The (Great American) Melting Pot

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With a title like The Melting Pot, you might think of American history, or the Schoolhouse Rock song “The Great American Melting Pot”. But this post is going to be a little more low-key, though possibly hooked to the American melting pot theme.  For this is a restaurant review of The Melting Pot – a fondue restaurant that has a location on The Plaza in Kansas City.

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Angel preparing the cheese course.

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The restaurant doesn’t have a lot of frontage. Two other restaurants take up the street front above. You go in via the door and then down a series of stairs to an intimate lower level where the restaurant goes further in and spreads out to reveal its warmth and elegance.

Fondue isn’t a quick experience.  Our excellent and enjoyable waitress, Angel, said to 4-course full experience should take two-and-a half hours. We arrived at 7 p.m. and left just before 10:30 p.m. But we enjoyed a fully immersed dining experience the entire time.

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Examples of the entree.

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Examples of the entree.

You don’t have to go the 4-course route, but since this was our first time, and since we were there to celebrate my mother-in-laws birthday, we were there for the full treatment, and to give her the full experience.

The first course is the cheese course. Since there were 6 of us, the table was set with two hot plates, and two fondue pots. We could choose one dipping sauce – out of 6-8 options – for each of the pots, and then were furnished the same set of options for dipping into the cheeses. We received two types of bread, Washington apples, a selection of vegetables (celery, tomatoes, carrots).

We selected the Green Goddess, and the Bacon Gorgonzola. Angel brought out the ingredients for each of the fondues, and poured them into the pots and mixed them one at a time. We could see and watch the grated cheese melt and blend with the other ingredients to become the delectable dipping sauce we used to start our meal – the first course of our experience.

We savoured the cheese course, and started to slow down, wondering how much room we might have for the succeeding courses after indulging in the first course. But Angel assured us we would find ourselves ready for each course as it came.

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Next came the salad course. Each of us chose one of the various salad options: house, California, Caesar, etc. Those who had the house dressing seemed very pleased with it. Since I had the Caesar salad with Caesar dressing, I can only convey their effusive pleasures. They came on artistically scalloped plates. Betsy described them as “something Dr. Bunsen Honeydew would come up with.”

The third course is the entrée, and took up the most table space.  For this course we chose the default broth for the cooking liquid, and then each of us chose one of the entrée options.  I chose Pacific Rim (which included, duck, steak, shrimp, and chicken potstickers), someone chose vegetarian, and one person even chose the “make your own entrée” option, where you choose three items from the individual items menu. Each person’s entrée came out, raw, on a serving tray, and then you got a plate with sections to put your cooked foods, along with sections to put some of the various dipping sauces on your plate. So each person had their raw food platter, their eating platter, and then there were the trays with the dipping sauces that you could choose from to put on your plates.

Angel gave us specific instructions on the various items, and how long to cook each one. Shimp and seafood was shorter, steak midrange, and the poultry had the longest cooking time. Actually, the longest cooking time was some of the vegetables (potatoes), but they went into the cooking pots before we started cooking everything else, and cooked while she gave us the rest of our instructions.

Trying to capture the chocolate Flambe.

Trying to capture the chocolate Flambe.

Trying to capture the chocolate flambe.

Trying to capture the chocolate flambe.

Each of us had received 3 fondue sticks at the beginning of the meal, color-coded so we could determine which items were ours being cooked. We also got a slotted spoon to rescue an “free range” items that happened to fall off the fondue sticks, as well as retrieve the vegetables.

From my perspective, it didn’t seem like there really was a lot on the individual entrée platters – a few small pieces of each type of meat – but it turned out to be an adequate portion when interspersed with the vegetables, and the relaxed pace of dining while waiting for the next portions to be done cooking in the fondue broth.

After we were done with the entrée course, we chose out two chocolate fondues for the chocolate course. While Angel went to prepare that, our charming “busboy” (never caught his name) cleared the table or the entrée dishes. He kept on saying he could take just one more item, until he had everything piled on his tray, held balance above him on his arm before taking it away. We had seen him earlier refreshing our water time and again, and his cheerful demeanor, like Angel’s was an important part of the ambience and dining experience.

We had taken Angel’s suggestions when choosing our cheese fondues, and guidance for our entrees, and similarly found her advice and running commentary of the experience and her love of her job similarly helpful at the chocolate stage. We chose the Flaming Turtle (milk chocolate, caramel and candied pecans flambéed tableside) for one, and something equally as decadent for our other sauce. I tried to get pictures of the flambé but capturing flames on film is a tricky process.

Birthday fireworks.

Birthday fireworks.

The dessert course was unlimited dippers. We had fruit (banana, strawberries, pineapple), brownies, blondies, marshmallows, pound cake. We cleaned up the first round of dippers and asked for a little more fruit. By the time we were there was chocolate left, but it was seriously depleted.

The part I do need to mention was the fireworks – by which I do not mean the flambé. Since in our reservations we mentioned the birthday, they brought out a special plate of dippers with a candle in the middle for mom to blow out, and being a musical group, we of course sang to her as she did so.

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So, to rate the experience, it was definitely something worth doing. It was a full dining experience. Not having dined in the “European method”, I wonder if that is what dining continental could be like. Even at what averaged at $40 a plate it was well worth the price for a destination celebration visit. I could even see going for a single course experience for the cheese or the chocolate – again for a simpler destination special occasion experience. But it isn’t something in the price range for regular fare for your middle and lower middle class family.  I will have the memory for a long time, and will look for a good occasion to do it again, possibly to share it with someone else to whom it will be a new and unique experience.

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