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Is Fondue back? - The Melting Pot opinions.

  • r

The Melting Pot just opened its first two restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area and seems to be agressivly invading with four more to follow soon.

I just stopped by for a drink today and to scope the place out. The wine selection was very nice, if a bit pricy. The location in Larkspur California has a wine list of about 250 wines with probably about 20 available by the glass. There's some good ones in there too.

How's the food? For some reason I find this funny, but they actually pair the wines with the fondues. So there are fondue / wine flights.

I asked the terrific bartender (what a surprise for the suburbs) if all franchices had the same selection of wines. He said they pretty much did, but being a franchise the owner had some discretion.

So what is your experience here? What to order, if anything. What to avoid?

Anyone been to more than one and found differences?

I guess the first one opened in Florida in the 1970's when fondue was the trend of the moment and every house had a fondue pot. Recently from their website it seems they are expanding and currently have 100 locations across the country.

Link: http://www.meltingpot.com

Image: http://www.meltingpot.com/SanJoseca/i...

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  1. There's been a Melting Pot in Irvine for a very long time (for Irvine, anyway), and it always seems to be reasonably busy. The food's just OK and it's quite expensive for what it is (a bunch of cheese and some bread).

    4 Replies
    1. re: Das Ubergeek

      Try Geja's in Chicago. Good food. Not cheap. Yes, you will smell like oil when you leave but the food is tasty. Can be romantic or just a fun place to go with friends. Nice wine list too. Check it out below.

      Link: http://www.gejascafe.com/wine_list.htm

      1. re: twodales

        I'm originally from the Chicagoland area, and Geja's is one of my all time favs. I was taken there a few times as a child, and I was hooked. I've had a love affair with fondue ever since.

        1. re: keeter2121

          Chicago Fondue - It's all about the Fondue Stube!!!! on Peterson (just West of Andersonville). Sooooo..1970's - but, not meaning to,ya know? Innocent kitsch.

      2. re: Das Ubergeek

        If all you've had is melted cheese and bread you didn't have the full experience. Went to a Melting Pot once, but it's been many years.

        There's a similar restaurant in San Juan Capistrano (Calif), called La Fondue, that has several game meats on the menu as well as seafood, and you can cook in oil or on a hot griddle - your choice. I think Melting Pot is pretty much the same (with a less adventuresome menu lineup).

        We ate ourselves almost into a stupor, I'm afraid, and could still taste the oil and garlic days later. It was good (we did the griddle method) but was more of an 'experience' than a great meal. Have to admit we had a $100 coupon from a local car dealer or we probably wouldn't have gone the whole nine yards.

      3. worked at one during my college years, and have been to a couple of others since. food's pretty much what you make of it; it's very easy to overcook it, especially more tender things like lobster. it is rather expensive, given that portions are not large and you're doing a part of the work yourself. that said, it's a fun meal with a nice communal aspect. good place for a date as you can linger over dinner, feed each other (especially one of the chocolate fondues), and enjoy some drinks.

        1. I went to the one in DC a couple of years ago. I believe my S.O. and I shared the surf 'n' turf fondue for two. It was fun, service was friendly, and did not taste bad, but I remember wishing for more seasoning. I think the reason we never went back was because it was such a big time commitment for just OK food.

          1. I agree with the others. I spent $100 on dinner for two, with wine. It is easy to overcook, it is bland, and I don't think that the seafood items themselves are of very high quality. I was extremely disappointed. The only thing that might be worth going for is for a nightcap and chocolate fondue for dessert, although I'm a chocolate snob....I expected it to be sublime, and it wasn't.

            1. My son and his wife cherish the Nashville restaurant as their Special Place. So far I have avoided being dragged there on my visits, and intend to continue to do so. Korean barbecue is the only kind of participatory dining experience I've had that I think is worth the trouble. If I'm going to cook, it'll be my food in my kitchen, thank you.

              Fondue is fun at the (very) occasional party; I think once every two or three years is about right.

              1. well, its WAY overpriced... when you leave you smell strongly of oil. but the cheese fondue is so damn good that ill go anyways. other than the cheese fondue its all ok, just insanely expensive. like 70 bucks for a few bites of lobster and filet mignon that you cook yourself in nothing but hot flavored oil.

                1. a friend just took me to the one in irvine a few weeks ago. i got a vegetarian broth (i can't remember which one), and i thoguht it was VERY flavorful. i was impressed at how much flavor they were able to cram into that broth.

                  i agree that it is pricey for what it is. it is great for when you want a long time to chat, though, as most restaurants push you out the door the second you're done eating. this one takes so long that you have plenty of time for chatting as you snack.

                  1. Fon-don't!

                    Husband and I went to an Atlanta location a couple years ago because we had a coupon. I really wanted to like it, but the truth is that the food was pretty bad. The worst thing was that the bread, a rather major part of fondue, was awful. Soft, white supermarket type rolls. Ugh. Plus, it is a chain and has all of the trappings of one. If I recall correctly, the carrots were the pre-cut flavorless "baby" carrots made from mutilated grown up carrots.

                    Too bad, I love a good fondue. Good thing it is so cheap and easy to make at home.

                    1. I went to the one near Philadelphia and really liked it! I agree that it was way more expensive than necessary, but a great overall experience. The meal took hours and the group of us had a great time.

                      The cheese and dessert fondues were amazing, but none of us were crazy about the meat and veggie portion. I'd love to go back, but would probably opt for just the cheese, a salad (which was also really good), and then dessert.

                      They just opened one up a block from my work and, being that I have an expense account for clients, I am psyched!

                      1. Spouse and I went to the one outside Philly several years ago. Our very mediocre, overpriced meal ended with a trip to the local emergency room when he burned his hand on the pot. (I'll spare you the gory details, but it wasn't his fault.) Don't know if they've changed the pots since, but this was completely metal, with a metal handle and nary a potholder in sight.

                        The staff was rather unconcerned and the manager had the audacity to offer us prescription burn medicine. When I told them I just wanted the check so I could get Spouse to the ER, they actually made us wait while they took their sweet time to get it.

                        While we were at the hospital, one of the nurses told us they get tons of people coming in from the restaurant with burns. Spouse's hand swelled up with blisters that covered his whole palm and fingers.

                        IMHO, putting a pot of boiling oil in front of the general eating public is a recipe for disaster. I'm surprised this chain is still in business. They must pay a ton for liability insurance.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: blazee

                          Isn't it more of a warm poaching broth rather than "boiling oil?"

                          1. re: rudeboy
                            JK Grence (the Cosmic Jester)

                            They have broth available as an option. Most people AFAIK go for hot oil.

                            Link: http://thecosmicjester.blogspot.com

                            1. re: rudeboy

                              I was a bit thrown off by the oil bit as well. My wife and I always get the coq au vin to cook in (chicken broth, white wine, spices) and have enjoyed ourselves and our food every time, if not a little poorer.

                            2. re: blazee

                              so...it wasn't his fault that he put his hand on a hot pot without a potholder? interesting. i know that on the two occasions that i've gone to the melting pot, the server has instructed us about what areas are hot, what not to touch, etc. although...i don't think that i'd need explicit instructions to not touch something metal that's on the heating surface.

                            3. I can't speak to this chain, but if you want truly outstanding fondue, then you need to go to Artisinal in NYC, which specializes in all things cheese. I love that place.

                              Link: http://newyork.citysearch.com/profile...

                              1. Has anyone been to the fondue restaurant in La Jolla? How does the Melting Pot compare to it? My family really enjoyed our lengthy dinner in La Jolla. Yes, it was expensive, but lots of fun.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Susan

                                  I have been to the fondue place in La Jolla (forget the name), and I have been to Melting Pot. The place in La Jolla had a more intimate feel to it. The food was decent.

                                  Melting Pot had more scripted service. Our waitress seemed to have memorized the Melting Pot menu, the manager walked around to every table asking how everything was, but I didn't think he really cared (seemed like a mandatory part of his job). The service was fine, but it was also kind of annoying. Sometimes you just want people to put your food on the table and leave you alone. At the Melting Pot, every dish had a 2-5 minute monologue preceding it.

                                  All that said, I actually enjoyed it, because I was there with a dear friend whom I had not seen in a while. We took our time, because we went on a Monday night, and it wasn't too crowded. Will I go back? I don't know.

                                  1. re: katkoupai

                                    the fondue place up stairs on prospect in la jolla is/was called le fondue.

                                2. k
                                  Kay Geeguard

                                  My husband and I went to The Melting Pot in Larkspur this week and, quite frankly, it was awful. Here's why.

                                  This franchise restaurant, as we were told by an employee, is required to provide the same menu and source the same ingredients nationwide. That means that, even though this location is in Marin County, near the heart of California's produce areas, they get their recipes and their ingredients from their headquarters. The cheese is Wisconsin cheese, which isn't necessarily bad, just strange, given that there is ample and higher quality California cheese readily available. The wine used in the Coq Au Vin fondue we selected for the meat/seafood course comes from who knows where and MUST come out of a box or jug, given its poor quality. The salads, which seem straight out of a Betty Crocker cookbook circa 1970s, consist primarily of iceberg lettuce, obviously came out of a bag, given that they were ice cold and clean but unrinsed, giving the leaves a dry, unappealing consistency. The one I had, the Mushroom Salad, was primarily iceberg lettuce (who even uses this stuff anymore?) topped with sliced button mushrooms (boring flavor) and some sort of vinaigrette that tasted straight off your run-of-the-mill grocery store shelf. The bread they give you that's used to dip in the fondue has the consistency of the kind of commercial bread used in hospitals, again even though there are ample places to source quality breads right here in northern California. The meats and seafood we ordered for the main course were dowsed in spices that obviously were the same dry spices you buy off the rack at the local food mart--and amazingly, given all the spices and sauce they were marinated in, managed to have no flavor and taste as though they were put together by an amateur chef who just dumped out whatever was in the kitchen cabinet, figuring more is better.

                                  Now I'm not saying that the stuff wasn't fresh, it was just bad. Oh, and terribly expensive. We had one appetizer cheese fondue which is $14 for two people. We each had a salad, at $7 a piece. And we shared one entree at around $22. No drinks. No dessert. With tax and tip, the meal came out to around $50.

                                  Sorry to belabor the point, but I'm really disappointed to see something of this nature open up in the year 2005. It's a really awful, dated style of cooking--not the fact that it's fondue, mind you, but the quality of the recipes and the types of ingredients used and I really recommend you take your fondue dollars elsewhere. Try The Matterhorn on Van Ness in San Francisco. Or go to Saratoga and try La Fondue.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Kay Geeguard

                                    I had a different experience and impression when I went to The Melting Pot in Larkspur, CA. My wife and I had the Fondue-for-Two at $58 and had a very filling and pleasant meal. I'll have to admit that I would not be able to tell the difference between Wisconsin cheese vs. California cheese when it is served, but we ordered the traditional Swiss cheese fondue and it was mixed and heated from scratch right at the table and was as good or better than any fondue I've had in France, Canada, or Switzerland. The salad was unremarkable but I had no complaints as an intermezzo. The entree fondue was quite plentiful with our choice of Court Bouillion broth that was flavorful but not overpowering for the variety of fresh meats and seafood. At about $30 per person, I thought it was well worth the price for a 3-course meal that allowed us to pace the dipping and cooking to our liking. A free birthday chocolate fondue with fresh fruits for dessert by simply having signed up with an email address to their Club Fondue was an added bonus!

                                    I am looking forward to returning to another Melting Pot franchise as it expands in the SF Bay Area.

                                    1. re: Lupin

                                      Thanks so much for the report Lupin.

                                      Sometimes when so many people either like or dislike a restaurant it discourages others with a different point of view from posting.

                                      Excellent report. Hope we'll hear more from you.

                                  2. we went to the melting pot in tacoma washington. sadly, we were given silverware with goopy old cheese on it. we sent that back, and were given another set, with more goopy old cheese. we had already started on our bottle of wine, and so we asked to see the manager, and stated that we just wanted to leave. how can you trust the cleanliness of ANY of the dishes there, when they are giving us a total of 4 sets of silverware (my husband and i sent back 2 sets apiece) that are filthy.

                                    they gave us a gift certificate, and let us go with our bottle of wine. we went and got some pizza.

                                    we decided to forego tacoma, and try seattles melting pot instead. we decided we were very happy we had been given a gift certificate, for having to pay for this mediocre food, would have been a dissapointment (as it was even with the certificate it was almost $100).

                                    it is a novelty resteraunt, and you must realize you are paying for an experience, dipping cheese.

                                    at any rate, between all the dirty silvereware (eeeeew!) and mediocre food, we decided we won't be going back.

                                    1. Great timing! We took our son to The Melting Pot Thursday night (at his request) for his 17th birthday. He really enjoyed himself and we were there to celebrate his big day!

                                      For 100.00:
                                      2 sodas, one glass of white wine
                                      3 salads (2-Caesar and 1-mushroom w/tossed greens)
                                      3 fondue entrees (Cajon plate, chicken plate, beef tenderloin plate)
                                      We shared everything and ordered a broth pot (we avoid oil)

                                      Our son completed a survey on The Melting Pot website and received a coupon for a free chocolate fondue for two. He decided on the S'more fondue, which worked out great as dessert for all of us.

                                      We left very full and satisfied with service. Dh and I could have easily spent the $$ elsewhere. But, it was such a kick for our teen that we just went with the spirit of the evening.

                                      Would dh & I go alone, probably not.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: HillJ

                                        small correction..you become a club fondue member to get the free dessert fondue for two. :)

                                        1. re: chica

                                          I stand corrected. I didn't question my son's effort, we just enjoyed it. Thank you.

                                      2. Have always enjoyed The Melting Pot. I wish there were more options in the Tampa Bay area for other fondue places!

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: HeatherFL

                                          I agree with many people here that the quality is not what was expected for the price, but I enjoyed the experience. I went to the North Tampa location for my 21st birthday and had to remind the server to ask for ID, which was a let down, but we did have fantastic service beyond that which helped with leaving happily. The Cirtus Park Mall now has a Dips store which sells chocolate fondue stuff. With all of the great chocolate available in Tampa, and that's not a lot, I still wouldn't even want to go to Dips.

                                        2. I agree with the majority assessment The Melting Pot is fun for groups... when I used to live in Orlando there was an alternative called the Colorado Fondue Company which utilized hot rock cooking instead of oil pots. Saved you from smelling like you fell into a vat of wesson, and had a great mountain mix salad...

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. I think the best strategy for Melting Pot is to do the first course and the third course and skip the main course. The cheese fondue is plenty filling and the dessert is the best part. My favorite dessert fondue is the white chocolate with Chambord.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: DC Gal

                                              I'm suprised with all the negative comments. I've been to the melting pot in Brookfield, WI and found service and quality to be wonderful. I've been a restaurant manager for over 25 years and if you don't like something you say somrthing and see what the response is! Maybe in the midwest we cherish quality and GOOD management will ALWAYS make your visit right! The staff was very knowlegable and we were there for over 2 hrs. Enjoyed it greatly. Yes, you could spend $50 on food for three fondues, buy a pot, and change it three times for three different recipies, but that's alot for 2 hrs. of dinner enjoyment. For a special nite out -- go for it and if something isn't right, say something!!!

                                            2. We've had the Melting Pot here in the Carolinas forever. It was always a "special occasion" kind of place when I was young, and while the food doesn't blow me away, it's a fun experience and something different to do every once in a while. I tend to go now more for girls' nights out - we drink wine, split a few salads, and have chocolate fondue for dessert.

                                                1. re: buttermonkey

                                                  Dead Swiss everywhere are spinning in their graves.

                                                  We were on vacation in Philadelphia last year and, against the advice of all the chowhounds, went for dessert, mostly because we thought our 5 year old would get a kick out of it. Can't say we weren't warned. It was fruit, cake and marshmallows to dip in melted chocolate, so it would be hard to make it actually bad, but it certainly wasn't particularly good. I think they just melted hershey bars. It certainly didn't taste like high quality chocolate or like they did much of anything to the Hershey. It's very, very expensive for melted Hershey bars and mediocre fruit. In addition, the whole place smelled so unappetizing that we have absolutely zero inclination to return and try other dishes.

                                                  There are so very many better places to spend your money and your calories. If you really want fondue and there isn't any place near you that does a good job, I'm sure there are plenty of recipes available. The most recent food section of the New York Times had an article on cheese fondue with a basic recipe and several variations.

                                                  1. re: marcia2

                                                    I think you're all missing the point of this place. Granted, the food is nothing to write home about, but it's just plain fun!

                                                    1. re: LordOfTheGrill

                                                      the point of any reataurant is to prepare quality food for the price, imo. melting pot misses. or am i crazy to think that when you pay the price melting pot charges for low quality raw meat and frozen bit sized dessert pieces. i would say the food is...nothing.

                                                      1. re: buttermonkey

                                                        I'll dare to return to this topic.. Are you unhappy with the technique that requires you to cook your own food or the cost both of which you knew as soon as you saw the menu?

                                                        1. re: CapeCodChowHound

                                                          CCC, I think you bring up a good point. That was my reason for disliking that trend of "cook your own steak" places that seemed to proliferate in the 90's. If I wanna grill a steak, I'll stay home and do that on my own back deck. I'll also selfishly admit that when someone else cooks it, it's much easier to complain when it's not right - if I burn my steak, it's my own fault and I don't get a "do-over".

                                                          1. re: CapeCodChowHound

                                                            My complaint was neither the technique nor the price, per se. If I go for fondue or order certain dishes at a Korean restaurant or, for that matter, s'mores at Cosi, I expect to be doing a certain amount of cooking and sometimes that's part of the fun. If Melting Pot was turning out high quality food, I wouldn't complain about the prices. When we went we thought the food was incredibly mediocre and it was vastly overpriced for incredibly mediocre. They're making their money on gimmick and people who don't know any better.

                                                            1. re: marcia2

                                                              Hi Marcia2,

                                                              Well.. how many theme chains are making their money on a gimick versus good food? I'm sorry you didn't have a good experience, I have when I've gone. Is it authentic and the place I'd go for a special evening... no. But when you want to spend a few hours with a group of friends and laugh, talk and have a good time yes. Did you mention to your waiter or the manager you weren't happy with the quality of the food they served you?

                                                              1. re: CapeCodChowHound

                                                                No, I didn't bother. We were in from out of town and it wasn't like they overcooked a steak and should have done a better job. What was I going to say? My opinion was pretty much buttermonkey's and it's not like they don't know they're using cheap ingredients and turning out a subpar product. They don't care. They're not in business to provide excellent food.

                                                                And yes, of course most theme chains are about the gimmick, not the food. It's why, generally speaking, we don't eat at restaurants like that. We only went to this one because we thought our 5 year old would get a kick out of it and he did. And we certainly weren't surprised by the quality of the food. We were warned by posters on the Philly board and it would have been the best guess anyway.

                                                                But the OP wanted to know how the food is and my answer remains that the food is intensely mediocre and thus vastly over priced.

                                                            2. re: CapeCodChowHound

                                                              To say nothing of how your hair and clothes smell when you leave a MP.

                                                              1. re: CapeCodChowHound

                                                                no, i tried the place and felt it was a rip off, overpriced and low quality. i was with someone who chose to dine there. if it was at the least good i would not have minded to pay the prices for the slop offered, weither or not i did the cooking. they dont use stocks or broths, they use meat flavored base, low quality cheeses, and hershey's syrup in the dessert fondue would be an upgrade.

                                                      2. I really dislike coming out of there smelling like boiled meat.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: nanette

                                                          That's why we only go for dessert. I have no problem smelling like chocolate.

                                                          1. re: Suzy Q

                                                            I second that! I am going tonight just for some dessert. Love the one with the marshmellows.

                                                        2. Well, I've been to the one in the Gaithersburg/Rockville, MD area(both of their locations) and I have to say that we've enjoyed the food both times we've gone.....I do enjoy cooking the meat and just want to say to each their own....we're all entitled to our own opinions.

                                                          1. I haven't been to the Melting Pot in forever! I should really go back sometime soon because I love Fondue. I would go there and a place that's no longer open called "Fondue Stube"