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South OC - La Fondue or Melting Pot

OK, so it's our anniversary and the wife got a $100 certficate to La Fondue (in San Juan Capistrano) for test-driving a car and wants to go there. In the meantime a brand new Melting Pot has just opened in San Clemente. CH search has little about either that's recent, except what DOES come up suggests Melting Pot is much better. $100 better???

Reviewing the online menus for both, I have to say that the menu selections at Melting Pot just seem more appetizing to me. Not as exoctic, but just things I think I'd enjoy more, at least from the way they're listed. I'm semi-addicted to Shabu Shabu, but have never experienced this type of cooking using oil. La Fondue's Asian style broth seems enticing, AND they offer a grilling alternative that Melting Pot doesn't seem to have.

Anyone been to both?? Even if you haven't what do you know or have you heard to help with the decision? The right way to do this is to ignore the $100, but it would be a real waste if La Fondue is actually good.

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  1. I've had fondue in Switzerland and so my experience was a let down @ the Melting Pot (I'm sure that's akin to dining @ PF Chang's after returning from mainland China). Other CHs have said to avoid the MP when they just open, since the waitstaff have kinks that need to be worked out (perhaps it's inexperience w/this type of dish).

    I too enjoy Shabu Shabu. I guess I'd go to a Shabu Shabu place that you know to be good and use the $100 gift cert at another time

    1. I went to the Melting Pot a few years ago and hated it. I will never go again.

      1. Well, fondue in the U.S. is rarely anything like fondue in Switzerland... but the only way I'd be dragged to Melting Pot is for free. It's atrocious and it's shockingly expensive.

        I say go to La Fondue, spend your $100 gift card, and if it sucks, drag their name through mud right here on Chowhound so the next poor soul who has this dilemma can avoid it.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Das Ubergeek

          :o) Makes sense to me!

          Any opinion on the merits of 3 cooking methods they offer: broth vs. oil vs. Euro-grill (I guess not really fondue)?

          1. re: Midlife

            In my Swiss head, fondue is cheese, or sometimes chocolate... so the concept of cooking in boiling oil is a little weird to me, though apparently totally normal and the most "authentic" of the three. Broth would be shabu-shabu.

        2. I would try La Fondue. Melting Pot was a waste. The fondue was Chicken broth from a dry powder package. the wine fondue, was literally hot wine. And the chocolate was bad quality chocolate.

          1. We went to LaFondue on Sunday evening. This was an interesting and unusual experience. Overall... really good. I think I would have written a completely glowing review except for the fact that I spent much of Monday fighting a GIRD attack that I have to believe was the result of either the content or quanity (or maybe both) of the meal we had. So....... in fairness to LaFondue, I'll asssume it was how much I ate or my own sensitivities, especially my tolerance for garlic.

            LaFondue gives you three choices of cooking method (broth, oil or grill). We chose the grill because we had just done Shabu Shabu a few weeks ago, and because the oil just seemed too heavy.

            Meal started with a huge and very good salad. Then a cheese fondue with bread and assorted fruits and veggies. We chose the garlic gruyere mixture of cheese (wherein may have begun my problems). We then chose their Fondue Feast and had 6 entree items: Chicken, Teriyaki Filet, Duck, Tuna, Special Filet Mignon and Ostrich Filet (a couple of bite-size pieces of each for each of us). The meats and accompanying vegetables are seared in a grill pan on a burner, in oil and minced garlic (I think my stomach is seeing a pattern here). All very good.

            The dinner finishes with a chocolate fondue (we chose bittersweet w/ cognac). We had also brought in a bottle of a wondeful Oregon Pinot (WillaKenzie Triple Black Slopes), which somehow lasted to this final point.

            Our server was very well informed about the menu and the method, though she admitted it was very different from her last job at Ruby's. While the menu is fairly short and simple, the servers here have to explain how things work and, according to ours, often have guests who just don't get it and are horrified to learn that they're going to submerge a piece of choice filet in simmering broth. Our Shabu Shabu and other Asian-style experiences made us 'pros'. An interesting aside is that they're trained to shout out warnings at blind corners in the restaurant as they move around with what are very hot pots and pans. The romantic atmoshphere is compromised only slightly by calls of "hot pan" or "moving out"...... especially if you're near the kitchen.

            All in all....... I'd do it again, though steering clear of the garlic next time.

            In retrospect I think my problems were from too much garlic....and just too much food. The meal itself was really very good. With our $100 gift card deducted, (And having brought our own wine) what would normally have been a $115 check was only $15, so that was very pleasant. Left a $30 tip and the server had tried some of the great wine, so I think she was happy too.