Even on a clear night, into one’s life a little rain must fall.
A recent evening out led me to dinner with real estate mogul Catherine Mackey. We were in the mood for something different and figured fondue would be different enough. So we headed out to Mobile’s version of the Melting Pot.
On Montlimar Drive, the Melting Pot is where the former Chili’s once stood. As we walked in our hostess took my name and telephone number (warning me that many people inexplicably leave their credit cards in this establishment) and informed us it was happy hour until 8 p.m. and all signature menu drinks were $5. Glancing at my phone, I saw it was only 7:20 p.m. We had plenty of time to take advantage of that deal. So as soon as our server came to our table we ordered a pair of Grand Margaritas ($17.90 for both). Our server went to get our drinks, returned and asked, “Did you say Margarita or sangria?” I should have known we were not off to a good start.
He returned with our drinks and gave us the lengthy version of our menu options. It was now 7:55 p.m. and as you can guess we both had sangria. I couldn’t take the sweetness but managed a couple of sips trying to like it. My dining companion grew tired of waiting for a correction and drank all of hers. Upon his return I sent mine back. He actually said, “I wondered why I smelled pineapple when I brought these out.”
We knew we were getting some type of fish, so we ordered a bottle of Firesteed Pinot Grigio ($26).
Here is the trick with the Melting Pot. You have to be careful when you look at the menu. It’s a little confusing the way it all comes together, but the way it was explained to us it’s cheaper to get the salad, cheese fondue, main course fondue and chocolate fondue than it is to leave any of these off. That’s what we did at $37.95 per person.
We started our four courses with salads. Catherine went classic with a Caesar. Not much to complain about here. The menu description says it comes with Parmesan-encrusted pine nuts. She was not crazy about the dressing. I had a bite and it was pretty good, but not as good as my Melting Pot house salad. Tomatoes, croutons and eggs made this one as normal as anything else. The zip was in the peppercorn ranch.
Our next dilemma was which cheese choice for our second course. There were plenty to choose from. Alpine was Gruyere, fontina and Raclette cheeses with white wine and nutmeg. There was spinach and artichoke, a Wisconsin trio (vetoed because someone doesn’t appreciate Gorgonzola), a Fiesta version with salsa and the one we should have gotten, called Bacon and Jalapeno.
Instead we went for the classic Melting Pot Cheddar. This begins with garlic and seasonings topped off with cheddar and Swiss mix. A good bit of beer (which I also should have ordered) smoothed things out and we were dipping in no time. Artisanal breads veggies were good, but the best with the cheese was the apples.
Here come the entrees. The meal we ordered was called Fondue by You. This gives guests a chance to choose three items in smaller portions. There is also a choice of fondue cooking styles. This could be canola oil, a mushroom-laden coq au vin or the Caribbean-inspired Mojo, but our choices warranted a recommended vegetable broth-based Seasoned Court Bouillon.
Catherine chose salmon filet, sesame-crusted Ahi tuna and teriyaki sirloin as I doubled the salmon, couldn’t ignore the chicken potstickers and had to try the honey orange duck breast. I got a chuckle when the waiter tried to explain Pacific white shrimp to me. I know what they are. I just wondered why anyone from here would order them.
The salmon was really the best protein we had. Good thing we both got it. The tuna was OK but the sesame crust was a bit of a distraction. The teriyaki steak and the honey orange duck breast were in the same boat in that the sauce was too much for this broth to handle. They may have been better off in the canola oil or coq au vin. I did enjoy the corresponding dipping sauces.
For the grand finale we chose the Flaming Turtle, a mix of milk chocolate, caramel and candied pecans set afire right in front of your very eyes. This was probably the best part of the meal, and the part I was least excited about. We had strawberries, bananas, marshmallows dusted with Oreos, brownies, blondies and pound cake. The thing you don’t think about before heading to a fondue restaurant is that you can’t take dessert home with you. The tiny confections were decent for a sampler platter and I tended to stay toward the fruitier side of the plate.
Here is the skinny: Maybe we should have kept a better theme to our entrée and picked a more suitable cooking style, but nothing we had was stellar. It was a generous amount of mediocre food. They charged me full price for happy hour drinks and then they refunded $7.45 of the $8.95 drink I sent back, I guess because I had a sip, and $3 for Catherine’s drink, I guess because she drank it out of boredom. What could we do? There was no one to send it back to.
If you can only manage to get one drink in with 40 minutes left in happy hour then it isn’t too happy of an hour. My ticket clock out time was 9:15 p.m. and with a $120 pre-tip tab for nothing special, I felt my two hours there could have been better spent elsewhere. Not impressed with the food or service.
The Melting Pot
840 Montlimar Drive
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