Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Review: Melting Pot

Melting Pot on Urbanspoon
Repost from 2007

The Melting Pot (TMP) came to Sacramento a few years ago. It belongs to a chain and all they do is fondue. If you hadn't noticed, fondue has been making quite a comeback recently. I love fondue and have a fondue cookbook with hundreds of variations. In the past, I have had fondue at Friar Tuck's in Grass Valley, at the old Penryn Restaurant (now closed), and at a fondue restaurant in New York city. I was very interested in trying this place out.

TMP is one of the few restaurants these days that pretty much requires a reservation. Because fondue dining is a rather relaxed, lengthy experience, you need to allocate at least two hours. This makes it necessary for the restaurant to watch its scheduling. 
TMP is under/in the parking garage at 15th and H. One of the first things you notice when you walk in is the wine cellar. It is a glass enclosed room with racks and racks of wine. If you are a wine lover, I'm sure you'll love the selection here. The wine menu alone is six pages. The next thing you'll notice are the tables. Each has glass top electric burner for the fondue pots. Each seat has a napkin roll which includes a knife, fork, and two fondue forks of the same color. Each person has different colored forks so you know which is yours. I must say that I was not thrilled with the electric burners. I'm sure they are safer and therefore less liability for the restaurant, but there's something more romantic about a flame under a fondue pot.
Be prepared for a more expensive dinner bill. The waiter will try to entice you to The Big Night Out special they have. It includes cheese fondue, salads, main course fondue, and chocolate fondue for $41 per person. Although we opted to select the same courses on our own, the price still came to about $41 per person, so it's really a reasonable arrangement if you wish to have the full fondue experience. If you choose on your own, there are four cheese fondues, four main course fondues, and at least nine chocolate fondues to choose from.
The cheese fondue is your appetizer course. They mix the fondue in front of you and you are given bread cubes, apple and vegetable pieces to dip. The three of us found ourselves wanting more. In fact, you'll find that the theme of wanting more will continue as we go through the course of the meal.
After the salads comes the main course fondue. You and your companions must select which cooking fondue you wish to use and then you can each individually select your meats for dipping. You can do a broth or an oil fondue for the main course. We opted for the Mojo, which was a Caribbean flavored broth with a bit of citrus in it. For our meat selections, I chose the seafood trio, Alan chose the New Orleans platter, and Lorna chose the shrimp and sirloin platter. You each receive suggested dipping sauces and a platter of veggie pieces to dip as your side items. Since each meat item takes about 2-3 minutes to cook in the liquid of your choice, it draws out the dining experience as you must wait for each piece to cook.
Last is the chocolate fondue for your dessert. There are many kinds to choose from and you can even concoct your own. We chose a mixture of dark and milk chocolate with amaretto mixed in. Your dessert plate includes cubes of brownies and pound cake, a slice of cheesecake, and assorted fruit. Based on our cheese experience we were already complaining to the waiter as she mixed our chocolate that this would not be enough. We were informed that we can always ask for more dipping materials (except cheesecake) at no charge or we could just order another batch of fondue for an additional charge. We ended up asking for more brownie and pound cake cubes.
After we had finished we all agreed on one thing. We were still hungry, or rather, not feeling full and satisfied for the price we had just paid. If I was running the place, I'd have a kitchen able to offer other cooked main dishes as an option. For example, be able to go in and have cheese fondue, salad, a real cooked main course like a chicken breast, rice, and veggies, and then chocolate fondue. A more filling dinner. Will I go back? If I do it will be for a special occasion or to just have cheese or chocolate fondue. But my Pampered Chef quick chocolate fondue tip for you is: chocolate chips and cool whip melted together!
Fondue etiquette suggestions:
· When the cheese fondue is almost done, it forms a brown crust just before burning stage. Loosen this crust and give it to the honored guest.
· No more than six people per pot or there is too much confusion over the forks.
· If you drop your piece of food into the fondue, you have to buy a round of drinks for your clumsiness.
· When you put the bread in your mouth try not to touch the fork with your lips or tongue because the fork does go back in the pot.
· When cooking a hot oil/broth fondue, slide the cooked pieces of meat off the fork and onto your plate. You will seriously burn yourself if you try to eat it off the fork!




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