The Melting Pot, Lyndhurst, Ohio

3 03 2012

Atmosphere: 5/5

Service: 5/5

Drinks: 4/5

Food: 3.5/5

Overall: 4.5/5; This place makes eating fun – go, eat the cheese fondue, enjoy the chocolate fondue and go home. Don’t waste your money on the main course.

I like playing with my food. I do. Further, I’m a sucker for the whole ‘watch while the food is prepared’ gimmick. What’s this, the waiter makes my salad at the table? Yes please! The Melting Pot offers me a fair number of options that just make me enjoy my meal experience as a whole, and as my lovely girlfriend Karla had never been there, I recently Manned up and took her.

The overall atmosphere of the restaurant was very good; they put us at a special Couple’s Table, a private L shaped booth, which allowed us to sit next to each other without being that awkward couple at the restaurant that you talk about at your table. There are other types of tables of course, though I don’t think that they could easily accommodate groups of more than six people. The decor is understated and pleasant – Comfortable without losing that high class allure. We sat right next to their glass wine-case which was fun in the sense that we got to see all the wines they had, though that, along with the extremely high backs of the booth made for an isolated feel. Handy for a date, probably not as much when you’re with a group. In general though, I was happy with the feel of the place.

I feel I need to take a moment here to say that I waited tables for years, and as such, I have very high expectations of the wait staff. So, please don’t take what I say next lightly – I may have never had a waiter as good as Yoshi. He was personable, prompt, clearly knew the menu and didn’t feed us the lines about how the most expensive item on the menu is also the best. His recommendations were excellent and his descriptions accurate and colorful. I wanted to clone Yoshi and have a version of him everywhere I go. Seriously, he was so great that I’m 60% sure Karla asked him for his number. The remainder of the staff was also good in terms of helping us out, though the tables around clearly did not have the same level of service that Yoshi provided.

The bartender at the Melting Pot did a very good job, though none of the drinks wowed me. I had a dirty martini with extra of the blue cheese olives that I love so much. I also tried two of their more tropical numbers, all of which were good, but didn’t leave me needing more. Which is probably good because if they did I’d be labeled an alcoholic, because you’re judgmental. You heard me. Let’s just move on, I don’t want to fight.

The first course was the cheese fondu coupled with a delicious wedge salad. The fondu that Yoshi recommended was their monthly special, a tasty number with garlic, chives, spices, a touch of Tabasco, and some beer to really bring the fondu together. The featured cheese was a buttery and melty Gruyere that was just fantastic. Their accompanying veggies and breads to dip were great too – I loved the rosemary bread and Karla couldn’t get enough of the brown bread. Go figure :). All in all, it was remarkable and we finished it to the last bite. Interspersed through our cheese munching we enjoyed our wedge salads. It was your typical wedge salad – Lettuce, Gorgonzola, bacon bits with a creamy dressing. Did a great job of breaking up the oiliness of the cheese. We were almost sad to leave this part of the meal behind.

Next came the main course. I must admit at this point that the main course is the primary reason why I am not generally calling to go to the Melting Pot more often. Again, I love cooking my own food or watching it be cooked, both experiences that are featured at the Melting Pot. However, for whatever reason, it never seems like a worthwhile, satisfying meal. They bring a simmering broth full of herbs and seasoning, which smells phenomenal, but never seems to come through as it seems like it ought to. We got the surf and turf dish, including shrimp, lobster, thin sliced sirloin, pork, chicken and a mushroom ravioli. In addition there were large pieces of broccoli, mushrooms and potatoes. There was also a good assortment of sauces, none of which thrilled me except for the veggie dip, a mix of sour cream, cream cheese and herbs, which was delightful. This whole portion of the meal was a flop and really I only ordered it because this was Karla’s first time at Melting Pot and I felt she deserved the full experience. The Sirloin was the best item on the dish, but you really have to be careful not to over cook it. The ravioli were good, though they could have used a bit of something (anything really). The shrimp was fine and we were terrified of under-cooking the chicken and pork and so we really did them a disservice with how long we kept them in the broth. The lobster, normally one of my favorite foods, was the single worst item on the dish. It came out tasting like old seafood – fishy and aromatic with all the wrong notes emphasized. The veggies were fine, though mushrooms and broccoli are near the very bottom of foods I like eating. The potatoes were good and gave me the best indicator of what the broth was supposed to do to the meats, but, ultimately, eh, pass.

Ah, but there was definitely redemption coming. I knew it, Yoshi knew it, and Karla, though a novice at the Melting Pot, sensed it coming. It was time for dessert. We decided, after much discussion, to go with the traditional chocolate with crunchy peanut butter fondue. They melted the chocolate at the table and WOW was it good. They gave us a variety of fruits and cakes to dip into it, along with some marshmallows that were intriguing but didn’t live up to expectations. But everything else was heavenly. I was full but didn’t care, I was going forward with this. The brownies were thick and outlasted the peanuty fondue, giving you something to chew on. The bananas were light and married with the chocolate perfectly for a sensational quick bite. The cold strawberries juxtaposed nicely with the warm, melty chocolate and the rice crispies soaked up more of the chocolate than anything else, surprising you with hidden pockets of deliciousness as you chewed. The best, for me, though was the cheesecake. It was thick and fluffy and when kissed by the chocolate, it made for just an exquisite mixture of taste and texture. Oh, so good. Just talking about it like this makes me want to go back.

All in all, we had a lovely evening at the Melting Pot, and I think we will likely look for more excuses to make it up there in the future. We will ask for Yoshi and just dive into our cheese, salads and chocolate with reckless abandon. Frankly, I can hardly wait.

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