Dipping into the delectable Melting Pot: Weekly Dish, originally published Edmonton Sun, Aug. 8, 2012
By Graham Hicks
The Melting Pot of Edmonton,
2920 Calgary Trail NW
Food: 4 of 5 stars
Ambience: 2.5 of 5 stars
Service: 4 of 5 stars
Dinner for two (without beverages): Basic, $50; fully loaded, $90
The Melting Pot has earned a fine reputation in this town since opening about two years ago, the first Canadian outlet of a successful American fondue restaurant group.
Unlike so many chains, the Melting Pot does not scrimp on quality, not in the least.
The fondues use real cheeses, Fontina, Butterkase, Gruyere and Emmenthaler that cost an arm and a leg in local delis.
Cost-cutting isn't happening in the meat and fish selections cooked at the table. The initial preparation is first-rate.
The concept, on first glance, looks preposterous.
People pay to sit around pots of either melted cheese or broth, stick chunks of bread (for the cheese) or raw meat on skewers and joist for cooking space in the central hot pot? Right!
If grandma doesn't accidentally stab herself with the skewer, Junior will burn himself on a pot, or dad will get food poisoning from under-cooked food! What?
None of the above!
The Melting Pot is very popular because it's fun and safe, thanks to strict precautions and well-trained serving staff.
Gathering the family or friends in a booth with a built-in stove, to share food cooked in a central pot, is fun.
And, just when you thought you were quite stuffed, along comes a most delicious chocolate fondue dessert.
Melting Pot waiters are educators and entertainers as well as servers. Tip them well.
They explain fondue cooking and eating, get the cheese thing happening, take orders, ensure safety, and can do a mean dessert flambe .
The room, sadly, is dull and dark. The decor budget was diverted into technology. Every booth has a fancy induction heating element (or two) in the middle, a cooking method that heats the pot and its contents, but not the element.
The Melting Pot experience is a full night out. Be prepared for 2 to 2.5 hours of dining, as everything is prepped at your table before you actually cook.
The ambiance and the experience lends itself to socializing, which is the name of the game.
Our table opted for two "four-course classics" for two — which did five of us very well.
The two opening cheese fondues were delicious — the "Wisconsin Trio" delicate and light, with wine, sherry and blue cheese enhancing traditional
Fontin and Butterkassen cheese mix. the Traditional Swiss fondue was more robust with its Kirsch brandy, nutmeg and lemon enhancements. Both fondues saw bread runs around the bottom to soak up every last drop. These guys know what they're doing.
Only in the second-course salads did the meal turn to dreaded "chain" food. The salads were an after-thought, slightly wilted, of little interest.
For the main fondue, our waiter recommended two broth flavours, one wine-based, the other a citrus and garlic bouillon.
The chopped raw meats and seafood arrived on a platter— tenderloin in the middle, and around the four corners, succulent shrimp, fresh salmon chunks, BBQ pork tenderloin and teriyaki sirloin. Then came excellent and unusual (yogurt and curry, gorgonzola cheese) dipping sauces.
The fun of group cooking, the excellent fresh product leaping from broth to mouth ... it made for a thoroughly delightful and satisfying experience.
The Melting Pot's chocolate fondue — at least the "bananas foster" we chose — is one of Edmonton's finest desserts. The chocolate is of the highest-quality, mixed and melted white and light chocolate, this one with banana chunks and the hint of the flambed (ignited) brandy. One dipped fresh fruit, Oreo-coated marshmallows and even cheesecake into the hot, succulent chocolate sauce.
The Melting Pot is pricey if ordering individual, multi-course dinners. However, two could be semi-satisfied sharing a cheese ($18) and chocolate ($18) fondue. The four-course classic clocks in at $86 for two, and the staff will add plates for additional diners.
Our four-course classic for four — shared by five — worked out to $36 each.
Pity about the stuffy, windowless room and the dull salads. Everything else about the Melting Pot, for fun communal dining, is innovative and first-rate.