My girlfriend and I walked into to the restaurant and she was happy to see that nowadays eating fondue is an upscale experience. To her delight, the only unshaven hippie in the restaurant was me (Hey, I went to UC Santa Cruz what do you expect.)
I however was disappointed when I dropped my keys into the fishbowl at the front counter instead of being greeted by a hot blond swinger, I was greeted by a stern hostess who politely asked me to refrain from putting my personal belongings into the mints. At least she was blond.
As we were being seated we passed a glass-enclosed room which contains the restaurant's wine selection. That wine selection … 15,000 bottles. And no, I didn't just have a minor seizure of the index finger and add a few extra zeroes to that figure, there is literally enough wine in the place to get every one of your friends drunk for a year straight, or Tara Reid for a week.
Once we were seated we flipped through the menu which consists of two pages of food, and about thirty of wine. Now there are two ways to eat at this restaurant, and the one you choose has a direct correlation on your chances of getting lucky at the end of the evening.
There is the group of friends thing, wherein you get a few people together, open up a bottle or two of wine and pick various items off of the menu to fondue at your leisure. This approach works great for a little bit of a different and more fun approach to happy hour.
The second, the real winner, is choosing one of the two preset four course fondue extravaganzas that includes absolutely everything you need to make an extremely romantic evening, except the wine (easily fixed) and the conversation (not so easily fixed, but just smile and nod).
The first course of the meal is a classic Cheese Fondue. As the fondue pot in the middle of your table begins to bubble you can take a moment to realize the last time people regularly ate fondue outside of Switzerland was over 30 years ago. Back then gas was going sky high, the Rolling Stones were on tour and the President was corrupt. Wow, how things have changed.
After finishing the cheese fondue, which was just the right blend of Ementhaller, Gruyere, wine and spices served with assorted breads, chips, apples and vegetables, we were immediately served a fantastic Caesar Salad with homemade croutons. At this point I might make a suggestion for all of you planning on having the, as they call it, the “Big Night Out,” pace yourself. By now I was already starting to get full, and had to open a few buttons on my polyester bell-bottoms and I still had two courses to go!
The main entrée is next. First you select your fondue style from the various choices: broths, wine sauces or, what we picked, oil, (because quite frankly, eating two cups of cheeses each was just not fattening enough,) and then the waiter brings plate after plate of items to cook in it.
Along with an assortment of dipping sauces, vegetables, fruit, pot stickers and ravioli comes a selection of fishes and meat that includes among others: Fillet Mignon, sashimi grade Ahi Tuna and lobster (see what I meant about getting lucky.)
The final seal-the-deal on the two-and-a-half hour dinner is a chocolate fondue that any woman, and your slightly suspect male friends, will literally kill for. A thick gooey pot of dark or milk chocolate served with marshmallows, strawberries, cake, bananas and just about anything else you can think of that can be skewered on a 12-inch fork is a pure liquid aphrodisiac. After this you can pretty much get away with anything except beating your date and still score, unless you are Tommy Lee, in which case you do both.
The best part of the whole evening? Unless you count the three hundred dollar bottle of wine your date will slyly suggest, the “Big Night Out” is extremely reasonably priced and an excellent bang for the buck, every pun intended.
So if you're in the mood for some retro dining with friends, or a long romantic dinner, you really can't beat the Melting Pot. Just don't drop your keys in the mints.
The Melting Pot is located at 88 W. Colorado Blvd., in Pasadena and 3685 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., in Thousand Oaks. For more information, visit www.themeltingpot.com.