Blogs > Eating It Up Locally!

Who wants to cook? Let’s go out to eat. See where News-Herald staff members dined and where they go to unwind in our area. You might just find a new treasure in your own neighborhood.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Melting Pot

I recently had the pleasure of a night out with friends at The Melting Pot at Legacy Village. We actually started making the plans for the evening on Twitter several days before we went, and @MeltingPotCleve noticed and joined our conversation, offering reservation tips and telling us they were excited to have us in. Personally, that made me more excited about going there, and we were all wondering if we would meet the face behind the Twitter handle (we did, but more on that later).

I made reservations online, which was very convenient. When we arrived, we were greated very warmly and seated immediately. Our first observation was that it was very dark. The atmosphere was definitely... intimate, for lack of a better word. There was a simple blue light above our table, and it took a while for our eyes to adjust to the darkness. Our server, Jim, came to take our orders, and he was very friendly and helpful when we told him we hadn't been there before. He explained the menu, and we settled for the "Big Night Out" option.

The Big Night Out is designed for two people, but we were able to expand it for three, and is a four course meal. You start with a cheese fondue of your choice which comes with broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, granny smith apples and a few different types of bread in bite-size pieces for dipping. We chose the cheddar cheese option, and our server mixed it at our table for us. He poured in a little beer, added garlic and, of course, lots of cheddar cheese, and mixed it until it was the perfect consistency. It was very good, and we were excited to try everything in the cheese--especially the apples. And while fondue is a bit intimidating if you're worried about dropping food into the cheese, don't worry! They provide you with a "search and rescue spoon" designed specifically for reconnaissance missions into the hot pot of cheese--which, by the way, is very hot and kept on a warmer in the middle of the table.

Following the cheese fondue course, we were brought salads. My Caesar salad was very good, and accented with pine nuts on top. They were probably my favorite part of what would otherwise have been expected to be a typical salad.

After the salad was the main dinner entree. There are several entree options available that consist of  an assortment of pork, steak/beef, chicken, shrimp and lobster (there is a vegetarian option). You choose a cooking style, which really means the type of oils and seasonings in which you dip your food to cook, as the meat is delivered to your table raw.

I will say this, if you are turned off by the idea of cooking your own food, or looking at raw meat while you eat, this might not be the place for you (my friends and I joked about that being a reason for the dark lighting). Our server instructed us to hold each piece of meat in the very hot, bubbling pot for at least 2 minutes. The pieces of meat are bite-size, and each diner is given three skewers to use for the process. The different varieties of meat were all very delicious, and our mojo cooking style added so much flavor. The mojo was described as "Caribbean-seasoned bouillon with a distinctive fresh-garlic flavor and a citrus flair."

I was in a hurry to try each type of meat as well as the salsa ravioli that was part of our entree. The ravioli and mole chicken were my favorites, as the chicken had a uniquely seasoned flavor of it's own. We were later informed that the current menu just rolled out last week, and our server asked us specifically what we thought about the chicken. I'd say it was one of the highlights, for sure. The entree included unlimited veggies to put in the mojo cooking style, which included red-skinned potatoes, mushrooms and broccoli. I really loved the potatoes in the mojo.

Our server also brought us several dipping sauces. We had a hard time remembering what they all were (we couldn't remember which type of raw meat was which, either!), and my friend Erica was the only one to take advantage of them. I thought the flavors of the meat and the cooking style were delicious on their own, but now I wish I had sampled some of the sauces--one of which was a curry, I believe.

We were all looking forward to dessert from the start of our meal. There are several types of chocolate fondues from which to choose, and we eventually narrowed it down to the flaming turtle-chocolate mixed with pecans and caramel. You are given fresh strawberries, cheesecake, brownie chunks, coated marshmallows, rice krispie treats, and bananas to dip into the chocolate mix. Our server surprised us with an extra dessert fondue--the bananas foster. Dessert was especially fun because both of our fondue selections were enflambee, so our server lit them both on fire as he served them to us.

Now, not being a big fan of bananas, I was a bit hesitant to try the bananas foster at first, but I thought it was unbelievably delicious. The flaming turtle was decadent, and I would have a hard time choosing one as a favorite over the other. I particularly enjoyed the strawberries in the bananas foster. The cheesecake dipped in a combination of both fondues was also amazing.

Overall, the food there was excellent. I left dinner feeling incredibly full and very satisfied. My friends and I were there for long time, as it definitely is a process to cook your own entree. Our service was very prompt, and there was always someone available to refill our beverages and ask us how we were enjoying our meal.

Which brings me to Twitter. The man behind @MeltingPotCleve stopped by our table to introduce himself and acknowledge that he talked to us on Twitter. He was incredibly friendly, and I was happy to see such a personable person was behind what I viewed as a personable Twitter account. He passed by our table several times to chat, ask us how our meal was and even refill our water. We also met one of the managers who stopped by our table twice to check on us, and another woman took our photo for their Facebook page.

I cannot stress enough what a great experience I had. The food was delicious, the staff was incredible, and the atmosphere was cozy and fun. While it was definitely a splurge (it is probably difficult to spend less than $50 per person after tip--and that is without alcohol, although they had a very nice wine list and several tasty-sounding specialty cocktails), I would love to go back. If the food hadn't won me over, I'd say the staff and the way they take advantage of social media to reach out to potential patrons and make them feel welcome really sets The Melting Pot apart. It's definitely a must-visit. And hey, be sure to give them a shout-out on Twitter or Facebook before you go!

Danielle Capriato

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