In our last episode, our brave culinary adventurers tried to experience the fabulous first-rate fascination that is fondue, but were thwarted by the restaurant's eeeeeeevil hours of operation. Will they finally fonduify? Find out NOW.....
Big-band and Rat Pack music streamed from the speakers, and muted lighting illuminated decor that was as warm and rich as the cheese fondue. Did I mention they had cheese fondue?
We figured since they open at 4, we'd leave around 3:30 or 3:45 and beat whatever kind of dinner crowd would show up later in the evening. We seem to have chosen wisely in that regard, as we were seated pretty much immediately and passed by a bunch of empty tables on the way to ours, which was tucked away in a nice quiet alcove.
Our fonduologist (hey, if Songstress can invent the word "fonduify", I can do this...), Previn, introduced himself and went through the menu with us. They offer a cheese fondue that you can order by itself, entrees that come with a salad, and for dessert, several types of chocolate fondue are available (I'll get back to that later, trust me...). Previn told us, however, that to get the true Melting Pot experience, we should go for one of their Big Night Out specials, which consisted of a cheese fondue course, salad course, entree course, AND the dessert course. Sounded like a great way to try it all, until I saw the price tag. The Big Night Out specials ranged from 66 to 82 dollars. Songstress and I discussed it at length and decided that since we got to try essentially everything they had to offer, we'd go ahead and take the plunge. We selected the Chef Select version of the deal and we were on our way.
The cheese course can be comprised of four different types of cheeses; we opted for the Traditional Swiss variety. Previn loaded bunches of shredded Swiss, some garlic, white wine, nutmeg, fresh lemon juice, and some Kirschwasser (black cherry brandy) into the fondue pot sitting on our table's built-in heating element, melting it down to perfectly smooth. With this we received some small cubed pieces of french, pumpernickel and rye bread, some small Granny Smith apple chunks, and a mix of cauliflower, carrot, and celery pieces. I tried some of everything dipped in the fondue, and found the bread pieces and apple chunks to be my favorites. We both were almost completely satisfied by the cheese course but we had a lot more to go, so we reluctantly allowed Previn to take the yummy cheese away from us so that he had room on the table for our entree. To keep us on track, we were given our salads at this point. Songstress had a spring mix and gorgonzola salad with a raspberry vinaigrette dressing, and I had the club salad with their house dressing, which ended up feeling somewhere between a French dressing and a honey mustard. We ate a bit of the salad, but we knew we were on to bigger and better things, so we didn't clean our salad plates thoroughly.
One thing that I hadn't mentioned until now regarding their entrees for purposes of dramatic effect is this: your entree comes to you raw. When we ordered our Big Night Out special, we were asked what "cooking style" we'd like for our entree; the Coq au Vin option sounded very agreeable to Songstress and me, so we went with it, and we were not to be disappointed. Previn brought out a clean fondue pot, containing a seasoned broth which he allowed to warm up for a few minutes before adding 14 ounces of burgundy wine, mushrooms, and more spices.
The entrees actually consist of raw pieces of beef, chicken, fish, whatever you order. Our "Chef Select" provided us with a combination of Cajun-spiced filet mignon tips, some unseasoned filet tips, pieces of Polynesian sirloin, chunks of spicy chicken breast, slices of chorizo sausage, and 4 potstickers. These were to be held in the boiling Coq au Vin mixture for 1-2 minutes depending on which item, with a fondue fork, in order to cook them. We found that 1 minute was fine for the potstickers and sausage, 2 minutes were fine for the chicken, but all of the beef items were still a bit too pink for our taste after 2 minutes, so those ended up around 2 1/2 to 3 minutes a piece. We were also given some veggies to add to the pot and six different sauces to enjoy the cooked meats with, and let me tell ya, they don't slouch on the sauces either. My favorite sauce was the gorgonzola cheese + port wine reduction, but they were all delicious as far as I'm concerned, though Songstress would disagree about the horseradish sauce.
We each had a goodly amount of the meats and potstickers, but we had the same problem as before in that we knew there was still more great-sounding food to come. Previn cleared out the rest of the raw meat and took away the Coq au Vin pot to make room for the most exciting course, the chocolate fondue!
We decided on the Yin and Yang recipe after perusing their list of eight different types of dessert fondues, and again we were not disappointed. The Yin and Yang recipe combines dark and white chocolate swirled together in the fondue pot and served in the shape of the Chinese symbol of the same name. We were given pieces of fresh strawberry, banana and pineapple, cubes of pound cake and brownie, and a whole slice of cheesecake with which we were to ruin the beautiful artwork in the fondue pot. I can't even begin to describe how tasty everything was ... words just don't do it justice. We were both a good deal past that "satisfied" feeling and on our way to "stuffed" after enjoying all of the courses, but that didn't stop us from drizzling the remains of the chocolate fondue into our coffee we'd ordered to accompany our dessert. Yum!
On the patented Hubby-Head scale of "sucks" to "rocks", The Melting Pot earns a "this rocks so much that I may have to invent a new rating system to accomodate how much this rocks". A pretty rare treat if you insist on going for the Big Night Out gusto every time you go, but you can reduce the damage done to your pocketbook considerably by just enjoying a cheese course and a chocolate course. They've also got a very, VERY thorough wine list which you can peruse by clicking the menu I linked earlier in this post. The service was great (thanks, Previn!) and the only thing I think I'd change about the whole encounter would be to have the darn place be open for lunches, too!