Okay, it’s a play on words. I didn’t mean by the title that Fleming’s will deliver their food, but rather that the food delivers one hell of a dining experience.
What would a Stan Lerner blog be without a disclosure? Given my past appearances on the pages of the LA Times, Los Angles Downtown News, some gigantic billboards, the cover of a novel, and just living Downtown for fourteen years the idea that I’m going to walk into a restaurant and do some kind of anonymous review is ludicrous. In fact Fleming’s LA Live has graced more than one of my Downtown Oliver Brown adventures and I even wrote a piece for blogdowntown announcing its opening. So, the facts being what they are when I walked in with my trusty assistant Drew to do a serious review I expected some serious service and food. And I got both and then some.
Fleming’s LA Live starts with what one might consider the best location in the development—it’s located facing out on the corner of Olympic and Figueroa. The obvious advantage is the exposure to both pedestrian and vehicle traffic. The less obvious advantage, but perhaps far more significant is, that the noise and smells generated by the ventilation systems within the complex, which can be deafening and offensive in places like the side entrance to the ESPN Zone, do not seem to plague Fleming’s at all.
When you walk into Fleming’s you will most probably be greeted by management, which this particular night happened to be Scott Wise. And while I’m much more familiar with Jennifer (managing partner), who puts up with me for reasons that I cannot fathom, Scott stepped in and made me feel like I was at my cousin’s place. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate dining in a restaurant where I feel at home, but still receive the highest level of service. To this end, the transition from Scott to Nessa our waitress was seamless. Nessa brings to mind a character that might be found in the Ayn Rand classic Atlas Shrugged. A waitress? Not really. More of a service professional so good at what she does – I would let myself fall in love with her, but for my girlfriend who does not share my enthusiasm for “Big Love”.
If you’re not already familiar with Fleming’s ambiance it’s an upscale combination of burgundy and cherry wood, lots of cherry wood. Fleming’s LA Live is not a particularly large restaurant — the seven-thousand-foot restaurant has seating for 300 guests in its richly appointed dining room and room for another fifty on the outdoor patio that stretches along Olympic. The restaurant also features four private dining rooms one of which can be seen from the street as a glass enclosed wine cellar. You can see the kitchen from the dining room, it looks tight back there, but minimal space doesn’t seem to bother the chef and that leads me to the best part of writing this review, the food.
After snacking on a starter of rosemary bread, Champagne infused Brie, and sun dried tomato herb butter, all of which were outstanding, I put every salad on the menu to the test. The Fleming’s Salad while not much in the way of presentation is a standout. The lemon vinaigrette dressing mingles with the candied walnuts and dried cranberries in a dazzling juxtaposition of taste. The Wedge also stands out, simply because the blue cheese dressing is perfect. And the Cesar is competent, it actually packs a nice little kick, but it has tough competition.
Entrée’s, Drew ordered the bone in filet (special) and I the Chilean Sea Bass (special). The bone in filet as Nessa explained is for someone who wants a little more flavor versus the filet without the bone. The extra flavor comes from a layer of fat that surrounds the bone, some would say that this makes the bone in not as tender, but Drew could detect no noticeable difference and gave this wet aged steak his highest mark. I should mention that this is a substantial piece of meat, so a large appetite is necessary to do it justice. The Chilean Sea Bass ( Patagonian toothfish) could not have been better. A thick piece of fish, miso glazed sitting on top of a bed of Asian slaw. I know it’s hard to blow it with this particularly great fish, but either under or over cooked and it’s not good. So, hats off to a steakhouse that gets it right.
For sides, I took the same approach as I did the salads. Fleming’s Potatoes like the Fleming’s Salad is a standout. Now I can’t help but wonder whether I could have written a much shorter piece that just said, “If it starts with Fleming’s order it,” but until downtownster hires a few more writers I have to stretch things out. The Fleming’s Potatoes are mixed with cream, jalapenos and cheddar cheese. It’s the jalapenos and cheddar that bring these spuds to life. The Garlic-Mashed Potatoes are a nice backup plan and again the use of blue cheese does something special to this dish.
To make my doctor happy I ordered a vegetable—Creamed Spinach. This is a dish that The Palm has ruled for a long time, but not any longer. Fleming’s Creamed Spinach is at least a tie and on this particular night the winner. Perhaps my toughest test for any restaurant comes down to…yes onion rings.
Fleming’s offers a half half of onion rings and double cut shoestring fries that I can’t recommend enough. If the portions weren’t so big Drew and I could have wound up going fist to cuffs over who got the last ring. Let me say this plainly—these were the best onion rings I’ve ever had in my life. I would have to think back to the great days of Hamburger Henry’s in Belmont Shores (Long Beach) to even think of a ring that was in the same league and even Henry’s could not touch these.
Made fresh on the spot with a sweet white onion and buttermilk batter, Panko breadcrumbs and light seasoning I can’t fathom how they reached this level of perfection. It might be that they remove the onion’s outer membrane before dipping in batter, this not only eliminates the chewy sliding onion from the crust issue, I think it greatly cuts down on the amount of oil retained in the ring (in this case peanut oil). I could still eat the onion rings at The Nickel Diner in a pinch, but the Yard House tower of rings—well they need to take a walk down the block and learn how the big boys do it.
Of course I was drinking, albeit not as much as I would have been if this were a Downtown Oliver Brown adventure, but that’s why I can actually remember what I had for dinner. I started the night off with a Sparkling Peach Martini—a concoction of Belvedere Vodka, DeKuyper Peachtree Schnapps, cranberry juice all topped off with Champagne and fresh squeezed lime…I recommend this drink if you want to start off easy. Fleming’s has over a hundred wines by the glass and another ninety or so (reserve) by the bottle. With the Chilean Sea Bass Nessa recommended the Conundrum 2007 and I’m passing this recommendation along. This glass of wine, the blend of which is unknown thus the name Conundrum, is a Wow glass of wine.
If you find this revue effusive—it is. There are a lot of mediocre people and companies out there who are apprehensive when they here I want to write about them, because they know I’ll call it the way I see it. But when someone says, “Bring it on Stan,” and delivers greatness —I call it the way I see it with some passion. Fleming’s is a chain and I can’t vouch for all sixty-one restaurants, but Fleming’s at LA Live is an excellent restaurant.
If you’re not aware of the fact that Fleming’s LA Live has recently begun opening for lunch—consider this my final tip. They’re open for lunch. In the weeks to come I’ll be back to put their lunch menu to the test, but if it’s anything close to dinner all of us downtownsters should be stopping in.