Restaurant Review: Melting Pot
Jan 06, 2017 11:24AM ● Published by Cate Reynolds
Put on Your Party Hat: Melting Pot Does the RestBy Mary Lou Baker // Photography by Tony Lewis, Jr.
meltingpot.com. Open Mon.–Thurs. 5–10 p.m., Fri. 5–11 p.m., Sat. 4–11 p.m., and Sun. 4–10 p.m. Reservations suggested. Kids and gluten-free menus available. Major credit cards accepted. Wheelchair accessible.
Seeking something different on the local dining out scene? Sharing fondue at the Melting Pot may be for you. Beginning with a bow-tied Anthony, who greets guests at the door and asks if you are celebrating a special occasion, the welcome is warm. Our party of three was ushered past booths enclosed in brick arches that created little private rooms, to a table where our server immediately appeared with the Melting Pot’s menu.
Be nice to your server. Your fate is in his hands, as he does his best to de-mystify what is surely the most labyrinthine menu we had ever encountered. It was our first visit, and although we had done some homework by going online to prepare for our visit by printing out the 12-page list of specialties, we needed assistance in sorting through the choices. The dim lighting contributes to the restaurant’s romantic atmosphere.
“Fondue-ing” is, by definition, a communal activity where everyone takes turns dipping into the same pot. This worked well for our first course of the Classic Alpine Cheese version we shared. We paid close attention as our server heated up the metal unit that centers each table before adding white wine, minced garlic, a dash of nutmeg and a blend of shredded aged gruyere, raclette, and fontina cheeses. When the mix melted into creamy goodness, we used color-coded forks to spear white and dark bread cubes and swirl them around in the rich and delicious cheese bath. Swoon. A few pieces of broccoli, carrot, and celery came with the fondue, but were left untouched.
The fondue we chose got us off to a seriously good start, though it was hard to bypass four other fondues that featured cheddar and Emmenthaler Swiss cheeses with lager beer; a spicy version called “Fiesta” made with cheddar, beer, salsa, and jalapeno peppers; a four-cheese mix of butterkase, fontina, mozzarella, and Parmesan with basil and tomato pesto; and another featuring fontina and butterkase cheeses studded with fresh spinach leaves and artichoke hearts. All are $8.95 per order; an optional selection of Italian meats is available for an additional $3.50 each.
After our wonderful classic cheese fondue course, things got complicated as we grappled with the multiple choice selection of meat, seafood, and vegetarian entrees, together with five options of cooking liquids: seasoned court bouillon (complimentary); Coq au Vin, herbed burgundy wine with mushrooms; bourguignonne, cholesterol-free canola oil ($5.95 each); and Mojo, bouillon seasoned with garlic and citrus ($4.95).
Wines-by-the-glass are priced by the pour: five-ounce or eight-ounce. So instead of ordering a glass of Fourteen Horses cabernet sauvignon at $14 a glass, we shared a bottle for $30—sipping it as we decided what to cook next. The male among us went for “The Four Course Experience” ($38.50), entitling him to a cheese fondue, salad, a choice of three items on a list that included chicken, pork, tuna, beef, duck breast, salmon filet, filet mignon, andouille sausage, and shrimp; and chocolate fondue.
Our patient waiter cautioned against touching the cooking unit, eating with the fork used to cook the meat and being careful not to cross-contaminate the plates from which we ate the food. With these caveats in mind, we enjoyed the pieces of chicken breast, pork medallions, and filet mignon piled on a plate and ready to cook with the accompanying mushrooms, scallions, broccoli, and cubed potatoes. He said little, but appeared to enjoy every morsel. A sprig of fresh rosemary perched atop a generous amount of filet mignon strips that I cooked medium rare in the burgundy wine-mushroom liquid that we all shared. Surprisingly, that same cooking liquid went well with our friend’s choice of pork and salmon. Entrees were accompanied by white ceramic plates partitioned off to hold a dollop of condiments (port wine and ginger plum sauces, curried yogurt, and herbed cream cheese)—doled out in small portions and nothing to rave about.
The meal ended on a high note with a rich milk chocolate fondue, served with strawberries, mangos, banana slices, and cubes of pound cake for dipping. The beginning and end of our meal would bring us back again, as would the attentive service of a well-trained staff. Local residents Julie and Kevin Mason do an exceptional job as hands-on owners of the Annapolis Melting Pot franchise, providing a unique experience on the Annapolis dining scene as well as a comprehensive menu for the gluten-intolerant.
Note: The Melting Pot’s “Good Earth Vegetarian” entree features edamame or onion rings, artichoke hearts, baby Portobello mushrooms, asparagus, tofu, spinach and artichoke ravioli, and wild mushroom sacchetti pasta ($19.95 or $32.95 as a four-course meal).