1600° of Sear: Fleming's Now Open at Town & Country Village

Fleming's Steakhouse at Town & Country Village is now open, the newest entry in the quickly expanding dining scene on the west side of town.  This marks the third Fleming's to open in Houston: the first, in River Oaks, has been serving steaks for six years while location in The Woodlands has been open for five.

The Town & Country location is the 63rd steakhouse to open in the United States.  Fleming's is a national presence in the restaurant scene and drove many concepts now seen in steakhouses across the country, such as wines by the glass and private dining rooms.

Their list of 100 wines is particularly notable, as all are available by bottle or the glass and even in flights of three.  There is no markup on wines by the glass or flight, a welcomed respite in times of tighter dining budgets.  The wine is kept and served at a comfortable 60 degrees, ensuring a better taste as the wine warms and opens up as you drink it.

Fleming's steaks -- their specialty, of course -- are dry-aged for three weeks before heading to the restaurant to be hand-cut each night.  A quick sear of 1600° locks in the flavor of the beef and the steaks are refreshingly dressed with only kosher salt, black pepper, parsley and butter.

The filet mignon I had last night at a preview dinner was cooked perfectly rare: a tender, nearly cool center surrounded by the crispy, delicious char from the ultra-hot sear.  The steak parted easily under my knife and curled into thin, red ribbons that beautifully decorated my fork before being quickly devoured.

Sides weren't as impressive, but the creamy Fleming's signature potatoes laced with a subtle heat from jalapenos were a nice touch to an otherwise plain assortment of sauteed mushrooms and sugar snap peas.  Everyone at the tables agreed that the appetizers were far better: a light cheese and fruit course, seared Ahi tuna in a spicy mustard, and a dish called "wicked Cajun barbecue shrimp," the sauce for which was greedily sopped up with every remaining piece of bread.

Desserts were a bit uninspired -- a walnut turtle pie was too heavy and laden with far too many walnuts and a cheesecake had a wonderful crust but was otherwise bland -- but saved by gracious shavings of surprisingly high-quality chocolate on top.

Something to look forward to on nights when a full steak dinner isn't in the budget is Fleming's 5 For 6 'Til 7 menu, served in the comfortably low-key bar.  Every night, five of their cocktails, appetizers and wines are only $6 each until 7:00 p.m.  Cocktails include mojitos and margaritas for the traditionalists and the wine list features New World wines.  The jumbo lump crab cakes are a hearty meal and of themselves, making an evening at the bar both inexpensive and delicious.