St. Louis is lucky to have some fine steakhouses, and some of the best are actually chains, putting a dent in the myth that large restaurant groups are not about quality. One of the best around is Fleming's, which combines an elegant interior with attentive service and some of the best steaks around.
The Fleming's space had the low light and dark wood associated with the steakhouse experience, but also had an open kitchen that gave the interior a dynamic feel. The only thing that took away a bit from the upscale vibe was the parade of classic rock hits playing over the sound system. No offense to Tom Petty or Collective Soul, but their tunes don't exactly make us want to eat fine steaks.
The folks at Fleming's are as serious about wine as they are about beef. In addition to its large selection, the restaurant offered a 'Wine Pad'-- an iPad that contained all of the wine selections on-hand, plus functions that allow the customer to get detailed tasting notes and pairing recommendations. We found it extremely easy to navigate and it really added to the dining experience. Plus, it was just fun to play with!
This night was all about the meat, starting with the appetizer, the Tenderloin Carpaccio ($15), which we paired via the Wine Pad with a glass of Pascual Toso Malbec ($10) and a sturdy Old Fashioned ($11) made with Makers Mark. The thin strips of beef, served with capers, red onion and a mild mustard sauce, were actually quite a light segue into our mains, the Petite Filet Mignon ($39) and the Porcini-Rubbed Filet Mignon ($41). To get at least a little green in, we also split a Fleming's Salad ($9), a simple mix of greens, some candied walnuts, dried cranberries and onions. In keeping with steakhouse tradition, sides were available for a price and we chose Grilled Asparagus ($10) and the Half & Half ($10), a combo of double-cut fries and massive onion rings.
The petite filet came out a perfect medium rare, seasoned with just a bit of salt and pepper--the epitome of simple deliciousness. By this time, the Malbec was long gone, so we turned to the Wine Pad, which suggested a glass of Duckhorn 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon ($20) from Napa. Well played, Wine Pad. The porcini-rubbed filet--one of two items labeled as Fleming's New Classics--while a similar cut, was really a world apart from the petite filet we sampled. First off, we ordered this one ultra-rare; and when we cut into it, we were rewarded with a gorgeous deep rose-colored center that faded out to a pale pink. The filet was placed on asparagus spears and covered in a rich gorgonzola cream sauce, making for a much richer flavor. It was the very definition of decadent.
Dessert seemed like a foolish choice after such a feast, but we threw caution to the wind and enjoyed a longtime favorite, a very traditional Creme Brulee ($9), which provided a sweet end to a super-savory experience.
An evening at Fleming's is a pricey proposition. After all, food, drink and service of this quality don't come cheap. But for those times when you want to do things right, Fleming's should certainly be on your short list.
--Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, 1855 South Lindbergh Blvd., 567-7610, FlemingsSteakhouse.com.