After our less than memorable experience at Gem’s Steakhouse in Deadwood, South Dakota, we decided to celebrate the last night of our vacation in the USA by going to a steakhouse in Salt Lake City. Locals recommended Fleming’s, a chain of steakhouses with over 60 restaurants all over the United States. We were not disappointed this time: it was one of the best steaks we’ve ever had.
Fleming’s uses USDA ‘Prime’ beef, aged for 21 days. For those of you who are not from the US, let me quickly explain about USDA beef grades. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) grades all beef and the grades you will most commonly see are Prime, Choice, and Select. According to the USDA:
- Prime grade beef is the ultimate in tenderness, juiciness, and flavor. It has abundant marbling – flecks of fat within the lean – which enhances both flavor and juiciness;
- Choice grade beef has less marbling than Prime, but is of very high quality;
- Select grade beef is very uniform in quality and somewhat leaner than the higher grades. It is fairly tender, but, because it has less marbling, it may lack some of the juiciness and flavor of the higher grades.
(Source: USDA How to Buy Meat)
Of all the beef produced in the U.S., only 2% is certified prime grade by the USDA. Most of that is bought by steakhouses such as Fleming’s. I wish more beef of a similar quality would be available in the Netherlands. Consumers here prefer lean beef, and so that is what butchers (and supermarkets) sell. Marbled meat is thought by many Dutchmen to be meat of low quality. How very wrong! Most of the marbled beef available in the Netherlands is from special breeds like Wagyu (Japanese) or Rubia (Spanish), has to be imported, and is very expensive. Anyway, back to Fleming’s.
Fleming’s sears the steaks on a 1600F/875C fire and then lets them rest before serving on very hot plates.
We asked about the size of the steaks and decided to share a rib-eye steak after hearing it was 16 oz (1 pound or 454 grams) since even 8 oz is more beef than we usually eat. We slightly regretted this after tasting the steak because it was so good.
This is the steak when I remembered to take a photo after having started to cut it in half. Unfortunately this time my iPhone did not take such a great picture. I noticed right away that this was one of the most tender steaks I had ever eaten, because the knife cut through it like butter.
We had obviously ordered the steak medium rare, and although this picture doesn’t do it justice you can tell that the outside is nicely seared without overcooking too much of the inside. The steak was as uniformly medium rare as is possible without using sous-vide.
Even though it was only slightly more expensive, this steak was vastly better than the one we had in Deadwood a few weeks ago. This was due to better meat, but mostly do to better cooking. The steak was very tender (without being mushy) and very flavorful.
The salad at Fleming’s was fresh and the ‘shoestring’ fries, served in a paper bag, were good.
Fleming’s has a good wine list with a very large selection of wines by the glass. We had a nice bottle of Francis Ford Coppola (yes, the film maker) cabernet sauvignon that was very elegant and paired well with the beef.
The chocolate lava cake was good and very chocolaty (although they seemed to have pulled it out of the oven a bit late because the center was firm rather than molten, but we didn’t mind) and the vanilla icecream was OK (I like it better with more cream and real vanilla bean). They had an usually large selection of dessert wines available, but unfortunately no PX. So I had a glass of 10-year old tawny port that paired well with the chocolate cake.
The service was very good, although that may in part have been due to the fact that we arrived quite late (8 pm) and therefore our waiter did not have many more tables to care for. He actually knew quite a bit about wine with wine being one of his personal interests as well, and also could explain in detail how the steaks are prepared.
All in all, Fleming’s is a very good steakhouse and I expect other branches of it to be good as well.