Fort Collins has only a small handful of destination restaurants – places you go to celebrate a special occasion – like a birthday or anniversary. These are places that you just don’t visit for family dinners during the week. The Melting Pot is one of those places.
The Husband and I have birthdays that are separated by only eight days. For as long as long as we’ve been together, we’ve always celebrated “birthday weekend”, the weekend in between the two days. We usually try to go all out and make it a big deal. This year, we had plans to spend the entire weekend in Denver, only to have The Toddler get sick. So, we went to Plan B, and chose to visit The Melting Pot as our local birthday destination. Fortunately, we were able to snag a last minute reservation (FYI – do not try to come here without one!).
Now, with the reservation – this is where you know your dining experience is going to be something special. The hostess asks you every question under the sun – everything from special occasion requests you’d like (roses at the table!), to making them aware of food allergies or preferences. It’s top notch service, and all of these notes are recorded in their system for your future visits (this is amazing, really).
I’ve been to the Melting Pot prior to our birthday celebration. I came on a Ladies Night with a bunch of friends, and we had the most excellent time – great drinks, fabulous food (with careful allergy consideration for one of my friends) and just an overall blast. However, The Husband and I did not have the same amazing time on our birthday dinner night.
I have some of the lowest expectations when it comes to service. As long as my food comes out tasting great, and I have plenty of water to drink, I’m as happy as a clam. I don’t need smiles, conversation, or juggling acts to impress me. But, it’s different at The Melting Pot. Your server spends more time with you at your table than any other restaurant. They not only explain the menu, but are whisking up your cheese fondue and warning you about hot plates at the same time. Sadly, our server was hating his job that day or life just really sucked at the moment – and it showed that he was totally over it.
“becarefulofthehotplatesoyoudontburnyourself,” he said in a hummed monotone, single breath.
“What did he just say? Something about the hot plate?” I asked The Husband.
“I’m sorry. I’ve just said this all night long,” our server apologized in an apathetic demeanor, and repeated his safety script. And most of the conversation was like this for the remainder of the night.
Needless to say, the times he stood there preparing our meal were uncomfortable. The server you have can make or break your dining experience at The Melting Pot. I’ve had friends rave about their favorite servers, and request them for every visit. I totally suggest doing this. If you like a particular server during a visit, make sure to remember their name! You don’t want to experience the same dinner we had.
As for the food, it was hit and miss. I started with a strawberry basil lemonade, which was sweet and addicting without a hint that I was drinking alcohol. Chunks of basil were drawn up through the straw, making for an interesting texture, but still an overall good flavor.
We started our fondue night with the Wisconsin Trio Cheese Fondue, comprised of fontina, butterkäse, and buttermilk blue cheese with white wine, scallions, and a hint of sherry. It came with accoutrements of bread, green apple slices, and a variety of vegetables.
Despite the consistency being runny due to our server spilling a bit more water in the mix, I really did like this. It had a great tang to it that made my cheeks pucker and my mouth water. The best dipping items were definitely the bread and apple slices (they were heavenly!), since the vegetables were still a little frozen in some parts.
We moved onto salads next. The Husband chose the Melting Pot House Salad, and I opted for the Big Night Out Salad for the month, which was shrimp ceviche salad – citrus marinated shrimp with avocado puree and tortilla chips, served with tropical fruit pico de gallo, and a side of mixed greens tossed in lime vinaigrette.
This was just alright. It was a very small salad, and the flavor was nice, but there were icy spots in this just as there were in the side of vegetables for the cheese fondue.
We went ahead and moved onto the entree, with The Husband ordering the “Signature Selection” – filet mignon, white shrimp, teriyaki-marinated sirloin, chicken breast, and cedar-plank salmon. I ordered the “Seafood Trio” – white shrimp, scallops, and cedar plank salmon. It was all cooked in the Bourguignon cooking oil, and came with a variety of vegetables and a spray of dipping sauces – green goddess, plum, curry mustard, blue cheese, and more.
With our phone timers in hand to make sure we cooked everything long enough (a smart trick), we boiled and chatted, boiled and chatted. The shrimp were the best-tasting meats, great without sauce (although the melted butter was a treat), but as we moved onto the steak and sauces, it went downhill, and came to a screaming halt at the salmon after The Husband exclaimed “I’m dreading the next bite. I don’t even want it.” The salmon was overwhelmingly fishy, and after trying a second piece to make sure it wasn’t us in the wrong with cooking time, we abandoned the rest and refused to try again.
The absolute highlight of our night was certainly the dessert. We decided to try their Big Night Out Dark and Dulce Chocolate Fondue – bittersweet dark chocolate, mixed with thick dulce de leche accented with coarse sea salt. This. Was. AMAZING. The chocolate was smooth and creamy with little sprinkles of salt that gently grazed our tasted buds enough to elicit a twist of the tongue in delight. The contrast from sweet to salty was to die for, and we found ourselves scraping the pot. If it weren’t hot, I would have just ditched the treats of brownies, cheesecake and marshmallows and used my fingers, or looked for a spoon. It was that good.
We were pretty disappointed in our birthday dining experience with a server who should have just clocked out for the night and food that was mediocre at best – all for the price of $95.00. If I were to return to The Melting Pot, I’d go just for the cheese and chocolate, and skip the meats all together. I think it would still be a great date night with those options, and I’d come back for a Ladies Night since you get all of the fun at a screamin’ $27 deal. But never again will we go for the whole experience, and probably not for our birthday weekend dinner, either.
The Melting Pot
334 East Mountain Avenue
Kid- Friendly? Some have brought their kids here, and I think mine would have fun, but it’s more for a special date night occasion. And, if you do bring the kids, be careful of the hotplate on the table!
Parking? Street parking, and there is a garage just a block away.
Healthy Options? Many! And they have a gluten-free menu, too.
Recent Health Inspection? Good
**Review Update 4/14/11**
Since publishing this review, I had an in depth conversation with Ryan Houdek, owner of The Melting Pot Fort Collins, about our experience and this review. While our night-of-experience doesn’t change, the care and consideration that Ryan takes in resolving these issues is a breath of fresh air. This morning they have gone to great lengths to ensure that the Fort Collins dining community does not experience the same as we did in this review, going over food quality standards with the Kitchen Manager and resolving service standards.