A prime bone-in 22-ounce ribeye at Fleming's Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar.

Below: New York style housemade cheesecake with berry and mango puree at Fleming's Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar.

Photos by TOM GILBERT / Tulsa World


Fleming's is a new heavyweight contender on fine-dining scene

Utica Square's fast-growing family of restaurants recently added a heavyweight contender when Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar took up residence on the south side of the shopping center.

Wine -- 100 by the glass or bottle and an additional 100 on a reserve list by the bottle -- gets equal billing here with well-marbled, USDA aged prime beef, an assortment of seafood dishes and some eye-popping chops.

The white-tablecloth place settings are elegant, and the room is bathed in the amber glow of huge alabaster light fixtures. It also has steak knives worthy of a backwoods hunting party, leather and dark woods, all more typical of a high-end steakhouse.

Perhaps it is the juxtaposition of the genteel and rugged that seems to make the restaurant as appealing to female diners as it is to the testosterone-pumping steak-and-whiskey set.

Whatever the reasons, Fleming's is off to a rousing start. Same-day reservations for peak dinner hours are difficult to come by.

We made reservations under fake names (I wanted Emeril or maybe Dirk Diggler but got outvoted by my wife), and our party of four promptly was seated at 8 p.m. Tables were a bit close together, servers were moving frenetically about the room and the noise level was reminiscent of an Aerosmith concert.

And that was my main objection to the whole evening. Trying to hold a conversation above the noise was draining, and at $40 to $50 a plate, minus drinks, I would like to deliver my sweet nothings in a normal voice, if not a whisper.

We had few objections about the food, however, especially the magnificent entrees.

Two of the meat dishes were ordered medium-rare and one medium. Each was broiled to near perfection. There was little difference quality-wise among the 8-ounce filet mignon ($22.95), the 14-ounce pork rib chop ($19) and the 16-ounce Australian lamb chops ($27.95).

Each was about 2 inches thick and delivered extraordinary flavor. The chops sat at the end of big, exposed rib bones, and the pork chops had been cooked in a pool of apple cider, Creole mustard, julienned apples and celery root for extra flavor.

Steaks are available plain or with peppercorn or bearnaise sauce. Bearnaise was ordered with the filet, and it proved to be a buttery delight.

Almond-cilantro-crusted shrimp ($23.95) was outstanding in its own right. Six good-sized shrimp had been placed on a wooden skewer along with roasted red peppers, mushrooms and onions, and served with orange ginger sauce and a wedge of fresh pineapple. The coating on the shrimp had a light, fruity flavor. I thought I tasted coconut along with the listed ingredients.

Side dishes are designed to feed two people. That wasn't quite accurate in our case. Ours would have served three or four people, although neither quite measured up to the other dishes that evening.

Onion rings with chipotle mayonnaise ($6.95) were nicely breaded and fried but way too thick for my taste. The Fleming's potatoes ($6.50) were an au graten-style dish with cream, jalapenos and cheddar cheese.

The appetizers and salads were more successful, and like everything else, featured big portions. The Wedge ($6.95) had about a third of a head of iceberg lettuce with tomatoes, red onions and crumbled bleu cheese. It was ordered with tasty, homemade garlic cream dressing.

Another salad featured thick pieces of vine-ripe tomatoes and mozzarella cheese ($6.95) that were drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and served with a bleu cheese dressing. My favorite was the Fleming's salad ($5.95) with mixed greens, candied walnuts, tomatoes and croutons served with two thin pieces of toast covered with melted cheese.

We shared an appetizer of breaded brie ($8.95). The hot, runny cheese had been fried in a light batter and served with a sensational jalapeno jelly. The jelly wasn't as hot as I thought it might be and had an almost sweet flavor. It came with slices of pickled ginger, a nice palate cleanser.

Baskets of rustic bread and butter comes automatically to each table, although we had to ask for a second basket when we ran out.

Desserts are made in-house, and they were memorable. A traditional creme brulee ($4.95), with a seared sugar topping like thin glass, was flawless, and a chocolate lava cake ($6.95) was simply dreamy. The hot cake was flanked by pistachio ice cream in a tuille cup and a plump, fresh strawberry.

Wines by the glass come to the table in small carafes and poured as needed into big-bowled, red-wine glasses. By-the-glass prices range from $4.75 to $23.75, although most are $7 to $12.

A nice option for those who want to try different wines is to order a flight of three 2-ounce samples, each priced at one-third the listed menu price. Wines also are listed by type and in order from lighter to fuller intensity; it isn't a new concept but is helpful when making selections.

Seating choices include wood tables with wood chairs, a long table in the middle of the room with high-backed leather chairs and leather banquettes around the edges. Each table had a candle in a glass holder.

An open kitchen is at the back of the room and the handsome bar area at the front. The restaurant seats 220, plus about 30 more on the patio, and has a separate room for private functions. Reservations are suggested.

Fleming's is a small chain with 21 restaurants spread over 13 states. Three more are scheduled to open before the end of the year. Co-founder Paul Fleming also was a co-founder of Fleming's Utica Square neighbor, P.F. Chang's China Bistro.

Tim Baker, whose culinary resume includes stints at Southern Hills Country Club, Bodean Seafood and Arrowhead Yacht Club on Grand Lake, is local operating partner.


FLEMING'S PRIME STEAKHOUSE

1976 E. 21st St. 712-7500

Food: Steaks, seafood

Price: entrees, $18.50 (double breast of chicken) to $34.95 (22-ounce bone-in ribeye); a la carte salads and sides $4.50 to $6.95

Smoking policy: No smoking

Credit cards: All major

Hours: 5-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 5-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday; bar is open one hour earlier and later than kitchen each day

Food * * * * atmosphere * * * service * * * (Ratings reflect the quality of the food, setting and service. One is fair, two good, three very good and four excellent.)


Scott Cherry 581-8463

scott.cherry@tulsaworld.com.