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Feb 2, 2009 09:12 AM

Flames Steakhouse --- Why leave the neighborhood?

After considering travelling down county last Friday night, I decided to stay local and drive 10 minutes from my home to the Flames. It was great decision.

Given the economic malaise, it was not crowded. As a result, the service could not have been more attentive. Lightly fried calamari was not pre frozen, and tender, with a bold marinara sacue for dipping. Appetizer of liguini carbonara was creamy, smoky, and redolent with thick nubbins of bacon. Penne a la vodka equally fine.

The Porterhouse came sizzling on the plate, as usual. Ah the joys of dry aged beef.

And the sides. Creamed spinach--- lots of spinach, a little cream and butter, a touch of nutmg...but not too much. Broccoli Rabe tender but not undercooked in a buttery garlic sauce. Equally fine were the house cottage fries. crisp on the outside, still moist when you bite into them.

Found a reasonably priced cab to accompany which served its purpose. Nick, the owner "bought" us afterdinner drinks.

I have decided to overlook the extremely tired decor and focus on the fabulous food and good service.

I would go back in a minute before even thinking about Mortons, Ruth's Chris, F and J's, Tollgate, or anyother steakhouse within a 20 mile radius.

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  1. I live less than 10 minutes from Flames--the two times I have been there, the steaks were good, the sides were ok, and the pricetag was ASTRONOMICAL, especially considering the fact that it is in a dingy setting in a suburban 'hood. I never recall it being crowded even pre "economic malaise", but at their prices, I don't see crowds flocking there anytime soon.

    20 Replies
    1. re: Marge

      I share your feelings about the setting. It really does s--k. If NIck would paint the place, replace some lightbulbs the carpet, it would be a hell of an improvement.
      What on their menu did you find to be "astronomical" in price? I think they are very competitve relative to Ruths and Morton's in price, keeping wine out of the equation.

      What other steak houses would you reccommend in Westchester?

      1. re: steelydad

        I am not a Ruth's fan (don't like steak with my butter), but I enjoy the periodic $99 specials that Morton's has, which include a filet mignon, crabcake, shrimp or scallops, salad, potato and vegetable for 2. Flames a la carte prices are akin to NYC steakhouses, which I much prefer for the price. I can't keep wine outof the equation because for me, a great steak dinner without wine is not gonna happen. Unfortunately, there are no steak houses in Westchester I recommend--when the mood strikes we either head into the big city, or if weather permits, grill it ourselves.

        1. re: Marge

          Well, there you don't reccommend any steakhouses in Westchester, which leads me to my next related question.....Where do you buy your prime grade steaks? I have found it very difficult to buy steaks that even though graded prime, have the flavor you find at Flames. There is a butcher in Bedford Hills who is located inside the dusty little carriage trade market near the train station. I don't know the name but his meats are amazing. Chap. Village market prime but not as flavorful, and I alway s feel like i am gettng screwed there. Any thoughts?

          1. re: steelydad

            Don't laugh - the A&P in Mt. Kisco has good meat. So does Turcos. I have also gone down to North Country in Eastchester.

            1. re: wincountrygirl

              I am n ot laughing. Prime meat is good no matter where you get it. And most of the time, decent grade A or whatever you find in the meat case at the butcher at A and P or turcos works.

              1. re: steelydad

                I don't find this to be the case. Places like Luger get better meat than A&P, regardless of the grading. And you also have in consider the aging and cooking process when comparing steaks.

                1. re: tommy

                  To acheive Steakhouse quality steak, the cut should be aged as well as prime. One butcher that carries such is Greenwich Prime Meats


                  They carry on the old Manero's retail traditions -- including the gorganzola salad.

                  The key to a steakhouse quality meat at home is to acheive a char that seals in the juices and offers that initial crunch to the palate . That's only possible with a very hot surface -- like the 1200 degrees of a commercial broiler in a resto. Most home stove broilers aren't even close. Not to mention an outdoor grill.

                  The nearest you can get to that fire is to heat a cast iron skillet on high for 10 or 15 minutes until it is white hot. Take a room temp steak (at least 1 1/2 inches thick) rub it with peanut or grapeseed oil (higher smoking pt than olive), generously rub kosher salt all over to draw the amino acids through the meat and create sizzle space between the steak and cast iron, open the windows or doors to draw out the smoke, and place the steak on the skillet. 2 minutes a side. Then place the steak still in the skillet into a 350 oven 3-4 minutes for rare, 8-9 minutes for medium rare. Rest it for 10 minutes on a rack. Then dig in ... you'll think you're at Sparks, Keens or The Palm.

                  I've been doing this for years. I think I've read threads on CH that also recommend this technique.

                  The only drawback (or advantage) is your home will smell like a steakhouse for a couple of hours.

                  1. re: louuuuu

                    I agree except for the assertion that high heat "seals in juices." I think this has been proven incorrect, although it's a widely accepted theory.

                    1. re: tommy

                      You're probably right, Tommy: searing in of juices may be a myth. Nonethelss, high heat is important for the important chemical reaction that happens when surface amino acids and sugars react at high heat. That produces new flavor molecules, which are strongest on the surface, and for this taste, charred texture and apprearance a good reason to try to achieve very high heat.

                      1. re: tommy

                        Tommy you are definitely right. I think there have even been studies to prove that seared steaks have less juices, but the taste is definitely better when seared, due to the Maillard effect that causes the caramelization.

                        I think the biggest faux pas anyone can make, no matter what the surface the steak is cooked on, is to pierce the steak with a fork when turning or lifting. This will let all the juices flow out. This and not letting the meat rest (the thing that makes me cringe at friend's BBQ's).

                        1. re: jhopp217

                          Luger's stabs their steak and they don't let it rest before slicing it. Although I agree that generally speaking you shouldn't stab and you should let it rest, they seem to do OK ignoring those old rules.

                          The Maillard reaction occurs at temps much lower than the 1200 degrees in the salamanders at Luger and other top steakhouses.

                    2. re: tommy

                      I agree that Luger gets better meat than any A &P, as does Flames, and any legitimate steakhouse in NYC, I was just agreeing with winecountygirl that one can get something decent at a supermarket. I ate at Manero's years ago (didn't they close?) though, and I did not think they were anywhere near the quality of a top tier steakhouse.

                  2. re: wincountrygirl

                    Forgive my ignorance, but I thoughtt Turcos in White Plains closed. If it reopened in another location I need to know. They used to make the most heavenly chicken salad, and also had the best chorizo around.

                    Also, I live in Eastchester, what is North Country?

                    1. re: jhopp217

                      Turco's in White Plains is closed. They have another location in Yorktown Heights.

                      1. re: Marge

                        In White Plains, Turco's is now Morton Williams -- pretty good quality all around.

                        1. re: Marge

                          Thanks Marge,

                          Do you happen to know if they still have that delicious chicken salad? It was almost like a chicken spread in consistency.

                        2. re: jhopp217

                          My apologies! It's North End Meats

                          North End Quality Meats at 835 White Plains Rd, Eastchester, NY 10707. 914-723-3363. The Turcos I go to is in Yorktown Heights. I got a rib roast on sale there right out of the case that was really good.

                          1. re: wincountrygirl

                            OH silly me, I should have known immediately what you were saying!

                      2. re: steelydad

                        It is my opinion that dog food on the grill tastes great. That said, I generally buy my meat in Westchester at Turco's or Whole Foods. I do keep a small supply of Allen Brothers filet mignons in the freezer, which I love. And since some recent issues with high cholesterol, filets are my cut of choice for now, and prime porterhouses are reserved for a rare indulgence (no pun intended), which is why I would rather trek to the likes of Lugers, Strip House or Sparks and enjoy the whole steakhouse experience, complete with ambience, Makers Mark Manhattan, good wine, and ambience, for the same tab as Flames.

                        1. re: steelydad

                          Stew Leonards has prime meat - although it is not always out in the display cases. You have to go over to the butcher shop and ask for it. I have had some amazing double thick rib steaks cut to order which ranked up there with the best restaurant.

                  3. i used to go there, food is aok, prices high, room and vibe depressing, havent been back in years, and dont miss it

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: intrepid

                      Haven't been to Flames in years, and also used to go there when it was Giardino's. I always thought it was a pretty place. What happened? Does the decor just need refurbishing? Just curious. I always thought the food was good.

                      1. re: intrepid

                        Hear you...have you found a good steakhouse in Westchester?

                        1. re: steelydad

                          Willett House in Port Chester is good

                          1. re: apples

                            Been there 3x.. Large room feels like a warehouse to me. food is adequate, but Flames a lot better quality It is 40 min from my home, so not worth the drive for me.

                      2. Simply going by hearsay, I have heard good reviews of Flames by one of the 7-8 people I know who have gone. I heard the steaks are average at best. I have heard similar things about Ruth Chris and Tollgate (which I hear is under new management). Frankie & Johnnie's has received mixed reviews by friends of mine and Morton's, while always consistent in the food department is an acquired taste as far as service. If you want a quiet dinner where the waiter is ony coming over when summoned, this is not the place for you. If you want to impress a client, this is the place. I have never had anything less than a very good meal there, but never a great meal.

                        Peter Luger, Jake's Steakhouse and Bobby Van's have been my favorites to date.

                        17 Replies
                        1. re: jhopp217

                          Ben Benson's, Abe and Jacks, Wolfgang's, Spark's, The Palm, Luger, A. J. Maxwells, the list goes on in Manhattan. On Northern Blvd in Great Neck there are 3 amazing steak houses within a mile of Peter Luger's (LI location). Ruth's Chris and Mortons don't hold a candle to any of the above. jhopp, your taste in steak houses is fine...but they aren't in Westchester. I think that some steak house owner should see this blog and perhaps decide to open one in our area!!!!!

                          1. re: steelydad

                            Steelydad, you have obviously been to more places than me, but I really have to ask a question? Sparks and The Palm? Wow, I have heard they are terrible. Especially Sparks. I've heard great things about Ben Benson's.

                            1. re: jhopp217

                              went to the palm last year for the first time (palm too? right near grand central) and was pleasantly surprised how good it was.

                              1. re: jhopp217

                                There are 3 Palms in Manhattan. The original on Second Ave, the Palm Too across the Street and one on the West side, I think in the high 40's. I have been going to the Palm off an on for 25 years. It is one of the original no decor, divey, surly waiter, great steak and lobster houses. The newer Palm on the West side looks like more of a high end chain (think Ruths C. or Morton's), but the other two look like unrenovated brownstones hat serve steak. Old school, and fun. Was last at Sparks about 2 years ago...I tossed that into the fray just because....I have not ever had a bad meal there. Spark's has much better than average service, tables are not on top of each other, I have not had a problem with thesteaks. They are probably hurting a little these days with the Corporate and Wall Street guys going out less...........but who isn't. Benson's, on 52nd betw. 6 and 7th is very consistent also. Lest I digress,

                                1. re: steelydad

                                  I forgot to comment about the local comment. It's funny, because I've heard good things about a place you'd never expect from mutliple people, who love steakhouse steaks. Ciao's in Eastchester. Now I am not a huge fan of their italian cuisine, but I have heard nothing but glowing reviews of their steaks. Of course I'd have to try it myself before I raved.

                                  I have also heard good things about Carlo's in Yonkers. Another Italain joint that apparently serves a great steak.

                                  My diamond in the rough, if you like Ribeye steaks is Joe's Quarry Inn. Now it's not my favorite cut, but the steak I had there a few months ago, was sweet, juicy and cooked perfectly. The price was very reasonable it came with two sides that were plentiful.

                                  I myself usually hold off on steak unless I go to a steakhouse or I'm cooking it myself. I tend to like mine with a heartbeat and most non-steakhouses won't serve it that way.

                                  1. re: jhopp217

                                    We frequently buy meat at Biancardi's on Arthur Avenue. A couple of years ago right before a big barbecue, my husband went down to Biancardi's to pick up the pork shoulders as well as the makings for Brunswick stew. Since, as my DH says, critters are hard to come by in these parts, his order for the Brunswick stew always includes quail and rabbit. When he went to pick up his order, Sal was embarassed that the rabbit hadn't yet showed up. He told my husband that he would be stopping by Ciao's on his way home to drop off an order, and he could leave the rabbits there for my husband to pick up. Now, Biancardi's has fabulous meat, so if people are telling you that the steak at Ciao's is great, and they're still getting their meat from Biancardi's, I'd believe them 100%!

                                    1. re: jhopp217

                                      jhopp, where is Joe's Quarry Inn located?

                                      1. re: steelydad

                                        I'm pretty sure that it is on Marbledale ROad where American Bistro used to be.

                                        1. re: roxlet

                                          Your are correct Sir-Tuchahoe. A simple search in any search engine will get you the address and phone number.

                                          There may even be a thread on/about it here. Or two or three.....

                                        2. re: steelydad

                                          As others have mentioned it's right on Marbledale Road in Tuckahoe. I also forgot about an absolutely phenomenal steak I had at Alaroma in White Plains. It was covered with frizzled onions, potatoes, and some sort of sauce that was out of this world. The steak was cooked absolutely perfectly (If memory serves me right, it was a NY strip). I believe the dish was called Steak a la Mike. Don't let the name throw you. Apparently it's named after a waiter who has been at whichever restaurant has occupied that sport for years.

                                          1. re: jhopp217

                                            If Alaroma is the place I think you are refering to it is, in all truth, located in Elmsford.
                                            And that steak dish is one you have to ask for, not on the menu when we went there. We asked about it as I had seen to on another thread here.
                                            And none of our party of three thought great things of the meal we had there. Not bad, just just great.
                                            None of us had steak.
                                            And service was very weak. Owner friendly, service was unorganized.
                                            And we arrived prior to Saturday night "rush".

                                            1. re: Jon1856

                                              i still think that the steak at FLAMES is better than the steask at BLT!!!

                                              1. re: Sammy Diaz

                                                In my opinion, the cowboy ribeye (special) at Frankie & Johnnie's in Rye is the best steak in Westchester. Albeit, somewhat expensive. But seriously, try it if you haven't. And if someone has had that steak and has something better in lower Westchester, I'd love to know about it.

                                                1. re: debrouillard80

                                                  try Peter Kelly's Cowboy Rib Eye for Two w/ bernaise at X20. As good as it gets anywhere, Flames, Luger, Palm, Cut (LA)

                                                  It's what he grilled on Food Networks Iron Chef smashdown -- trouncing Bobby Flay at his own game.

                                      2. re: steelydad

                                        In the last year, I have eaten the steak at Luger in Brooklyn, at Sparks and at the Palm on West Side Manhattan. IMHO, the steaks I had at Sparks and Palm, while certainly respectable, didn't come close to the porterhouse I had at Luger. The sides at Luger (except, in my opinion, for the tomato and onion starter) were all great -- including the unbelievable bacon, and that cheesecake mit schlag. I will refrain from commenting at length on service and decor, at which Sparks and Palm comfortably beat out Luger Brooklyn, since it remains my belief that 'Hounds care the most about food.

                                        To return to topic, however, I remain curious about Flames, which I have yet to visit. I read all your comments with interest, and would appreciate your feedback as to whether folks think eating at Flames will extinguish (so to speak) my fond and vivid recollection of that celestial porterhouse at Luger.

                                        1. re: NickM

                                          IMO if you love Peter Luger nothing comes close. Having said that, the steaks at Flames are very good. There is a thread on chowhound that says that Flames actually has the best meat of any steakhouse in westchester. Sorry, can't find the thread!

                                          1. re: NickM

                                            Honestly, there is Luger and then there is everything else. I've said it on other threads. It is one of a kind. People complain about the service, the decor and the location, but honestly, the people I know who complained about the food are people I don't listen to for food info.