The Melting Pot

Dip into confusing dining
By ROBERT NADEAU  |  October 29, 2008
1.0 1.0 Stars

Next, you choose a “cooking style,” the hot medium into which you will put food. The defaults are canola oil (the traditional fondue bourguignonne) and vegetable broth. But for another $6, there are coq-au-vin and mojo styles. We had the latter, which is supposed to be Caribbean garlic-citrus, but is mostly hot pepper.

Entrées are confusingly priced, since everything tends to be in a combination. Individual entrées ($19–$36, including salad) can be as simple as marinated breast of chicken ($20) and twin lobster tails ($36). We tried “The French Quarter” ($23), which was Cajun-seasoned shrimp, slices of sirloin and tenderloin steak, chicken breast, and Andouille sausage. They have devised some method for the Cajun seasoning to stick to the food in the broth, but the double dose of hot spice wasn’t so much fun.

There are also entrées for two ($66–$76), which include a cheese fondue and a salad. But what they really want you to have is the “Big Night Out” ($43–$48; $86–$96 per couple), consisting of the featured cheese fondue, a featured salad, a featured dessert fondue, plus a choice from three assortments of protein. We had the “Fondue Fusion” ($92 per couple), with a lobster tail (don’t over-cook it), filet mignon (a winner in a simple broth), sirloin steak (better with the strong flavors), cedar-plank salmon (the best thing on the menu; unfortunately, it’s not available à la carte), raw shrimp (maybe okay with the oil), marinated chicken (nah), ravioli of indeterminate stuffing (they do mostly stay on the fondue forks), and some vegetables (potatoes are slow to cook; mushrooms work pretty well). Servers spend some time setting this all up, telling you how long to cook things, and describing which of the many sauces goes well with what. You’ll forget all of it.

Our sauces were curry (hot, but not actually curry), teriyaki (better as a marinade), something pretty close to Chinese-restaurant duck sauce (if only they had the Chinese mustard), cocktail sauce, a kind of sweet cheese sauce, and the Gorgonzola sauce that comes with Buffalo wings. Pick a sauce or two you actually like, and that’s where you do all your dipping.

The Melting Pot has an extensive wine list, which can get expensive but starts cheap and is fairly priced. All these sauces and foodstuffs are going to overwhelm anything subtle. Of the glasses we had, the Argentine white, 2007 Torrontes Trivento “Select” ($7/glass; $23/bottle) was the best, like a well-made New Zealand sauvignon blanc. A red from Argentina, 2007 Bodega el Portillo malbec ($7/$25), was another great value, with raspberry fruit and near-French structure. The 2006 Mirassou pinot noir ($7/$23) from California was softer but clean and quaffable.

There’s only one dessert, but it gives you 23 (we did the math) permutations of chocolate fondue ($18 small — serves two/$36 regular). Take your pick of white, milk, and dark chocolate, then add, if you like, various liqueurs and mix-ins, tableside-flambée options, or . . . this is getting pretty confusing. Just do what we did: try the “Pure Chocolate,” with dark over milk and white. The dipping materials are banana, strawberries, a small slice of cheesecake, marshmallows covered with Oreo crumbs, marshmallows covered with graham-cracker crumbs, squares of pound cake, squares of brownie, and Rice Krispies treats. I wish you could order just bananas.

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