21 Oct2007

lug1

I first enjoyed a steak at the Peter Luger Steak House in Brooklyn in 1975, and have been lucky enough to return to this famous restaurant a dozen or more times in the 32 years since … And forget thinking that I had “grown up” along with the restaurant, because it was established in 1887, or 120 years ago! Not too many restaurants in the world can claim that kind of longevity! They must be doing SOMETHING right. More than just the steak, a trip to Peter Luger brings back good food memories. I took my first trip to New York when I was 11 years old and it was an absolute eye-opener to spend two months in the Big Apple, discovering a lot of what it had to offer…. One of my vivid memories was a trip to this Steak House, and if I recall correctly, it was the first time that I had ever eaten meat served medium-rare. It looked like a cow with a gentle sun burn… eat it or weep. And I ate it and never forgot the experience, it was utterly sublime.

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A trip to Peter Luger always begins with a car ride. My sister and her family lived on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, and we would pile into the family car and drive down the FDR Drive, by the East River. We would eventually get pretty far downtown and cross to Brooklyn using the Williamsburg Bridge. As soon as we made the crossing, a sharp right and we were at the restaurant. The trek was part of the experience. Inside, a large bar serves as a holding area as your table is readied. Once seated on very basic wooden chairs, and staring at a weathered unvarnished wooden table, you peruse the menu, for what, I do not know. Since you almost always end up ordering the same thing, I know we always did. After ordering, a basket filled with fantastic bread arrives, plain rolls, sourdough rolls, pumpkin seed rolls, sometimes pumpernickel, etc. with generous slabs of sweet butter. The bread is always irresistable. Next up, we usually order a tomato salad with blue cheese dressing. An alternative would be a ceasar style green salad. The last time we were there, the tomatoes were bland and greenhouse like, but it was May, after all. A drink or two and the anticipation starts to build…

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A couple of humongous porterhouse steaks, say a kilo plus each in size, grilled to perfection and served medium-rare (probably garnished with butter at the last minute) are served sliced on a large platter that is brought to your table and tipped a bit on its side using an upturned dish placed underneath. The purpose of this angled serving is to allow the fat and juices to drain to one end, thereby making it easier for you to scoop it up with a tablespoon and drizzle it over your steak slices. The meat is dense, and notably less watery than most other steaks. The secret is all in the meat… First Peter Luger prides itself in picking only the finest beef grade “Prime” (only 2-3% of all beef in the U.S. gets this vaunted rating, according to various web sites, including the restaurant’s own). Prime means it is beautifully marbled with fat, thereby making it tasty, soft and possessing a special mouth feel for the diner. The Prime Beef is then AGED to perfection in their chillers and this basically means the beef carcasses are hung to dry out a little over several days or weeks. As the moisture evaporates, losing say 5+% of the steak’s weight, the flavor gets more intense and concentrated.

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The end result is an incredibly vivid blood red meat, that has less moisture than a grocery bought steak and with a flavor that will lodge permanently in your memory banks. Along with the steak comes a famous sauce that is a mixture of tomatoes and traditional style brown steak sauce. It is flavored with horseradish, I think, and it is unique to Peter Luger. Some folks dislike this sauce and view it as sacrilege to have it with fine meat, but I love it, ketchup fan that I am. Gnawing on the bone is heaven on earth and it is an honor to get the bone. I think The Kid got one of the bones the last time and she was ecstatic. You could be a total carnivore and only have steak. But more likely, you will order several of their signature side dishes…

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First, a mountain of fried onion rings that arrive a tangled mess, but taste delicious. Sweet slices of onion fried in a nice batter in hot oil, cholesterol be damned.

lug6

For starch, some home fries are the normal order, though some tables opt for french fries instead (must have grown up on McDonald’s…heehee). And creamed spinach is there to add color to your dish, and reduce the feelings of guilt and probable coronary failure.

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While I rarely recall ordering dessert at Peter Luger, The Kid couldn’t resist the sound of a chocolate sundae and it arrived looking like as many calories as the two steaks we had just consumed!

lug8

And finally, after some coffees and teas, a nice large chocolate gold foil wraped coin for each diner to take home. Nice touch. And they have been doing it for at least 30 years. This is one of my favorite restaurants in the whole wide world. It isn’t fancy. It doesn’t have a huge menu. They don’t have the best service on the planet. But they do a terrific steak every single time. And the total cost for 5 hungry diners? About $180 with just a few drinks. That is about $36 or P1,600 per person. Not bad at all. (Oops. My notes were wrong, the charge slip says roughly $280, so it was $56 per person, roughly P2,500 per person, sorry.) The last time we visited, there was a severe shortage of Prime grade beef in the U.S., and for the first time in decades, Peter Luger started turning away reservations when their stocks of beef fell below desired levels. About a week after we ate at the restaurant, the New York Times reported this shortage… thank goodness we got our annual fix in before they ran out…

Other carnivore pleasing posts?

Bistecca a la Fiorentina
Bistecca at Buca Lapi, Florence
Grilled Sirloin Steaks for Dinner
Angus Rib Eye Roast Beef a la Marketman
Flank Steak

 

COMMENTS:

  1. siopao says:

    MMMM… Steak just the way I like it… thick and bloody!

    I actually can’t bring myself to overcook good beef. I usually roast a good ribeye or prime rib on my birthday and people always request theirs well-done. I cook it medium and just tell them that it’s well-done. but if somebody requests medium-rare my eyes light up as if I had found a kindred spirit.

    yummy MM! yummy.

    Oct 21, 2007 | 9:24 pm

     
  2. Apicio says:

    I know Paul Castellano was gunned down in front of Spark’s but for some odd reason I persistently picture Peter Luger’s as the venue. It could just be the Luger surname or the Brooklyn setting or both.

    But what did you wash it down with?

    Oct 21, 2007 | 10:02 pm

     
  3. artisan chocolatier says:

    MM, your piece brings back memory of the good times in NYC. I always make sure I drop by Peter Lugar’s when I’m in the area. Another great place is the shawarma stand (street food) by the time warner building and of course…carnegie deli for the NY Cheesecake!!!

    Another place you may want to try is the recreational cooking classes at The Institute of Culinary Education (formerly Peter Kump) at 50 W 23rd St. For a little over a hundred, you get to learn how to prepare and cook several steaks inclusive of appetizer, wine pairing, and dessert. Of course you get to eat all the steaks you cook!!!

    My friends and I have a blast everytime we go there.

    Oct 21, 2007 | 10:39 pm

     
  4. gemma says:

    my husband and i have this old-schoolish habit of celebrating wedding anniversaries at peter luger’s. it may not be a trendy place but peter luger’s is an institution and it could be the best place to get a piece of steak in the US. one may just have to put up with grumpy servers (who look like they are just as old as the establishment).

    i just have to tell my neighborhood butcher that i’m making peter luger style meatloaf and he knows that it means pancetta slices with the veal, pork and beef mix.

    Oct 21, 2007 | 10:56 pm

     
  5. gemma says:

    MM you must have the french fries next time you eat at PL… they’re the best!! just as good as the pommes frites in paris. definitely not like the ones you get at fast food establishments. next to the steaks, they must be known for their fries.

    Oct 21, 2007 | 11:13 pm

     
  6. dhanggit says:

    Looks really delicious but a bit calorific for me this culinary escapade that you had in NYC.I love steaks too but i prefer mine medium rare with lots of white pepper sauce…hmmm..

    Oct 21, 2007 | 11:57 pm

     
  7. The Steak Lady says:

    Oh my MM, Peter Luger’s! definitely stirs up great memories of a fantastic meal =) and fyi, Prime grade steaks are available already in Manila. when’s the next eyeball? Maybe i can bring some Prime grade rib eye on the next meet up ;-)

    Oct 22, 2007 | 12:18 am

     
  8. Marghi says:

    oh no a new york trip…with a peter luger triphope to boot….oh dear am I envious….you had a shake shack burger too…M

    Oct 22, 2007 | 12:39 am

     
  9. pete says:

    Hands down Peter Luger’s is my favorite steak house! I can easily eat a whole order of steak for 2!

    Oct 22, 2007 | 1:18 am

     
  10. fried-neurons says:

    Yay, MM! I love Peter Luger. It is definitely my favorite steak house, period. Good steak is one of my vices. I’ll pay any amount of money for a really good hunk of meat, and even though I’ve had great steak all over the US, at many different price points, Peter Luger will always be my favorite. I remember the very first bite of their steak I ever had… it was almost a religious experience. :)

    Oct 22, 2007 | 1:30 am

     
  11. MRJP says:

    I wonder how Peter Luger’s steak is different from Japan’s kobe beef? I havent had kobe beef yet. Luger’s steak is definitely a treat for me. Yum!

    Oct 22, 2007 | 2:23 am

     
  12. Nikita says:

    i heart peter lugers!!! sadly the last time we went to NY we weren’t able to get a reservation :( their apple pie is great too! they come over with a HUGE bowl of whipped cream to pile on top of it. yummmm

    Oct 22, 2007 | 8:30 am

     
  13. Myra P. says:

    Had same kind of meal at Robert’s, which is midtown, probably bec we were too lazy to go to Brooklyn. Great as these NY steak houses are though, I’m still a Lawry’s fan above all :)

    Oct 22, 2007 | 8:47 am

     
  14. gemma says:

    marghi:

    the shake shack burger at madison square park was temporarily shut down for health code violations about a year ago… rats running all over the place…

    Oct 22, 2007 | 9:06 am

     
  15. kikas_head says:

    I wish I could find a great steakhouse here…..I have not had a great steak yet in Manila. I have to wait until I go home to get my fix…

    Oct 22, 2007 | 9:15 am

     
  16. ratacutie says:

    Is Peter Luger’s better than Arthur’s in NJ? I haven’t tried Peter Luger’s but we ate at Arthur’s when we were in the US the last time. I thought that it was the best steak I’ve ever had. I have to agree, I haven’t eaten steak here in the Philippines that would compare to Australian or US steaks.

    Oct 22, 2007 | 9:37 am

     
  17. Blaise says:

    Hello MarketMan, this is not related with this post..

    I am wondering, what is a jelly bag and where could I get one? I am planning to make this kalamansi jelly, since my uncle would be going to the US and Canada this first week of November. I would like to give this to our relatives there.. ;)

    Thank you..

    Oct 22, 2007 | 10:04 am

     
  18. Marketman says:

    Blaise, a jelly bag looks like a fine cacha bag. You can use several layers of cheesecloth instead (available at Gourdo’s or other kitchen shops) set inside a sieve or colander…

    Oct 22, 2007 | 10:34 am

     
  19. apm says:

    Hi Marketman,

    Any article about Lugar’s makes me want to book a ticket asap.

    We Filipinos tend to go for texture rather than flavor of beef. That’s one of the reasons why there is no steak house in the Philippines with dry aged beef. Dry aging tends to firm up the beef.

    There are a few establishments that use wet aged beef the best of which is the Fireplace grill at the Hyatt but not a single establishment has dry aged beef. One of the reasons is that in wet aging results in weight loss of the meat. As it is Prime meat already costs a fortune imagine the loss of 20% from dry aging.

    Have you ever tried the bacon at Lugar’s?

    Oct 22, 2007 | 11:06 am

     
  20. fried-neurons says:

    PS:

    The key to a great steak is that the meat is aged. Most steakhouses worth their salt use aged meat, although some use wet aging and some use dry aging. From what I understand, dry aging wastes more meat, which makes the end product more expensive. You can tell the difference in the taste, though. Dry aged steaks are much more flavorful and complex. Even if both are USDA Prime, wet aged steaks are never as good as dry aged.

    But that’s just my opinion. :-)

    Oct 22, 2007 | 11:09 am

     
  21. fried-neurons says:

    Oh, one last thing… sorry to be picky but it’s a little pet peeve of mine… it’s “Peter Luger”, not “Peter Luger’s”.

    Just like it’s “Nordstrom”, not “Nordstrom’s”.

    :-)

    Oct 22, 2007 | 11:11 am

     
  22. Marketman says:

    fried neurons, thanks, i have changed title and post…you are correct, of course. And yes, dry aging is the key for me… it loses moisture, not meat, so the starting piece eventually weighs less and thus efectively costs more… apm, I have never tried the bacon at PL, but I saw someone munching on it at the next table and it looked superb!

    Oct 22, 2007 | 11:20 am

     
  23. negrosdude says:

    gads, i LOVE the way YOU write, Marketman… i particularly really don’t like steak (although my cousin James Matti indulged me with a fine Angus prime rib at Elbert Cuenca’s Steak Room last Saturday..made me rethink meat eating) because I feel one has to masticate a lot to the point of boredom before swallowing meat, but reading your account on having steak at Peter Luger’s (or on most other things besides, including subjects that have nothing to do with anything culinary)makes my mouth water! reading you allows me to take my mind off bombs going off in malls and suffering a non-credible government (gads, how much longer do we have to bear this kind of public leadership!!)

    Oct 22, 2007 | 12:30 pm

     
  24. Marketman says:

    now, now, negrosdude, we have to be careful, it was an explosion and not confirmed bomb…they think it could be the combination of methane from the septic tanks and a bunker of some sort… at any rate, thanks, I appreciate the comments from you no less. Heehee. I just recently spoke with a colleague of yours at T&C. Congrats on the mag, it is nicely done.

    Oct 22, 2007 | 12:41 pm

     
  25. fried-neurons says:

    apm…. dry aging actually makes the beef more tender, _not_ more firm… as the beef hangs to dry for anywhere from one to four weeks (yep, weeks), the tissues start to break down, which makes the meat a lot more tender than freshly slaughtered or even wet aged beef…

    (lol. can you tell that i am super obsessed with steak?)

    Oct 22, 2007 | 1:08 pm

     
  26. alicia says:

    Peter Luger is really the best. Although I must say, last April we ate in Wolfgang’s (the former headwaiter of Luger’s who opened an almost identical to Luger’s resto on 33rd street) and it was excellent as well. The steak and sidings were identical. We had the hash brown/german style potatoes, creamed spinach , onion rings and the tomatoes and onions but with the steak sauce instead of salad dressing. I know there are Peter Lugers purists out there but I have to say, not having to go to Brooklyn (we stay in the city-Manhattan as well) was a definite plus. Minus the taxi fare makes it easier on the pocket to order a good wine!

    Its interesting to note that you spent 1600 pesos per perrson for such a meal. It makes me revist a thought I have had on food costs in Metro Manila. For a similar “Peter Luger” style steak at a Serendra restaurant, My husband and I paid P4500 for our meal so thats 2250 per head. Granted there were more of you to bring total cost down, but just think how expensive relative to our economy food can be in the Philippines? I have long been thinking about this because I have found that relative to other Asian countries, our food is quite expensive.

    Ratacutie, Arthurs is different from Peter Luger, starting with the price point. I remember when we wanted a steak without breaking the bank we would take the PATH train out to Jersey to eat at Arthurs. It certainly satisfied our beef craving! And it was good value for the money. Peter Luger beef is of better quality though and the sidings are good enough to eat on their own sans the steak (But why would you want to do that?!) . Try it out sometime!

    Oct 22, 2007 | 1:13 pm

     
  27. Marketman says:

    alicia, yes, I pointed out the price precisely to highlight the fact that we do have expensive restaurant food here. Of course, the steaks are like gold, their price at source the same, plus freight and “clearing” expenses at the ports. But with rents of places lower, labor costs lower, etc., you would think you could get fabulous meals here for less. Peter Luger was definitely a bargain compared to some places in Manila.

    Oct 22, 2007 | 1:24 pm

     
  28. dee says:

    Sigh, never enough time (and money!) to try everything at the big apple. Got to save up again for the next trip :)

    Oct 22, 2007 | 1:36 pm

     
  29. Em Dy says:

    For a person who likes steak well done or at least medium well, I found your 6th photo icky. Eeeww.

    Oct 22, 2007 | 3:44 pm

     
  30. Marketman says:

    Em Dy, here I shall be unyielding in my personal opinion. Good steak must and can only be fully enjoyed rare or medium rare at most. Just like most folks wouldn’t eat chicken rare, I don’t think beef is best represented well done… :)

    Oct 22, 2007 | 4:40 pm

     
  31. Mandy says:

    timely post, MM… i am a steak lover and my husband and i are going to ny next week. i’ve been building up my list of places to go to and eat at in ny. we’ll be be there for only a week though, and then fly out to the west coast. we are definitely going to peter luger for some serious steak eating. can’t wait!! :D

    Oct 22, 2007 | 5:31 pm

     
  32. ratacutie says:

    hi alicia. thanks! my husband and i were just talking about it. we might just try it out when we go there early next year. are they kid-friendly? we will be traveling with our baby. she will just be over a year old by then so, she might be a handfull. :) i’m thinking of treating my husband’s family there for his birthday. how expensive is it?

    Oct 22, 2007 | 5:34 pm

     
  33. Anna Banana says:

    Haven’t had much steak since i ate there in ’99 so it is still at the top of my list as THE best steak so far. It seems so long ago but I remember it best for that melt-in-your-mouth feeling…

    Oct 22, 2007 | 11:32 pm

     
  34. jdawgg says:

    To Marketman and MM Fans,

    You don’t have to go to the Big Apple to taste the best and the most tender steak ever. It’s right next door to the Philippines. Try Kobe Beef or often called Mishima Beef or Wagyu Beef so long as your willing to pay the price (our local distributor “Andronico’s” sell them for $39.99/lb. for the rib eye steak). Where else would you see a grain feed cow, gets a bottle of beer daily as well as a “massage”. The end result of this treatment is the best tasting steak you and I would savor the flavor.

    Oct 22, 2007 | 11:39 pm

     
  35. Maria Clara says:

    Aged steak is a big difference with robust flavor. It costs more for shrinkage and moisture lost so they pass the buck on to diners. Whole Foods carries organic aged steak in variety of cuts for home enjoyment.

    Oct 23, 2007 | 3:34 am

     
  36. MRJP says:

    Pano ba mag dry aging ng steak? Do you hang dry it in a special chiller? Within certain temperature?

    Oct 23, 2007 | 5:11 am

     
  37. Marketman says:

    MRJP, they use a walk in chiller at specific cool temperatures and specific humidity levels. I suppose one could try it home in a sanitized fridge with nothing else in it and rarely opened so that the temperature stays even (though I wonder if it is low enough). MC, good to know Whole Foods carries organiz aged steak. jdawgg, yes, I have tried Wagyu, or the cattle behind Kobe. It is good, but not always good. In fact, there is a lot of substandard wagyu out there. Good wagyu is terrific and worth every penny but it is also a very rich meat, different from an aged Prime steak in many ways. I have a few previous posts on Wagyu in the archives.

    Oct 23, 2007 | 7:01 am

     
  38. MRJP says:

    Thanks, MM! I probably wont try aging the steak at home heheheh, mahirap na. Baka mag grow ng bacteria ang meat, ayayay!

    Oct 23, 2007 | 7:24 am

     
  39. dizzy says:

    i have to admit i’ve never had steak in my life. but reading this post and the accompanying comments makes me wonder if i am actually missing out on something good. although, to be honest, a slightly bloody piece of meat doesn’t seem quite appetizing to me. oh well, i guess you can consider me as one of the “unenlightened” =p

    Oct 23, 2007 | 12:15 pm

     
  40. jafores says:

    Mandy, I suggest if you are going to Peter Luger you make reservations, best would be to book for a late lunch like 2PM (so you can walk off the meat after) their phone number is (718)3877400 we usualy just walk in at that odd hour and can find a seat, but because of a recent porterhouse shortage my friends who ate there a few months ago without reservations were not served the porterhouse and were served a ribeye instead.
    MM wow $36/head thats great! For some reason we manage to spend over $50/head without tip and wine! I guess thats cause we always over order so we can take home the leftovers and have the steak with rice the next day :) guys you must try their pecan pie its the absolute best!

    Oct 23, 2007 | 9:28 pm

     
  41. benchorizo says:

    Best steak I’ve ever had!!! Too bad, I wasn’t able to go the last time I was in NYC. I heard that Wolfgang’s in Manhattan is pretty close (since Wolfgang used to be a waiter at Peter Luger’s). There’s plenty of great steak houses here in Chicago, but I think most of the meat is wet-aged. I know Smith and Wo’s are dry-aged too, and though decent, doesn’t even come close to Luger’s when it comes to taste and tenderness. Also, David Burke’s Primehouse is supposed to have good dry-aged meat, ranging from 35-75 days, the older the meat, the more expensive. How ironic. :-)

    Oct 24, 2007 | 1:15 am

     
  42. The Steak Lady says:

    MM, would you know if the steaks at Morton’s is dry aged too? thanks.

    Oct 24, 2007 | 9:37 am

     
  43. Marketman says:

    The Steak Lady, sorry, I don’t know if Morton’s dry ages its steaks. Please put your contact details on the next post asking readers to post their food business numbers…I want to make sure readers can buy your meats this holiday season! jafores, I think we only ordered two porterhouses for 5 people (including the Kid). It was just right, but no leftovers. I was a bit surprised by the prices too…I would have guessed closer to $50 if we were really hungry! :) dizzy, a good steak is sublime…a bad one is forgettable.

    Oct 24, 2007 | 9:44 am

     
  44. The Steak Lady says:

    That’s very kind of you. Thanks MM! =)

    Oct 24, 2007 | 3:47 pm

     
  45. MegaMom says:

    My only beef (pun intended) with Luger is that they only accept cash. (or has that changed, MM?) First time visitors ought to know that when they go.

    Oct 24, 2007 | 11:56 pm

     
  46. Marketman says:

    Megamom, you are right. They only accept cash OR their own PETER LUGER charge card. If you go there once a year or more and want to order their stuff on-line, it is good to have their in-house card. Not sure if it entitles you to a discount as well. But yes, I think they are behind the times on that one…they need to take credit cards!

    Oct 25, 2007 | 6:36 am

     
  47. alicia says:

    Ratacutie, It should be fine to bring your 1 year old. While I wouldn’t exactly qualify Peter Luger as a “child friendly” restaurant, its not formal enough to not welcome kids. I may suggest you go for lunch because with the business crowd in the evening it can get a bit loud and rowdy. For planning purposes I would use $50/head, give or take a few dollars. I would rather you think you are spending more and come out spending less than the other way around.

    For everyone else, if I may so bold as to make a recommendation for those of you planning a trip to Hong Kong and wanting excellent steak, try out THE STEAKHOUSE in the Intercon, former Regent hotel. Its just great and am sure the MM readers will enjoy it. They let you choose your steak knife from a selection of 12 knives (French, American, Japanese). They also have 14 different salts they bring to your table and about 12 kinds of mustard. But let me say the restaurant is more than just these “gimmicks” . The steak is really good!

    Oct 25, 2007 | 9:05 am

     
  48. jafores says:

    I tried to get a peter luger card but if you dont have a SS number, no dice.. I remember the steak for 2 was $75 (best to order in this denomination, as the larger steaks although cheaper has less of the tenderloin potion of the porterhouse) and appetizers around $11, think $50/head without wine would be good. please dont forget the desserts!

    Oct 25, 2007 | 11:13 am

     
  49. Marketman says:

    Hi Everyone. My sister just emailed me to correct the amount paid for dinner at P. Luger; it was $280, not $180, so the average cost was $56…that’s more like it. Sorry for the inaccuracy, I have changed the post above. jafores and Alicia are right, figure on $50 per person, before wine, if any… Thanks!

    Oct 25, 2007 | 1:06 pm

     
  50. zeph says:

    I’ve been to an 8-day trip to NY recently and due to business have not had time to get my daily marketmanila fix. i weep at the fact that i have not had a chance to try this place while I was there…:(

    Nov 7, 2007 | 1:32 pm

     
  51. Kevin says:

    Marketman, i just came from new york 3 weeks ago. and you are right, prices in new york fine dining (jean georges, delmonico’s, babbo, etc) are comparable to the prices here. sometimes, its even a rip off here in manila. I was fortunate enough to have joined the new york summer restaurant week. it was a blast! great food for a bargain. hopefully, we can have something like that in manila. lastly, would you know anyone here in manila selling aged steak? thanks.

    Aug 31, 2008 | 3:03 pm

     
  52. Marketman says:

    Kevin, yes, some of our local restaurants charge a lot for what they offer. Several folks or restaurants serve wet aged steaks. But I have yet to find someone with dry aged steaks on offer…

    Aug 31, 2008 | 3:36 pm

     
 

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