosphere at this busy, bustling diner effortlessly invites you inside. Warm light streams through the floor-to-ceiling windows. Flames flicker from the open kitchen. And, as you open the door, the sound of merriment wafts out into the street along with the aromas.

We have no shortage of meat-specialist restaurants in Tokyo, ranging from Korean barbecue to high-end steakhouses. Very few offer the buzz and enjoyment factor that you find at Butcher Brothers. Even fewer make the carnivorous life so affordable.

Check out the blackboard on the wall showing the grill menu. There are four kinds of steak to choose from — rump, outside skirt (harami in Japanese), flap and rib — priced according to weight (180, 230 or 460 g). The largest cut of rump is just ¥1,450; for the rib it’s ¥2,500. Not bad for almost half a kilo of prime U.S. steer.

You’ll usually find pork (Boston butt) and spiced African chicken, too, and sometimes baby back ribs and other specials. Everything is served on a small bed of fries. Be sure to specify if you want your steak rare: The default setting here, as usual in Japan, is medium to well done.

This is what you’ve come here for; this is what Butcher Brothers is all about. But don’t be in too much of a hurry to order — it will arrive faster than you expect — as the menu has plenty more to feast your eyes on.

Limber up with an appetizer or two, perhaps some rillettes or pâté (chicken liver or country-style pork), the excellent sausage (made in-house) on mashed potato or the delectably smoky thick-cut bacon. In fact, there’s also a whole section of the menu devoted to smoked meats, with both the duck fillet and lamb chop highly recommended.

There are actually enough salads and vegetables — the whole broccoli head steamed over pasta water and dusted with Parmesan needs to be seen to be believed — to keep a vegetarian from starving, with pasta and dessert to round things off.

But why would a non-meat eater want to come here? In a word, the wine. The prices are as appetizing as the Gorgonzola fettuccine, and the selection has only got better. The (relatively) pricey French reds have been jettisoned, and now the cellar is flush with New World and Spanish, predominantly reds, with almost everything under ¥5,000 (and the cheapest just ¥1,800).

This, then, is the other reason why everyone always seems to have so much fun at Butcher Brothers. And why it has been running at full capacity since it opened this time last year. Best to phone ahead, especially if you want one of the prime counter seats overlooking the kitchen.

4-5-10 Nihonbashi-Honkokucho, Chuo-ku, Tokyo; 03-6225-2936; open Mon.-Fri. 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5-11:30 p.m., Sat. 4-11:30 p.m. (closed Sun.); nearest station Kanda; smoking OK; price ¥850 lunch per head, ¥2,500 dinner (plus drinks); cash only; English menu; a little English spoken. Robbie Swinnerton blogs at www.tokyofoodfile.com.