For the diner in search of something new, here’s a question: Ever try fondue? If you haven’t, the Melting Pot in Center City is a tasty introduction to the traditional Swiss dish. And if you already happen to be fond of fondue then you may know that this sort of cuisine gives a delicious excuse to play with your food while you are still immersed in class and culture. The Melting Pot arrived to the city as one of very few fondue-centric restaurants in the area, and you certainly won’t find anything like it in any of the neighboring restaurants up and down Filbert Street. Just as Philly’s famous Reading Terminal Market that is located a few steps away, the Melting Pot adds a unique flare to the city’s culture that makes its eclectic list of featured cuisines all the more flavorful.
We step from the hot city streets amidst bustling cars, busy businessmen, and looming buildings into the cool, refreshing environment of the Melting Pot. A handsome host dressed in a crisp black suit opens the door and greets us with a friendly smile and an accommodating spirit. The host area is small and intimate. The walls, painted in blood-orange and deep magenta colors, are adorned with pieces of a corresponding art collection—abstract, soft, and colorful. Tiny bunches of small, bubble-shaped light fixtures hang from the ceiling; each is intricately decorated with white and orange swirled designs and gives off a soft, muted glow. Plush turquoise and beige chairs, placed perpendicular to each other against the walls, accent and excite the décor.
We don’t spend much time in the host area, as we are promptly led to the dining room. Our host escorts us down a narrow corridor that is furnished much like the rest of the restaurant. A peek to the left reveals a glimpse of the bar: a smooth, dark, marble-topped surface stands in front of a full stock of top shelf liquor that will in some way combine to make a series of both uniquely delicious specialty drinks and traditional favorites. The bar area is intimate and quiet, ideal for a post-work gathering or a date to catch up with a friend or two. The silky, sweet Yin & Yang Martini—a house specialty prepared with smooth Godiva white chocolate liqueur, vanilla vodka, and vanilla ice cream, topped with chocolate shavings—resembles a skillfully assembled, chic vanilla milkshake and would be a perfect accessory to one-on-one evening rendezvous.
As we continue to our table, we are brought past a wine lover’s paradise—an exquisite-looking wine closet that tastefully occupies the center of the restaurant. The closet is brightly lit and filled with a perfectly aligned, prettily presented collection of imported and domestic spirits, waiting to be chosen and enjoyed by patrons with eager palates.
When we reach the dimly lit dining room all is peaceful and quiet. Notes of modern music float about the room along with the faint, tantalizing scents of cheeses, chocolates, and spices. Our booth is comfortable, spacious, and private. High walls separate us from neighboring diners, allowing for a free flow of private conversation. We feel as if we are in our own private dining quarters as we pick up our menus and select from a selection of fondues, many of which we were unaware existed. Our table is a smooth dark surface that contains two cook-tops upon which the fondue masterpieces will be prepared.
After a detailed set of instructions on how to order – complete with suggestions – we begin our dinner. Our first course is cheese fondue. We watch with anticipatory glee as two different cheesy recipes are prepared in front of our hungry eyes. The Cheddar Cheese Fondue begins with a thick lager beer and is followed by a mixture of golden and white aged Cheddar and Emmenthaler cheeses—all is perfected with garlic and seasonings. The cheeses, lager, and spices blend together in the hot fondue pot, melting into a gooey, golden lava flow of cheesy goodness.
While the cheddar concoction brews, we watch the Wisconsin Trio Cheese Fondue come together—a white wine base goes into the hot pot first and then a light-colored blend of shredded Fontina, Butterkäse and buttermilk blue cheeses. The Wisconsin cheese fondue is light and slightly sweet—it goes perfectly with the assortment of fresh breads we are given to dip into it. The Cheddar fondue is a bit heavier and more flavorful—it has more of a kick and hits the palate harder than the Wisconsin fondue does. We eagerly mix and match different dippers with the two fondues and come up with our favorite—the Cheddar fondue paired with crisp green apple slices; it’s a surprisingly delectable combination. A full-bodied, woody Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, laced with a slight cherry essence, tastes soft with the cheese recipes.
Then the salads come and it’s time to stop playing with our food and use utensils for a brief moment in our fondue adventure. No fun, right? Wrong. One bite into the crisp, refreshing California Salad—simple with fresh baby greens and plump juicy Roma tomatoes, a perfectly contrasted combination of sweet, slightly tangy raspberry vinaigrette dressing and smooth Gorgonzola cheese crumbled on top—will make using a fork simply a minor detail. A glass of vivid, crisp, and refreshing Bonny Doon Vineyard Riesling goes along well with this refreshing interlude between the flavorful fondue courses.
Our third course arrives, the meat and potatoes of the meal. Of course there are other things coming to us among the overflowing plates of deliciously marinated and seasoned meats and seafood—Portobello mushrooms, doughy pot stickers, fresh broccoli, and yellow squash—all laid out ready for us to drop into a bubbling pot of hot broth. We choose the Coq Au Vin broth from a varied selection of different cooking styles—a salty, earthy mushroom and red wine based soup. The silver serving plates in front of each of us resemble a painter’s palette and the variations of sweet, tart, thick, tangy, buttery, cheesy sauces will combine to make the palette a beautiful, delicious base for enjoying an assortment of juicy filet mignon, fresh ahi tuna, white shrimp, tender teriyaki marinated-sirloin, and sweet curry chicken breast.
We rave, mouths full, about the combinations we create. We love the sirloin and shrimp paired with Gorgonzola port sauce. The potatoes taste wonderfully smooth when topped with garlic Dijon butter or the sour-cream-based Green Goddess sauce. The chicken with ginger plum sauce is pleasantly sweet and slightly tangy. We mix and match and try a combination of everything in front of us. Here’s a tip: a good deal of pleasant surprises came from unlikely combinations so don’t be afraid to try teriyaki marinated chicken slathered with cocktail sauce—anything goes.
Though it was a challenge, we saved room for our last course—chocolate fondue. If you don’t come to The Melting Pot for anything else, come for the dessert. The dessert menu is chock full of sinfully sweet and tantalizing, melt-y, chocolate concoctions. It’s hard to pick just two, but we finally decide on the Chocolate S’mores fondue and the Ying & Yang recipe.
The Chocolate S’mores pot is brought out, velvety milk chocolate ready to be oozed with smooth marshmallow cream and crunchy graham crackers. Our server combines the delectable ingredients and then pours a shot of Bacardi 151 atop the silky chocolate concoction to flambé it with an abrupt flame that delights and excites us. We breathe in a strong scent of sumptuous chocolate that lingers in the air.
The Yin & Yang pot arrives, with white and milk chocolate artfully swirled into a balanced pattern that surprisingly doesn’t break up until we start dipping. These are two little pots of heaven for any chocolate lover. There is an endless amount of strawberries, chocolate and graham cracker coated marshmallows, pound cakes and cheesecakes before us that are soon devoured by our chocolate-hungry group (don’t fret if you crave more—you can request more delectable dippers with any course). The cheesecake with s’mores chocolate fondue spooned over it, complete with extra crumbled graham crackers, is by far the favorite at the table—gooey cheesecake and deliciously smooth chocolate, it is just indescribable.
Top this chocolate-fest off with a Chocolate Warm Up—creamy Godiva chocolate liqueur, Kahlua, and Bailey’s Irish Cream, all blended with coffee—it’s a hot chocolate drink that hits the spot. Sound like too much chocolate? There is never such a thing as too much chocolate, and if you don’t believe that now, you will by the time you are sated and satisfied from the last of four wonderful courses you enjoyed at The Melting Pot.
So whether you want a great place to try something new or to enjoy an old favorite, The Melting Pot is the fondue-filled treasure on Filbert Street—the answer to your endless search for something else. Just make sure you save room for all four courses because there are copious gastronomic adventures to be had here.