The Melting Pot

$$$$ ($25-$34)

Editorial Review

This is not a daytime spot. There's a procedure involved with this food that takes far too long for a lunch hour -- not to mention that the dark burgundy cloisters and secluded booths make it excellent for an evening of woo. But once the burner is on and the pot's a-boil, beware that some of those smaller booths may become a little too steamy (or oily if you should be cooking in canola).

First, there's a lot of choosing to do. And a lot of explanation by the wait staff who certainly won't be faulted for its friendliness.

Various cheese fondues make up the list of appetizers – the traditional mixes Emmentaler with Gruyere, garlic, lemon, wine and kirsch; the fiesta likes it spicy with salsa and jalapeno peppers. More along the lines of beer cheese is the aged cheddar melted with lager and a good spoonful of garlic. All are served with chopped Granny Smiths, crudites and a basket of bread which, when we went, seemed to have seen better days. Once dipped, though, its cake-i-ness mattered less, so naturally focused were we on the unctuous nature of the cheese.

The menu suggests that these pots are sufficient for one to two persons as an appetizer. For "person," read "sumo wrestler," for next comes the entree that includes one of the signature salads (mushroom, chef or California). Entrees are groupings of raw meats, seafood and veggies with appropriate sauces to match. The French Quarter is Andouille sausage, shrimp, tenderloin and chicken breast rolled in Cajun spice and served with gorgonzola port, lemon pepper and Louisiana hot sauce. The Center Cut's medallions of filet mignon come with equally meaty portobellos. Or have the shrimp paired with teriyaki-marinated sirloin. Cooking instructions are provided by your wait staff and should your steak be tough and overcooked, there's only yourself to blame.

If dessert is even possible after all of the above, it may be the best part of the meal. Pick your chocolate -- milk or dark or swirled with white, with nuts or without -- and start dipping from the plate of strawberries, pineapple, chocolate brownies, cheesecake and marshmallows that accompanies it. Seconds, anyone?

-- Alexa Beattie