Going out for a nice dinner for Valentine’s Day is almost standard practice. But just like any other V-Day staple, whether it’s candy, flowers or stuffed animals, what becomes standard can also become predictable and uninspired year after year. So, how do you make a night out for dinner with your significant other a bit more spontaneous and special? Solution: Grab your partner and fondue it at The Melting Pot. While I’m usually flying solo, for this particular meal, I was joined by my wife (looking particularly stunning in a green dress that yours truly got her for Christmas) to see what a couple’s experience was like at this dipping destination. Of course, Lexington is one of several cities with its own version of The Melting Pot. The restaurant was started in Florida in 1975 and has since expanded to well over 100 locations. Upon entry, the dark grey walls, soft lighting and jazz playing over the speakers set an inviting tone, not to mention a huge glass enclosure of wine bottles any grape ape would want to raid. The restaurant is laid out with a couple of main dining rooms and a bar area but there were a few more sequestered nooks with their own separate booths depending on the size of your party. The booths themselves were slightly unconventional. Instead of sitting across from one another, we were given a half- crescent-shaped booth where we sat side-by-side adjacent to the fondue pot where all the magic happens. Aside from a fine list of wine, bottled beer and impressive cocktails, the main attraction is the restaurant’s Big Night Out, a four-course meal that includes salads along with cheese, entrée and chocolate dessert fondues. For anyone with little to no experience at a fondue restaurant, the servers at The Melting Pot are extremely knowledgeable, instructional and conversational, getting you acquainted with the process and providing plenty of personality while they do it. We started with a Boston Lager Cheddar Cheese Fondue with hints of bacon and onion and a kick of Tabasco. This is not my palette making an educated guess. Our server warmed up the fondue pot and mixed the ingredients right in front of us. This delicious cheesy goodness was given a trio of dippers, with two types of bread, Granny Smith apples and fresh veggies. Once we got a couple of nice salads out of the way that featured candied pecans, Gorgonzola cheese and raspberry black walnut vinaigrette, we moved on to the main course. We settled on the featured feast with pieces of seasoned Angus sirloin, buffalo chicken, Memphis-style BBQ pork tenderloin, Old Bay shrimp and wild mushroom sacchetti and got to choose from one of four fondue cooking styles. Each had its own flavorful appeal, but my wife went with the Mojo with its Caribbean-style citrus and garlic flavors. Good choice. On top of that, we were given a barrage of sauces to accompany our protein, everything from curry and teriyaki to sweet and sour and Gorgonzola cream to add additional layers of flavor. And if you’re not sure how long to cook your raw meat or which sauce goes best with what, your server has no problem guiding you. That’s one of the things fondue has over your typical dinner: The food itself becomes a conversation piece. My wife and I are telling each other our favorite dippers, proteins and sauces – basically gushing over everything we put in our mouths. And here’s the other thing. While my wife and I just recently celebrated a two-year anniversary (which I think still makes us newlyweds) and are both affectionate people, we were definitely more so than usual. Everything from the interactive nature of the meal to the two-person booths with high walls separating you from other diners makes everything feel more intimate. There could have been a packed house with a two- hour wait and the only person I would have noticed was my wife sitting next to me – at least until our attentive server came back to check on us. To finish off the meal, the indulgent chocolate fondue put us both on cloud nine. It wouldn’t be an insult to The Melting Pot to say that dessert tends to be the main event. We went a more classic route with a Yin & Yang with milk and white chocolate poured out to resemble its namesake served with dippers that included strawberries, bananas, Rice Krispies Treats, marshmallows dusted with Oreo and graham cracker crumbs, brownie pieces, red velvet pound cake and a slice of cheesecake. There also are more elaborate dessert fondues that feature cookies ‘n cream, bananas foster and chocolate s’mores. I’m pretty sure my wife and I made an unspoken agreement to come back and try them all, cavities and waistlines be damned. All I know is even though I was technically “on the job,” the meal I had at The Melting Pot with my wife felt like something special. The general manager said The Melting Pot’s mission is to provide the perfect night out. Take it from me, it could be February or the Fourth of July, but a meal with someone special at this place can make any day feel like Valentine’s Day. 859.254.6358 | 152 West Tiverton Way |
Posted on 2012-02-02 by Blake Hannon