Saturday, January 20, 2007

Restaurant Review - The Melting Pot, 7549 W. Sand Lake Rd, Orlando, FL

On a recent Sunday night, Mrs. S. and I went out for a "Moms Night Out" at The Melting Pot on Sand Lake Road. Now, while I actually saw families that brought their kids to eat at The Melting Pot, I don't think I'd be able to bring my kids until they are a little older. I don't think either one can sit through a 2-hour dinner without squirming and whining. For those of you who have never been to The Melting Pot, or haven't been in a while, a full meal consists of 4 courses - a cheese fondue appetizer, a salad, an entree fondue, and then a dessert (chocolate) fondue. You can certainly purchase each course individually, or you can go for the "Big Night Out" which is a package deal of four premium courses together. The "Big Night Out" changes periodically, about every 6-8 months according to our server.

After perusing the menu, and ordering a glass of wine, we decided to go ahead with the "Big Night Out" as the offerings looked really good. For $40 - $50 per person (yeah, that's another reason I don't bring the kids), the premium courses included a Quattro Formaggio cheese fondue (Provolone, Asiago, Fontina and Gruyere cheeses mixed with white wine, basil pesto, and marinara sauce), a Chopped Caesar salad, either filet mignon, lobster, or both, and then a Torino Hazelnut chocolate fondue. I'm usually a cheddar cheese fondue person (it's cheddar cheese cooked in beer - yum!) but the four-cheese fondue sounded really good. However, the Caesar salad didn't sound as good as my favorite Mushroom Salad so I substituted while Mrs. S. went ahead with the Caesar. Now all we had to do was choose a cooking style for our entrees -- which basically means choosing whether you are going to fry your food in oil or poach it in broth. Not wanting to smell like a french fry, we decided to go with one of the broths. We chose the Coq Au Vin broth, which normally has a $5 surcharge but is complimentary with the Big Night Out. It is a broth flavored with herbs, burgundy wine, mushrooms, garlic, and other spices. As she left to place our order, our server started to heat up the fondue pot in the middle of the table so it would be ready for our cheese appetizer.

As the pot in front of us began to steam, our server arrived with a tray full of the cheeses and other ingredients that made up our appetizer. She started with the white wine and then mixed in all the cheeses, other seasonings, and then a spoonful of the basil pesto and marinara. The results was a delicious mix of gooey cheese. We happily dipped the bread cubes, veggies, and green apples into the hot cheese. And, I have to admit, this was as good as the cheddar cheese fondue. Soon after we were done, our server took away the fondue pot (that had almost been licked clean), and brought our salads. Mrs. S. said the Caesar was good, but had Parmesan-encrusted pine nuts in it, which made for an "interesting" taste. My mushroom salad was as good as ever. Don't get this unless you LOVE mushrooms like I do. It's pretty much all mushrooms, with a little lettuce, in a Parmesan Italian dressing. Next came our Coq Au Vin broth, piping hot from the kitchen. Our server also brought our raw entrees which included one lobster tail cut into pieces, filet mignon medallions, strip sirloin, chicken breast chunks, huge shrimp, and four raw ravioli. We also got a bowl of raw veggies and about 10 different sauces to dunk our finished foods into. There was a garlic-butter sauce for the lobster, a green goddess sauce for the veggies, teriyaki, sweet & sour, curry, horseradish, barbeque, etc. etc. So now, our whole table was full of stuff! In the past, I usually took individual pieces of the entree and would cook them in the broth using the provided fondue forks. This is a very slow process and you have to be watching to make sure you aren't overcooking anything. However, our server gave us a great idea. She said to just dump in each entree (such as all of the pieces of lobster), let it sit for 2 minutes to cook and then scoop it out with the slotted spoon we were given. This was great advice and it was how we cooked all of our food. That way it gave us a chance to eat without constantly checking what was still cooking.

We were stuffed at this point but we knew that chocolate was next! We were given strawberries, pineapples, pieces of biscotti, marshmallows, brownies, and a large slice of cheesecake to dip into the chocolate. A great finish to a great meal. Expensive, yes, but you get a LOT of food for the money.

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