Fondue was the craze when I was in college in the '70s. Though we couldn't afford it very often, it was our favorite way to celebrate special occasions. While price isnít the issue anymore, I still reserve fondue for special evenings. Such was the case when I recently visited The Melting Pot in Longwood, the new sister location to the popular Maitland restaurant that's operated for 20 years. This was to be an adventure for my vacationing brother.
Wood paneling, exposed beams and greenery create a more contemporary look than at the original restaurant. And yet booths, tabletop candles and overhead lights crafted from wine bottles still create a relaxed, intimate setting.
Entrees include seafood, beef, chicken and vegetarian options, prepared in either cholesterol-free peanut oil or in a less traditional "court bouillon" seasoned broth that was low in salt and fat as well as cholesterol-free. Each entree comes with mushroom or chef's salad.
We chose the combination fondue for two ($32.90), which features a cheese fondue appetizer, salad and an entree potpourri -- filet mignon, chicken, shrimp, teriyaki sirloin, mahi-mahi and veggies.
We began with the "fiesta" cheese starter, a variation on the cheddar and Swiss offerings. It arrived with a basket of French, pumpernickel and rye breads, as well as tortilla chips that replaced the standard fruit and vegetable medley. Our server melted Swiss and sharp cheddar cheeses with domestic beer and onions, throwing in garlic and mild salsa for good measure. (Peppers were left on the side.) The resulting concoction was enjoyable though not especially spicy.
My generous salad -- a bed of lettuce topped with a layer of mushrooms and a handful of alfalfa sprouts, coated with a zesty Italian dressing -- was heavenly. My brother's chef salad was a nice collection of fresh greens, cucumbers, Emmentaler cheese, hard-boiled egg, tomatoes and smoky ham. The house sweet-and-sour dressing was a nice departure from the norm.
When the entree platter arrived, our server rattled off its contents, the names of the two batters (sesame seed and tempura), the seven accompanying dressings and sauces, plus suggestions for mixing and matching combinations. As it was impossible to digest all this info at once, we experimented with only a few resulting gaffes and a couple of innovations. Try stuffing the mushroom caps with green goddess dressing, then dipping it in sesame-seed batter. It looks disgusting, but itís delicious. And the curry, cocktail and sweet-and-sour sauces are terrific.
For dessert we splurged on a rich, raspberry-milk chocolate fondue ($6.50 for two) that was served with thin squares of cheesecake and pound cake, plus a refreshing plate of fruits.
Throughout our culinary adventure, we found our server to be bubbly and knowledgeable, and we especially liked the way the manager assisted with service when his staff were busy elsewhere.