Two weeks ago, we surprised our good friend Jou for her birthday. We pulled our surprise off without a hitch; she woke up confused why balloons were all around her. We were such awesome friends (who woke up at 7AM on a Saturday, invaded their house and eventually her room at 8AM and made a riot greeting at 9AM) that she decided to treat us to The Melting Pot in Tahlia Street. Haha! We tell you this: when you dine at The Melting Pot and you plow through their cheese fondue, main course fondue, and dessert fondue, expect to spend 3-4 hours dining. Yes 3-4 HOURS. That’s it if you really want to dip into the experience and enjoy the fondue culture. (I’m so inspired writing this that it will also take you 3 hours reading. It’s that long! Haha, kidding.)
The Melting Pot (TMP) is a fondue restaurant, founded in 1975 (nearly forty years in the business folks!), that provides an interactive dining experience. It has more than 135 restaurants in North America and over 30 locations in Canada and Mexico. They have different kinds of fondue from appetizers to dessert. The dining experience here is about designing your own pairings of food and cooking the main course up to your liking. If you’re new at this fondue concept, you’ll be lost but thankfully, at The Melting Pot in Riyadh, they have attentive wait staff, which are called “menu consultants” that will suggest what’s good and will walk you through the process of everything. So for this entry I’ll be your “menu consultant”. Haha! I won’t be able to do the pouring of the sauces or help you with your table napkins but I can show you what went on with our meal and what happened during the 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM late lunch we had. Yes, 3 HOURS. What did I tell you?
I like the zen yet formal ambiance of The Melting Pot. It’s a restaurant that knows its value and knows the value of their guests. It’s polished yet casual. They have wooden furniture with plush seatings. They have the usual tables and chairs but they also have the round leather couches and sofas. The lighting is good; the afternoon sunlight streams through the glass walls and the ornate lighting helps create a warm, inviting ambiance. Their black fondue tables have their own built-in cooktops.
If ordering ala carte, you’ll pay around SR 50 up for each selection of cheese fondue, SR 35 up for salads, SR 98 up for main entree, and SR 50 up for chocolate fondue. Mocktails go for SR 35 and above. They do have what they call as the “Big Night Out”, a four-course meal which already includes cheese fondue, salad, main entree, and chocolate fondue for SR 230. It’s good for 1-2 persons. That’s what our group got, four orders of Big Night Outs for 6 persons. With this way, we got to try most of the types and kinds of fondue they offer.
TMP has a nice selection of specialty mocktails. We went crazy in ordering; each one of us ordered a different drink resulting in this bright and colorful medley:
The red drink in the stout glass with a strawberry is the Bali Twist (SR 35), a mix of apple juice and raspberry puree topped with lemonade. It was nice and refreshing. The tall glass with blackberry is the Blackberry Sage Lemonade (SR 39). The sage flavor was a bit lacing in this one. Reina ordered the tall glass behind which is called Pome Daiquiri (SR 39), a mix of blended pomegranate, lemonade, melon syrup topped with rosemary leaves. She found it too sour for her taste. The orange one is as you know Orange Juice (SR 28). Haha!
I ordered the peachy colored drink called Fruit Punch. It has mango, pineapple, and orange blended together with ice, grenadine and strawberry puree. At first I found this to be a bit heavy and sweet but as we ate our dinner, this drink caught my fancy. It’s a delight to drink. However, I always find these mocktails as too expensive in restaurants. Stick to water or soda.
The Cheese Fondue
From the six kinds of cheese fondue, we picked three flavors. The Fiesta Cheese Fondue has cheddar cheese blended with non-alcoholic beer, jalapeno peppers, and salsa. Our menu consultants (aka waiters) mixed everything in our table. They brought in all the utensils needed and I got a set of pink fondue forks. Everyone else got their own colors so that we won’t mix our forks with each other.
Their cheese fondue comes with mini slices of atisan breads and seasonal vegetables for dipping. It’s so fun watching our waiter “cook” the cheese fondue while explaining what’s going in our pot. We were eager beavers, yes like students, asking a lot of questions; the poor guy was left answering our overlapping questions one by one. Haha! (Sorry kuya!)
The Fiesta dip was spicy and it can be made spicier or less spicy depending on what you prefer. It was cheesy and gooey with a kick of jalapeno heat. It reminded me of the cheese in nachos. Next kind is the Spinach Artichoke Fondue made with fontina and butterkase cheese with spinach, artichoke hearts and garlic. It’s a milder version of the spinach artichoke dip usually available in steakhouses.
The Classic Alpine Swiss is our favorite. This fondue is made up of aged gruyere, raclete, and fontina cheese blended with white grape juice, fresh garlic and a dash of nutmeg. It has a great flavor that’s not too strong but really tasty with the morsels of bread, brocolli, and caulifflower. OMG these cheese fondues are heaven-sent! They’re yummy, tasty, and such a great starter to an epic meal.
The salads came next and we ordered all the kinds in the menu. The Strawberry Almond which has strawberries honey roasted sliced almonds, and feta cheese atop mixed greens. This is the sour salad because of the not so-sweet slices of strawberry and the raspberry vinaigrette. It’s not too sour though. It still has a pleasant taste that’s enhanced by the feta.
The Caesar Salad is the go-to kind of salad for almost everyone. It has the right mix of lettuce, parmesan, and croutons. It has a tartness that’s delicious.
The California Salad is my least favorite because it has candied pecans and I’m not a fan of pecans. However, the friends liked it because of the on point combination of greens, Roma tomatoes, gorgonzola cheese and the raspberry vinaigrette.
Personally, The Melting Pot House Salad lured me to the green side. Haha! I haven’t enjoyed a green salad as much as I did this one, mainly because of the sweet and tangy House Dressing it came with. The crisp romaine and iceberg lettuce were crunchy and fresh! The salad were great in-betweens. By the time we’re finished with these healthy dishes, we were ready to begin with our main courses!
The Main Entrees
You might be wondering how is the main courses in The Melting Pot. Does it have separate entrees for steaks or fishes or prawns or chicken? Actually, no. It’s still done fondue style! Basically, in the ala carte main entree manu, you can pick from teriyaki-marinated sirloin, herb-crusted chicken, sea scallops, white shrimps, filet mignon, memphis-style chicken, etc. In the Big Night Out, they gave us a plate filled with small amounts of these meats and seafood. We are then given the choice to pick the kinds of broth we want to dip our main courses in. We picked the Mojo which is a Caribbean-seasoned bouillon with fresh-garlic and citrus flavors and the Coq Au Vin which is fine grape juice with fresh herbs, spices, and mushrooms. The main entrees come with sauces too which we immensely enjoyed: curry, teriyaki glaze, ginger plum, Melting Pot sauce, gorgonzola port, and garlic dijon butter.
The main entree is the most fun and it will really test your patience and your taste. So we had the meats, the broths and the sauces. Mad pairings ensue to find the perfect combination according to our tastebuds. We spear our meat and seafood with our color-coded forks and dip them into either of the broth. There’s a waiting time we needed to follow depending on what meat we placed in the pot. For beef, chicken, and seafood, cooking time is around 4 minutes. Pasta and vegetables, 2 minutes and all other items are 1.5 minutes. As far as I’m concerned, I didn’t taste a lot of flavor from the broths. What made the small bites for me was the sauce. It was fun to mix and match however, it can get frustrating when I already want to enjoy my food but I’m still checking the time. No one wants to eat undercooked food you know! The meats are pre-seasoned so they have flavor but I find them to be underwhelming unless I doused them in the sauce. My favorite meat was the Memphis-style chicken and the shrimp while I loved the teriyaki and gorgonzola port sauces.
If you only ate the entries with no appetizer or salad, you will not satisfy your hunger because they’re tiny so just keep that in mind when eating at The Melting Pot. Also, if you’re like my father who doesn’t like restaurants that have the “cooking your food” concept, then you will not enjoy this. (I can already hear his voice in my head telling me “hindi ako nagbayad ng mahal para lang ako rin ang magluto ng pagkain ko!” — translates to”I did not pay for this much for me to end up cooking my own food.”) So yeah. Because in TMP, you have to cook your own food and be conscious of the time in this fondue dinner. It’s enjoyable if you have friends who are chatty because you get distracted with conversations while waiting.
Of course, when we talk about fondue, the first thing that comes to our mind is chocolate. That warm, gooey, sweet melted chocolate on a pot where we swirl around our fruits and tiny cakes. This is why we’re here at The Melting Pot (apart from the cheese fondue because we’re fans of cheese).
We ordered three kinds of chocolate fondue: The Yin & Yang which is obvious why it’s called that; a combo of milk chocolate and white chocolate. Then there’s the Mint Chocolate Chip which tasted a bit like Kendi Mint to me. The mint part tasted plastic-y and commercial. And last but not the least, the Dark & Dulce which supposedly has thick caramel and sea salt in dark chocolate but we did not taste both important ingredients. Our pick? The Yin and Yang. And also the dippers which included covered mallows, brownies, butter cakes, strawberries, bananas, and pineapples. I love everything in this plate and I’m so surprised with the cakes. They’re moist on their own and very yummy!
Some pointers and etiquette in eating at a fondue restaurant like The Melting Pot:
1. Remember which fondue fork is yours, or at least the color/s of your forks so you don’t get what’s not yours.
2. Give time for your fondue fork time to cool off in between dips. Don’t put your fork in the pot if there’s nothing on it.
3. Avoid fondue fork battles. As much as possible. Even if it’s tempting to treat them like fencing swords. Don’t.
4. No matter how tempting, don’t lick the fork… and the pot. It’s HOT. Don’t touch the stove. It’s HOT even if it looks like it’s not.
5. Don’t eat directly from the fork. And no double dipping!
6. Don’t forget your food on the pot. Don’t get too carried away in chikka.
7. Don’t attempt to lift the pots. They’re heavy. And again, they’re HOT.
8. Take turns and let others take their turns on dipping. Don’t be selfish! We know it’s delicious and you’re still hungry but RESPECT.
9. Make your own combination and don’t let others stop you. It’s your food!
10. Don’t eat with your hands. Hello fondue forks! If you’re having a hard time, hello normal fork!
So that’s it for this very long entry. I hope it did not take you 3 hours to finish it, the same amount of time it took us to finish our TMP experience. What I like about The Melting Pot is that it gathers families and friends to a meal that’s diverse, interactive, and complex in style and flavor. Everyone is encouraged to partake in a meal that’s different and new.
The Melting Pot
Tahlia Street (near Nino and Johnny Rockets)
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia