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“Not too Good”

Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar
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Ranked #6 of 291 Restaurants in Walnut Creek
Certificate of Excellence
Price range: $22 - $65
Cuisines: American, Steakhouse
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Good for: Business meetings, Special occasions, Bar scene, Large groups, Romantic
Dining options: Dinner, Drinks, Late Night, Full Bar, Parking Available, Private Dining, Reservations, Seating, Serves Alcohol, Television, Valet Parking, Waitstaff, Wheelchair Accessible
Dining style: Fine Dining
Cross street: South California Blvd.
Transit: 1/4 mile from Walnut Creek Bart Station.
Description: Fleming's Walnut Creek, CA is an ongoing celebration of exceptional steak and wine. Located in Contra Costa County in the East Bay down from the Broadway Plaza Shopping Center off the 680 freeway.
Brentwood, California
Level Contributor
82 reviews
35 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 111 helpful votes
“Not too Good”
2 of 5 bubbles Reviewed May 11, 2008

Just went to Flemings on Mother's day. Thought it would be a good place to try. Not quite what I was expecting and was very disappointed with the service, quality of meat and the ambiance. You would think that a steakery would always cook meat to how they describe it on their web site. However we had to send back two steaks (petit filet and NY strip) as they were very very over cooked. We had a long wait for our steaks to be cooked in the first place (30 minutes between salad and steaks?) and then had to wait again for the steaks to be redone. We even ordered ahead for dessert but even then, it took 35 minutes for two lava cakes (which were very good) to show up. Our total time there was close to 3 hours for simple meal for a party of 5. The meat itself was not as good as I would expect for prime. They were very juicy and could taste the marbling but I don't think they age the meat much as the flavor was not as good as it should be for $35 steaks (no bread on the table and all sides are extra). The ambiance is not very good as the place is very noisy. They keep the lights very very low so it's at the point where it's difficult to read the menus. We noted some folks had actually brought a flash light and were using it to read the menus. Also you literally walk out the door into the parking garage as it's on the second floor of the building. All and in all, I would not return. They did remove the cost of the two re-done steaks, but considering the very long waits, meat quality and ambiance, I would not return here.

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Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Italian first
  • Any
English first
Walnut Creek, CA
1 review
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
“Still Not Up to Snuff After 2nd Visit”
2 of 5 bubbles Reviewed May 5, 2008

Fleming’s Steakhouse in Walnut Creek, CA, is still not up to snuff.

After an unimpressive first visit to Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar in Walnut Creek, CA, on April 6, 2008, Mr. Martin, the Operating Partner, and Mr. Fox, the President and Partner, graciously arranged a complimentary return visit to set things right. I returned on April 28, 2008.

In my first review, the prime beefsteak was the star of the show at this Ruth’s Chris competitor. The problem during that visit was poor service and average to below average side dishes. The service during this second visit was improved, but there were still significant problems. Mr. Martin visited my table and made valuable suggestions, and my server, Rob, was professional, engaging, attentive, and responsive to requests about timing without being intrusive. But, as with my previous server, Rob lacked knowledge and experience about specific wines and the wine list. In addition, the table was set with Bordeaux (red wine) glasses that were used for white and red wine, alike, throughout the meal. This is a serious mistake for a restaurant that offers premium wines priced well over $100/btl and whose name features “Wine” as an icon of sophistication and distinction.

I started with a glass of Roederer NV Premier Brute sparkling wine, one of the best in the world, paired with the house amuse bouchet of crostini with a coarse, country-style, black-olive tapenade, cheese spread, carved radishes, and celery sticks. The sparkling wine was served in a trendy, tall, and narrow straight-sided glass without a stem. This method of serving a fine sparkling wine, while, perhaps, “contemporary,” is an affront to wine lovers. The purpose of the curved shape of the traditional champagne vessel is to retain and highlight the bubbles and aromas of the delicate wine. The traditional vessel is held by its stem to minimize heat transfer from the fingers to the chilled beverage. The stemless and straight-edged glass used by Fleming’s defeats these aims, reducing the quality of the wine and experience. In addition, the amuse bouchet was undistinguished in presentation, flavor, and texture. One expects to see naked celery sticks with hot wings at a sports bar or on grandma’s Thanksgiving table, not at a dining establishment that caters to up-scale diners, who know their prime beef and fine wine.

Next was an appetizer of smoked-salmon bruschetta. It was paired with the sparkling wine. Thin, cold slices of salmon were placed on delicate, perfectly toasted bruschetta points that were spread with a dill-cream sauce. The bruschetta was crispy at service (it can be soggy if prepared too far in advance), and the smoke on the Atlantic salmon was sweet and light. The dill-cream spread was a light and harmonious counterpoint to the delicate salmon, but would have benefited from a little more acidity, citrus, and freshness from Meyer lemon, grated English cucumber, and a scant pinch of sea salt.

The next course, lobster tempura, was recommended by Mr. Martin. It is served as an appetizer or main dish, but was more than enough for four people because of its richness. The lobster tail meat is pulled from the split made in the back of the shell but left attached by its tail end. The shell and shucked meat are dipped in the batter, deep fried, and served with two dipping sauces: a mild jalapeño-sweet sauce and a soy-ginger sauce. At least four lobster tails are served with pieces of tempura red peppers, asparagus, zucchini, and portabella mushroom. This dish was paired with glasses of Chalk Hill Imagine Chardonnay (’05) and Rosemount Hunter’s Valley Show Reserve Chardonnay (’06).

The lobster meat and vegetables were cooked to succulent perfection, but were best when most of the tempura crust was removed. The crust was tasty, but too thick with a crust-to-contents ratio of about 4:1. This dish would be improved with a lighter batter to achieve a finished crust-to-contents ratio no greater than two parts crust to one part contents. Less crust would be better to highlight the filling. While this dish is an impressive presentation with succulent ingredients, it’s difficult to pair with an appropriate wine, especially with the two dipping sauces. It is also difficult to determine where this traditional Japanese meal fits in an orchestrated dining experience that sequences American steak courses and side dishes in a meaningful way.

The next course was the spinach salad with fried goat-cheese crouton, pancetta bits, portabella mushroom, grape tomatoes, red onion, and red-onion balsamic vinaigrette. The wines were the two chardonnays, above. The goat-cheese crouton was the diameter of a silver dollar and one-half inch thick. It was warm, with a crusty exterior and mild flavor but larger than needed for a salad this size. The balsamic dressing was too sweet and too much was used; the leaves were saturated and dripping. The spinach leaves were torn, crushed, bruised, macerated, and damaged, leaving the impression that the vegetation wasn’t fresh. The execution of this salad was heavy handed.

The next course was a wee taste of the wild mushroom soup, as requested (a cup would have been too much). Our server informed us that only two mushrooms were used in construction, portabella and button, because “…that’s what the kitchen had on hand.” It was a thick, country-style soup with visible chunks of fine-diced mushrooms in a cream base. Unlike many soups of this kind, the chef perfectly controlled the salt. It was just right. The soup had a rich creamy flavor with earthy elements that would have benefited from the use of more varieties of mushrooms. This is a rich, rich, rich dish that should be only tasted unless you want to be too full for the main course. This soup would be delightful with a full-bodied pinot noir.

The main courses were the mixed grill (Ahi tuna on an arugula bed and bacon-wrapped fillet mignon with blue-cheese port sauce) and the Steak Oscar (a bone-in fillet mignon with lobster Oscar on sliced asparagus with béarnaise sauce). The side dish was peppercorn mashed potatoes with parmesan cheese. The wines were glasses of Silver Oak Alexander Valley cabernet sauvignon (’03) and Hess Collection Allomi cabernet sauvignon (’04).

The mixed grill was, well,…mixed. The tuna was perfectly cooked (rare) but dry, undistinguished, plain, without sauce, and in need of a pinch of salt. The fillet was perfectly cooked (medium rare), tender, succulent, and juicy. Unlike many steaks with a blue-cheese sauce, this meat wasn’t overwhelmed by the perfect cheese that went well with the sweet-port sauce and bacon wrap. It was delicious!

The bone-in fillet in the steak Oscar was tender, juicy, and perfectly done, but, due to the high cooking and serving temperature, the lobster continued cooking until rubbery. The béarnaise sauce was adequate but the asparagus slices were under-cooked and tough.

The mashed potato side dish was a disaster. The potatoes had good flavor but were beaten to a glutinous mass of bright and shiny adhesive. They were anything but light and fluffy. There’s no excuse for this kind of mistake. No cook in a kitchen of this stature should have prepared mashed potatoes like this. Adequate quality control procedures would have prevented them leaving the kitchen. Mr. Martin acknowledged the problem, was embarrassed, but had no explanation.

The dessert was a taste of raspberry sorbet with Chantilly cream on the side. The sorbet was delightful and the Chantilly cream was a nice complement, especially when the spoon was pressed into the mint-leaf garnish with each bite of sorbet.

I finished with a Hennessey cognac in the bar. The bar is an open area in the main dining room surrounded by a low wall. It is well stocked with standard selections, but thin on premium stock. There are almost no single-malt scotch whiskies, no premium-quality tequilas, and no grappa. A disturbing feature is the presence of HD TV screens that are visible throughout the main dining room. They create a “sports bar” ambiance in the middle of an, otherwise, prime steakhouse.

As in my first dinner, the star of this show was the beefsteak. While the service was better than my first visit, the young staff is uneducated and inexperienced about wine and the wine list. The side dishes remain a problem and the menu is unfocused. It’s not clear whether this restaurant aims to be Asian, American, fusion, contemporary, traditional, sports bar, or what. Its ambiance and menu confusion wouldn’t matter if Fleming’s didn’t intend to be an up-scale, sophisticated dining establishment. But it does. To achieve this aim and justify its high prices, Fleming’s has its work cut out. It will have to improve at all levels, including: staff training and experience, table setting, menu design, food preparation, plating, serving, and quality control to become the restaurant it intends to be.

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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
A TripAdvisor reviewer on Facebook
“Very delicious steaks and appetizers. The lobster tempura was very light and crispy. Love the environment.”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed February 26, 2008

Very delicious steaks and appetizers. The lobster tempura was very light and crispy. Love the environment.

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A TripAdvisor reviewer on Facebook
“I went here with a few friends on a Saturday night. The restaurant is very nice, , the service was wonderful, the food...”
3 of 5 bubbles Reviewed January 15, 2008

I went here with a few friends on a Saturday night. The restaurant is very nice, , the service was wonderful, the food was pretty good (though everything is ordered a la carte), but the atmosphere was very noisy. I had a hard time hearing the others at my table.

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