2010.01.24 Flemings Prime Steakhouse

We visited the Baltimore Flemings on a Saturday night. Making reservations was easy using their website. We were running late and called to let them know. The front house staff was courteous and professional and assured us they would hold our table. We arrived about seven minutes after our reservation.

When we arrived, the dinner rush was well underway. The front house was crowded, which made entry problematic. A greeter was positioned to assist with the revolving door, giving it a gentle push as patrons entered. When I entered, I had no place to go and was not yet clear of the revolving door when the gentle push came. I was forced inward and into another couple. This appears to be the main issue with the Baltimore location of Flemings. The entryway is very small and consists of the hostess station and coat check. With a high volume of patrons waiting for different services, attention was slow and the crowd had little room to maneuver in or out of the restaurant.

Once our arrival was confirmed, we were informed that our table would be ready shortly. We were ushered a few feet away to the bar area. This is the second area of issue for this location. The bar is also small and is positioned between the hostess station and the kitchen. It is a main thoroughfare for waitstaff and patrons alike. There was no open seating, so we stood with a number of other patrons as waitstaff attempted to navigate the crowd. The wait station at the bar is also located at the point furthest from the kitchen, requiring servers to move through the bar repeatedly to place orders between the two.

After a 20-minute wait, we were seated. I was pleased to see that traversing the dining room was much easier than navigating the entry way. Tables are well spaced, and seating is comfortable. The acoustics allow for genteel conversation. While a conversational buzz pervaded the restaurant, the discussions at adjacent tables were not overheard, creating a cushion of privacy.

Our server was efficient and pleasant, providing us with information about the menu and the specials. We both ordered a glass of wine for dinner - I had a Spanish Cabernet while Gareth opted for a Shiraz. The wines were served from individual carafes and vigorously swirled in the glass to bring out the aroma. This presentation was pleasing and created a sense of anticipation.

The appetizer selection was interesting with notable items like Lobster Tempura and a Chilled Seafood Tower. However, we chose to pass this time. The salad offerings appeared fairly standard, and we opted to go directly to the main event. Gareth ordered the New York Strip cooked medium rare. I selected the Surf and Turf special - fillet mignon with shrimp and scallops with the fillet cooked as rare as I could get it. We also ordered the asparagus and the garlic mashed potatoes for sides.

My steak was a piece of perfection, seared on the outside and a cool, tender raw in the middle as indicated in the menu. Gareth's medium rare was closer to medium with most of the rare cooked away. We attributed this overcooking to regional preferences, Marylanders generally not being fond of raw or undercooked food. My seafood was cooked well but was not over-cooked. Both scallops and shrimp were tender and flavorful. The asparagus was a little uneven with some stalks retaining a bit of crispness and others being wilted. The overall flavor was good, though, and it was a nice complement to the meat. The potatoes were smooth and creamy with a delightful garlic undertone that was not allowed to overpower the starchy, slightly sweet potato.

We ordered coffee and dessert choosing to share the Creme Brulee as the restaurant was out of the Frozen Lemon Gingersnap Pie I initially ordered. The custard had a silky texture with a wonderful caramelized sugar crust on top. It was served with strawberries and blueberries which worked well with the custard. The coffee was fairly standard.

Our server also delivered a small box of dark chocolate truffles in honor of my birthday. This was presented on a serving plate with a single candle standing upright. I made my wish and blew out the candle.

Overall, service was polite and professional if a bit slow, taking about three hours from entry to payment. The atmosphere was very comfortable, though, and I was not aware of the time until we had finished dinner and were ready to order dessert. It appeared that the pacing was impacted in part by the high volume being served and the problematic front house. The steak was very good for the price. We agreed that Flemings is worth another visit, but on a slower night.