The Melting Pot in Atlantic City is part of a franchise that helped make the fondue experience more mainstream
Among the brightest spots on the stretch of Atlantic Avenue known as Atlantic City Outlets — The Walk shopping district is the A.C. outpost of the Melting Pot restaurant chain.
With close to 150 operations currently open in 37 states, Melting Pot’s become the standard-bearer for the fondue genre in America. Visiting here is thought provoking, tasty and just plain fun. We stopped in at the height of the dinner rush on a summer Friday evening.
The kitchen’s leadoff hitter was a cheese fondue course. Pretty much everyone’s meal commences in this manner — servers blending and creating the dish while chatting up the new arrivals. Our choice was a spinach/artichoke flavor. Accomplished via a confluence of those items along with an Italian Fontina and German Butterkase cheese mix, plus liberal amounts of fresh garlic and chopped parsley.
For devouring that bubbling delight, a number of vessels are provided: three types of rough-hewn bread, cut into thick squares; Granny Smith apple chunks; broccoli; cauliflower; carrots and tortilla chips. Exhausting all those items, more than two dozen in all, we still couldn’t resist greedily digging down into the last, incredibly hot gobs with our utensils.
Did we mention that both temp and flavor intensify as the cheese is consumed? Yes, you will want to get at every last smidge. About that: All tables include hi-tech, built-in heating devices, centrally located. These provide rapid, consistent Fahrenheit while limiting the patron’s exposure and risk. Nice. Just between you and me, if you really want to impress someone, inquire about obtaining one of the half dozen private booths. Referred to by staff as “Lovers Lane,” these provide spacious accommodations behind frosted sliding doors, decidedly private and romantic.
Our salad course included my California, with mixed greens, diced Roma tomatoes, walnuts and plenty of crumbled Gorgonzola tossed in a raspberry/walnut dressing. My companion went for an item off their “Big Night” package menu — a sort of multi-tiered prix-fixe special. Her leaf lettuce wraps were stuffed with shredded cucumber, bean sprouts and fresh mint, sided by a small bowl of orange-ginger sauce. Both proved to be fresh, crisp and cold, nicely representing the spectacular produce we are experiencing locally this year.
After a pleasant, well-timed pause, our server returned to begin heating oil for our entrees. That’s a big part of the overall experience here: highly interactive dining. Front-of-the-house staffers are entrusted to not only know the menu, but to be able to provide expert tableside preparations and offer counsel. Nowhere was this more in evidence than the detailed assortment of sauces accompanying mains. We received a mild, yogurt-based, yellow curry, spicy (they mean it) cocktail, creamy Green Goddess, plum ginger, teriyaki and Port wine Gorgonzola. Our server made general recommendations about combining proteins and these dips, admonishing to keep raw stuff on its original serving platter, not the compartmentalized plates with which we would be eating.
My assortment, the Land and Sea, consisted of cubes of New York strip steak, medium white shrimp and smaller pieces of chicken. Our other choice, Pacific Rim, brought a wider palette, teriyaki-marinated sirloin, shrimp, marinated pork tenderloin, sliced duck breast, chicken breast and a pair of sizeable potstickers. Vegetables, plenty of them, like sliced redskin potatoes, whole button mushrooms and more broccoli florets, ride in a separate sidecar. We also received a pair of batters: light, aerated tempura and a denser, highly seasoned blend reminiscent of what one might expect to find in authentic southern fried chicken or fish.
Of the literally thousands of possible pairings, we took note of tempura shrimp and veggies with plum ginger or curry, steak with the Port Gorgonzola heightened by some of that spicy cocktail and the duck dipped in teriyaki.
Now, let’s talk about what really matters most: chocolate fondue. From a list of about 10, we went with the advice of said learned counsel and ordered up a culinary riff of Bananas Foster. White chocolate, infused by dulce de leche and cinnamon, loaded with slices of soft yellow fruit. The silky chocolate’s personality worked wonders with the ripe bananas. Even better when dipping elements like cheesecake, strawberry slices, pound cake, marshmallows, plus our favorite, Rice Krispy squares, were added to the roster. Seriously folks, if there is anything more satisfying than a big ole tureen of white chocolate soup, make sure you let us know about it.
E-mail Frank Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Melting Pot
Where: 2112 Atlantic Ave., A.C.
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 1-11pm, Sun. 1-10pm (free valet starting 4pm)
On the Web: themeltingpot.com
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