The Melting Pot -- your fondue fix in Atlantic City
Atlantic City's centrally located The Walk retail and dining district, an area once an urban wasteland of epic proportions, offers locals and visitors alike a ritzy, secure glimpse of Absecon Island's not-too-distant future.
Situated between Arkansas and Michigan avenues, the Melting Pot restaurant adds a fun, surprisingly upscale option to the sundry eateries nearby.
Decisions abound here, and at the suggestion of our server, we opted for one of the restaurant's signature meals: the Big Night Out. Included within this for-two-person package was a choice of cheese fondue (one of seven varieties) salad (any of a half dozen) entree fondue and a dessert -- read: chocolate -- fondue, of our choosing.
Not a bad deal at all; eight separate plates for $96.
Our starter, Caribbean cheese ($17 a la carte) was a tableside blend of aged Gouda and cheddar laboriously created by our server, all part of the fondue experience. Her tapered fingers added white wine and garlic prior to the dairy, then tiny, piquant red peppers, slivered scallions and lime zest, in order, to finish. The smoky Dutch cheese paired nicely with the lively vegetable's taste, which was closer to the sweet/sour of a pickled product.
Provided with two color-coordinated spears apiece for dipping, and plenty of green apple chunks, carrots, celery, cauliflower and a sampling of different cubed breads, we consumed every last drop of molten, gooey cheese. (Careful out there, it does get progressively hotter as you dig down.)
My California salad (all salads are $8.50 a la carte) brought fresh, cold, crisp greens tossed with sliced roma tomatoes, walnuts and Gorgonzola cheese. Raspberry black walnut vinaigrette produced exactly the desired amount of both flavor and moisture.
Our other choice, tropical salad, included mangoes, almonds and shredded coconut, blended with similar greens and tomato. We couldn't help but notice the attention to detail given both these simple items, a trend that would continue throughout the meal.
Once these initial courses were out of the way, the real action begins at the Melting Pot. At a slight upcharge of $6, we selected a non-standard cooking style, Mojo, which added a citrus/garlic mix to the heated cauldron of bubbly bouillon in which our raw meats, seafood and vegetables would be cooked. Something made quite clear by our server, items do require different preparation times. Specifically, chicken should be cooked almost twice as long as all the others.
Included among the dozen or so victuals were vanilla rum chicken, lobster tail, filet mignon, jerk sirloin, marinated pork tenderloin, peppered shrimp and butternut squash ravioli. Each brought somewhere near half a dozen samplings, meaning several dozen hearty mouthfuls per person.
We appreciated the care indicated by the kitchen with presentation, neatly stacking the lobster meat atop its own shell, and arraying the colorful gathering with a sushi chef's eye for visual complexity.
Making these options all the more delectable were nine -- count 'em, nine -- wildly divergent dipping sauces. Our favorites were a port wine/gorgonzola, a golden yogurt based curry, tangy brown teriyaki and a cooling herbal/cream cheese, Green Goddess, that was superb with the vegetables provided.
What these ramekins of sauce further demonstrated was an attention to minute detail, which seems to differentiate the Melting Pot's culinary point-of-view from those of its competitors.
Our final fondue, from a list of nine options, was the Flaming Turtle (all desserts are $17 a la carte). This combination of milk chocolate, pecans and caramel, flambéed tableside, was so rich with creamy chocolate and crunchy nuts that we could have happily consumed it as soup.
Sliced strawberries and bananas, pound cake, Rice Krispie squares, chocolate brownie clusters, cheesecake and assorted marshmallows were delivered on a large, square plate, dusted with confectioner's sugar and cocoa powder, ready for dipping.
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.
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