EDITOR’S NOTE: At press time, The Melting Pot restaurant in Rancho Cucamonga that we sampled for this review announced that it was closed for business. Other Melting Pot locations are still open in Temecula, Brea, Irvine, San Clemente, Pasadena, Torrance, San Diego and Thousand Oaks. Go to http://www.meltingpot.com/ for details)
Obviously, the concept of cooking your own food at a restaurant goes against the grain of all we’ve been taught about the central concept of eating out: Going out for a bite means we want someone else to deal with the food preparation, the pots, the pans, the mess, the hassle.
Why would I pay good money to do the work myself? Insert head scratch here.
Fair question, but hold on to your incredulity (and skepticism) for a minute because the counter-intuitive idea of preparing eats with your own two hands is something The Melting Pot has nailed down effectively and artfully. The little bit of elbow grease you’ve got to put in at this fondue-inspired establishment will pay off with substantial perks—namely a most excellent meal.
First off the bat, this place has got crazy atmosphere and ambience. I’m gonna throw around words like “cozy” and “intimate” and “mood lighting” around so that you can wrap your head around the snug, classy vibe you’ll run into when you first step across Melting Pot’s threshold. I recently had the pleasure of enjoying this place’s edible wonders during Valentine’s Day and the way things were set up definitely helped set the romance dial to dark and mysterious. This restaurant’s got a special row of booths—I think they call it “Lover’s Lane”—that are separated by partitions and oriented in such a way so that you are able to enjoy loads of privacy as you dine on the hearty victuals. The only time the outside world intrudes is when your server comes to your table.
And the lighting? Spot-on. Dim and murky—perfect to whisper sweet nothings into your date’s/wife’s/mistress’ ear with no one the wiser. Who needs florescent lighting when low-wattage is really the way to go to set the mood just so.
The specials here were pretty impressive. We had our choice of spinach and artichoke cheese or fiesta cheese—which is what we sampled. Fiesta? You bet. It was a gooey, melty party in my mouth and did justice to the concept of “appetizer.”
The rest of the offerings were top-shelf as well. There was, let’s see, filet mignon and applewood smoked bratwurst. The shrimp—which took nanoseconds to cook—were mighty fine as well. My wife was particularly taken in by the sun dried tomato ravioli, but—minor quibble—the garlic crusted chicken that was part of the sampler was simply good, not stellar.
But the exclamation point at the end of this gastronomic sentence was the dessert. It wasn’t an afterthought. No way, sister. The white chocolate apple cobbler fondue was slap-your-mama delicious. Decadently sweet with tender apple bits and a streusel topping, I seriously would return to The Melting Pot strictly on the strength of this dish. Let’s just skip dinner next time, shall we?
I’m not saying you’re going to swear off traditional restaurants—you know, the ones where all you have to do is sit down and have food brought to you. But it’s a nice change of pace to get your hands dirty and do the old boil, boil—sans toil and trouble.
The Melting Pot, 12469 Foothill Blvd, Rancho Cucamonga, (909) 899-1922; www.meltingpot.com. Mon-Thurs 5PM-10PM, Fri 4PM-10PM, Sat-Sun 3PM-10PM.