Monday, June 11, 2007

The Melting Pot

Nestled in an office complex on Burlington Road in Bedford are three very different restaurants: Bamboo (Chinese/Japanese), Flatbread Company (Organic pizza) and The Melting Pot (Fondue). I have previously reviewed Bamboo and Flatbread Company and recommended both. So, how does The Melting Pot fare?

The Melting Pot is a chain restaurant with locations all across the country. The original Melting Pot opened in 1975 in Florida and now it has become a franchise empire with over 100 existing restaurants and over 30 more in development. In Massachusetts, the first Melting Pot opened in Framingham, near Route 9. Then the Bedford location opened and there are also plans to open a third restaurant in downtown Boston. I suspect that if these three restaurants are successful then they might open even more Melting Pots in Massachusetts. I have made two visits to The Melting Pot in Bedford, once in April a few weeks after it opened, and again this past weekend. Both of my experiences were very similar.

The Melting Pot is only open for dinner. I definitely recommend that you make reservations as it gets crowded, especially on the weekends. I have seen people turned away who did not have reservations. It is a fairly large place so they are doing a good business currently. I did notice on my second trip that when they turned away a couple without reservations that they apparently gave the couple a $10 gift certificate. This is certainly a nice touch and a good business practice.

The Melting Pot is located next to a parking garage which is used by businesses during the day but which restaurant patrons can use after 5pm. There is additional parking behind the restaurant as well. The restaurant is also easy to find, located just off Route 3.

When you step inside the restaurant, there is a hostess station in front of you and behind that station is a glass enclosed wine cellar. Very visually interesting and gives the impression that wine is important to the restaurant. To the right of the hostess station appears to be maybe a private dining area, possibly for functions. To the left is a bar area, with a marble topped bar and some marble topped tables. You cannot sit at the actual bar but you can sit at one of the several tables in the bar area. There are also a couple booths in the bar area where you can have your dinner.

So, is this a restaurant for intimate dining? Or is it a family place where children are welcome? Actually, it is both! There are a number of different dining areas so you actually get a measure of privacy in several areas. On my first trip there, I was in a small dining area that seemed a bit secluded though you could see your neighbors. On my second visit, I sat in the Lover’s Lane section. This is a more secluded area, where each cozy booth sits only two people. You are surrounded on three sides by walls so it truly gives an intimate feel. There are candles inset on the facing wall and subdued lighting. I think this is a great touch. This section would be perfect for first dates, anniversaries or any type of special occasion.

Once seated, you are presented with a menu and wine list. Your server will also be by to explain the menu, especially if this is your first time at the restaurant.

The wine list begins with over 30 wines available by the glass, most of the glasses costing $6-8. This is certainly a larger selection of wines by the glass than many restaurants and at reasonable prices as well. Their wine list by the bottle is also quite impressive. First, there is a lot of diversity on their list, including a number of lesser known but still excellent varietals and wines such as Spanish Alabarino, California Viognier, Italian Vernaccia, and South African Pinotage. Price wise, there are many bottles costing $30 or less. So, you have a number of choices if you are seeking an inexpensive bottle. This is one of the better wine lists I have recently seen. Overall, The Melting Pot is definitely a restaurant that places an importance on wine.

My only minor complaint about the list is that it does not list vintages. The wine list states: “Vintages subject to change and availability.” At least for their higher end wines, it would be nice to see the available vintages. Otherwise, it becomes a longer process where your waitperson first goes to check the available vintages and then tells you what is available. Then, you decide if you want the available vintage and if so, then the waitperson has to go back and retrieve the bottle.

On my first visit I had a glass of Spanish Tempranillo, a pleasant, easy-drinking wine. On my second visit, I ordered a bottle of French Burgundy, a 2005 Joseph Drouhin. This was a light, fruity wine that went well with dinner.

The Melting Pot also has a full bar and carries a number of specialty drinks, including such interesting concoctions as Chocolate Martini, Yin & Yang, and Paradise Punch. They also have a full list of after dinner drinks, ports, cognacs, scotches and more.

The food menu is essentially all fondues. There are cheese fondues, entrée fondues and dessert fondues. The only non-fondue items available are the salads. So, if you do not want fondue, you are basically out of luck. But, this menu does allow more specialization from the restaurant. They can concentrate on doing one thing well, fondues.

The fondues can be ordered individually, or as part of a three or four course meal. A cheese fondue for 2 people costs $15, plus $8 for each additional person. Individual salads cost $7 each. Individual entrees, which include a salad, range from $18-24. Three course meals range from $62-64 and the four course meal ranges from $84-96. Dessert fondues cost $17 for a small and $32 for a regular. A small serves two people. A couple of entrees, including lobster, do not have listed prices as they are based on market price.

On both of my visits, I tried four course meals, getting different choices each time. I would estimate that dinner should last around 2 hours or so if you get a four course meal. The dinner proceeds at a more leisurely pace and you definitely are not rushed.

A four course dinner begins with a cheese fondue and you have five available choices. I have tried the Traditional Swiss Cheese Fondue and the Feng Shui Cheese Fondue. There is heating unit at each table. Your server comes to the table and mixes all of the ingredients for your cheese fondue in the pot, stirring the mix as the cheese melts. While the server is adding the ingredients, you can always ask for more or less of a specific ingredient. For example, I asked for more garlic. For dipping, the server brings you cubes of French, rye and pumpernickel breads. The server also brings pieces of carrots, celery, cauliflower and green apple. If you need more of these items, the server will gladly bring you more as well.

Using long forks, you then dip your items in the cheese fondue. I found both cheese fondues to be excellent, with intriguing flavors, and I would definitely order both of them again. The green apple makes an especially good dipping choice as the hot cheese contrasts well with the cooler and crisp apple. And it was fun dipping the various items.

The second course was the salads and you have four available choices. Each salad is made for an individual so a couple can order different salads if they wish. On my visits, I tried the California salad, the Chef’s salad and the Mandarin and Almond salad. All three salads were very good. They combine interesting flavors together to make an excellent whole. For example, the California salad has Gorgonzola cheese with walnuts and a Raspberry Black Walnut Vinaigrette. A very nice mix of tastes and textures. The Mandarin salad, with its wonton strips, Mandarin oranges and Asian dressing were a similar mix of intriguing tastes and textures.

There are fourteen available choices for your entrée, some with only a single meat such as breast of chicken or filet mignon. There are also entrees with a variety of meats and seafood, so you get a little bit of everything. You also get to decide on the cooking style for your entrée and there are five choices for that as well. This is where you have to do a bit more work for your dinner. The server creates the cooking style but then it is your job to dip and cook the raw meat and vegetables you receive. Items generally take one to three minutes to cook. You have two forks so you can cook two items at a time. A couple can thus cook four items.

On my first visit, I had the Pacific Rim entrée, with the Coq au Vin cooking style. This entrée included teriyaki sirloin, shrimp, peppered pork tenderloin, marinated duck breast, breast of chicken and two potstickers. The Coq au Vin style includes mushrooms, garlic and Burgundy wine. Along with your entrée, you receive red bliss potatoes, mushrooms, broccoli and yellow squash (which they will bring more of if you want). There was plenty of meat on our dish, and all of it seemed high quality. It was tender and tasty. And you can cook it to your preference, from rare to well done. The Coq au Vin was flavorful and it was fun cooking our own dinner.

One my second visit, I had the Fondue Fusion which included lobster tail, filet mignon, Ahi tuna, white shrimp, teriyaki sirloin, sweet curry chicken breast, and potstickers. The cooking style was their Zen, with ginger and lemongrass. Again, a good selection of food, all high quality and delicious, and the Zen style was very good.

With your food, you receive an abundance of dipping sauces. You won’t know where to start. The sauces include a Gorgonzola Port, Louisiana Hot sauce, Barbeque sauce, Teriyaki glaze, Spicy cocktail, Mild curry, Garlic Dijon butter, Ginger plum and Green Goddess. The particular sauces you receive will vary with what you order but you will probably receive 6 or more sauces. I particularly enjoyed the Garlic Dijon butter, especially on the lobster and potatoes. The teriyaki glaze was excellent on the beef and the ginger plum is nicely sweet on the chicken.

And if all this food is not enough, there is still dessert. You have nice choices for chocolate fondues, including one where you can choose what items you want in your fondue. I have had the Chocolate S’mores and the Flaming Turtle. With the chocolate fondues, you receive a plate of strawberries, bananas, pineapple, cheesecake, marshmallows, pound cake and brownies. These desserts are decadent and so satisfying! Great chocolate flavors, combined with such items as caramel, pecans and marshmallow cream. The dipping items are fresh and flavorful. If nothing else, you should go just to have a dessert fondue.

Service was excellent. Even on my first visit, when they had only been open few weeks, I had no complaints about my server. They all seem very well trained, personable and accommodating. They need to be more than just a server as they also have to cook and create the fondues at your table. So, they work hard and seem very proficient in what they do.

My overall impression is that this is an excellent restaurant and I definitely recommend it. It is a fun place to go, where your dinner becomes more than just a meal. It becomes a dining experience, a very social activity. And it caters to both couples seeking an intimate dinner and families who want something fun. The food is delicious, with many interesting taste and texture combinations, and you have plenty of varied choices. They also have a very good wine list. I can understand why they are so busy as the word seems to be getting out about The Melting Pot.

So, go give it a try! This Passionate Foodie will definitely return there.

The Melting Pot
213 Burlington Road
Bedford, MA
Phone: (781) 791-0529

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent review, it really helped me know what to expect. Wife and I had dinner there for the first time last night for our anniversary. I can't say enough great things about The Melting Pot. The food was amazing and the service was top notch. What a romantic place!