When my boyfriend Dave and I went to dinner at the Melting Pot at the new Gateway Center of Lahaina last Wednesday, we weren’t expecting it to be a big night out..
The idea of a fondue restaurant was a little intimidating to me. I mean, I have enough trouble getting food from my plate to my mouth without adding hot, molten cheese to the equation. And what were the rules about double-dipping?
The first surprise came when we walked through the door and encountered the elegant, floor-to-ceiling glass wine cellar. We weaved our way through the low-lit bar to the swanky dining room, oohing and ahhing over the lux décor and colorful contemporary art work on the walls. Cozy two and four person booths were tucked around intimate corners, but we took an elegant table at the front of the restaurant.
In the center of our table sat an empty silver fondue pot. Sam, our highly trained and professional server, made a few suggestions of his favorite cocktails before I settled on a pomegranate cosmopolitan and Dave ordered a concoction called the “Love Cocktail” that had peach Schnapps, Malibu rum and four adorable heart-shaped slices of strawberry.
With our thirst satiated, we dove into the menu. The Melting Pot offers several options for a la carte dining. Cheese and chocolate fondues, salad and main courses can be selected at random and enjoyed on their own, but for adventurous souls with big appetites the four-course “Big Night Out” menu is the way to really experience all that Melting Pot has to offer.
Our big adventure began with a Caribbean cheese fondue that Sam whipped up en pot right at our table. Pineapple juice, garlic and peppadew peppers melted into gouda and gran queso cheeses and we got to work dipping several different breads, apples and veggies into the sweet and spicy mixture. There was a fair amount of dripping on my part, but I managed to keep it on the table and not in my lap.
While we were enjoying our first taste of the fondue lifestyle, our salads arrived. I selected the California salad with crunchy romaine, gorgonzola cheese, walnuts and raspberry black walnut vinaigrette. Dave’s salad had baby spinach, baby Portobello mushrooms, onions, bacon and a warm Burgundy shallot vinaigrette that Sam poured tableside. We couldn’t decide which was better and ended up sharing both.
The entrée was an entirely different kind of adventure. From the three featured selections, we chose the indulgent compilation of bite sized filet mignon, lobster tail, peppered shrimp, jerk-seasoned sirloin, vanilla rum chicken, pork tenderloin, butternut squash and vegetables, all of which were presented to us uncooked. We were given a bubbling pot of broth with garlic, cilantro and citrus and instructed to cook each item for about two minutes.
No less than eight sauces came to the table. There was teriyaki sauce for the poultry, ginger-plum sauce for the seafood, gorgonzola port sauce for the steak, melted butter with herbs for the lobster and curry sauce for anything and everything.
I felt like a kid playing with her food as we skewered meats and cooked them to perfection in our aromatic broth. We mixed and matched our sauces so many times that no two bites tasted the same. I was having so much fun I didn’t even mind that I was out at a restaurant cooking dinner for myself.
When we were about half way done I threw in the towel and when Dave picked up my slack I’ll admit I felt more than a little jealous of his bigger appetite. I’m one of those people that actually has to “save room” for dessert, which means he got way more lobster than I did.
When the plates were cleared we had to make the biggest decision of our night: which chocolate fondue to share. Dave was being a purist and wanted to stick to basic milk chocolate, but I wanted something fancy. In the end, we weren’t able to compromise. He got milk chocolate and I chose the yin and yang dark and white chocolate combo. I’ll admit that I ordered it because it was pretty.
A heaping plate of cheesecake, brownies, marshmallows, strawberries, pound cake and bananas took a chocolate Jacuzzi before making the short trip into our mouths. Apparently they’ll keep bringing you plates full of sweets until you run out of chocolate or beg them to stop, but after our big meal one was more than enough for us. MTW