You know small plate offerings are hot when big steakhouse chains add them to their menus. They arenâ€™t a natural fit, so letâ€™s look at how and why Flemingâ€™s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar made the transition.
Initially, restaurant operators saw small plates as a way to encourage customers to try more adventurous flavors and dishes, particularly ethnic cuisines. This approach worked so well that small plates took on a life of their own. Customers began to make meals out of a few smaller dishes instead of ordering a larger portion of just one menu item, especially if they wanted to share with others at their table. Thatâ€™s why itâ€™s so common for restaurants to divide their menus between small plate and large plate offerings today.
Small plates were not a logical addition to steakhouse menusâ€”steakhouses being places where customers traditionally go to eat a really large portion of a single item, not sample a few dishes served in smaller sizes. Yet it turns out thereâ€™s an audience for small plates even at upscale steakhouses like 64-unit Flemingâ€™s. Last week, the company debuted a seven-item small plates menu designed to capture this business.
Whatâ€™s their thinking? â€śSmall plates let our guests customize their meal and their dining experience,â€ť says Flemingâ€™s executive chef Russell Skall. â€śThey are a direct response to requests weâ€™ve received for more choice in portion size, light options and items to share.â€ť
So what kind of small plates items make sense in a steakhouse context? Skall came up with the following:
â€˘ Sliced Filet Mignon on shiitake risotto, with chili oil, drizzled with porcini butter.
â€˘ Jumbo Shrimp Scampi Skewers with chimichurri dipping sauce and avocado citrus salad.
â€˘ New Zealand Petite Lamb Chops with pistachio-mint pesto, â€śF-17â€ť sauce and polenta fries.
â€˘ Ahi Tuna Skewers with wasabi aioli, sweet tomato vinaigrette and homemade wonton chips.
â€˘ New Bedford Scallops with Meyer lemon-honey glaze, baby carrots, green beans, asparagus.
â€˘ Filet Mignon Skewers with gorgonzola-bacon fondue, mozzarella and sweet tomato salad.
â€˘ Flemingâ€™s Lobster Tempura with soy-ginger dipping sauce, arugula, jicama and apple salad.
Price points may seem highâ€”items on Flemingâ€™s small plate menu range between $15.50-$22.95. But given the menuâ€™s overall pricing scheme, theyâ€™re appropriate.
Coming up with these seven items wasnâ€™t a snap decision. Skall tried nearly 100 potential dishes before narrowing his list down to the final seven. Hereâ€™s his thought process on the Lobster Tempura: â€śWe took a guest favorite that was an indulgent, high-calorie appetizer and recreated it,â€ť he says. â€śYou still have the succulent lobster and dipping sauce, only now itâ€™s paired with a salad and has only half the calories.â€ť
If youâ€™ve thought about adding a small plates section to your menu but havenâ€™t made your move, feel free to go to school on how Flemingâ€™s handled the process. It demonstrates how much a small plate menu can add to an already strong concept.