ANOTHER MELTDOWN: Take a two-story marble fountain; add a wine room with 2,600 bottles; mix in a lot of warm cheese and free valet parking and what you end up with is the District's first Melting Pot (1220 19th St. NW; 202-857-0777). Launched earlier this week, the 174-seat underground restaurant, now one of five in the area, specializes in savory and sweet fondues, running from Swiss cheese to chocolate, plus seafood, meat and vegetables cooked in a variety of simmering liquids: take your pick from vegetable broth, spiced red wine, even a Caribbean-seasoned bouillon. "It's a very social meal," says co-owner and general manager Renee Torres. Fondue "can be used to enhance a date or engage a large group" (there are two private rooms with seating for 34 and 40). Helping to liven any evening here: 30 wines by the glass. Basic cheese fondue $14 (for two); entrees (for two, including a salad course) $15-$34.
THE TREND IN TONES: From the glowing bar at Circle Bistro in Washington's West End to the tangerine-tinted linens at 2941 in Falls Church, shades of orange are cropping up in a number of new restaurants, brightening the local dining scene. "Restaurants are first to look at what's happening in the world around them," and quick to incorporate fashion trends, says Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the New Jersey-based Panetone Color Institute. Once relegated to the realm of fast-food chains, orange has shot from the bottom of the acceptance scale to the top, spurred in part by clothes designers and computer makers. Eiseman explains that the combination of red and yellow offers patrons "a double whammy: red excites us and yellow is warm and fun." Restaurateurs eager to increase sales might like to know something else about the hue: "Orange is an appetite stimulant," shares the color consultant.
-- Tom Sietsema