San Diego Dining:
When considering where to go with your fun-and-food-loving friends for a girl's night out
in downtown San Diego
put The Melting Pot
in the historic Gaslamp Quarter at the top of your list. This restaurant offers novel table-top fondue-style cooking combined with a lively atmosphere, stellar service, high quality fare and premium libations. While multi-unit chain and franchise restaurants are typically not my thing, this experience proved to be an exceptionally good time. Beyond a night on the town with the girls, The Melting Pot is equally apropos for a romantic dinner for two, families with children, and even large parties seeking something out of the norm.
Now occupying the space that was once the Dakota Grill & Spirits, The Melting Pot of San Diego in the Gaslamp District delivers an upscale-casual ambiance amid a handsome two-story dining room, framed by historical architecture that can accommodate up to 175 guests. Signature fondues take center stage at The Melting Pot as part of an indulgent and participatory four-course dining experience.
I recently visited the restaurant to try its featured Big Night Out menu that offers the fresh flavors and textures of the Pacific Islands
. The evening started with a selection from the restaurant’s impressive wine list. The Melting Pot features over 86 varieties with a copious selection of wines by the glass. We ordered two bottles - the second selection chosen by our affable and attentive waiter Jesse. Specialty drinks like the Yin & Yang, Love Martini, Blackberry Sage Lemonade and Pomegranate Cosmo are also popular choices.
The first course on The Melting Pot’s Big Night Out menu is a Feng Shui Cheese Fondue, which delivers a sweet, spicy and creamy combination of white wine, mirin, and Gekkeikan Traditional Sake with Gruyere cheese, smooth horseradish and chive Havarti. This our waiter whipped up for us at the table, explaining the ingredients and process along the way. The rich, creamy and wonderfully complex result pairs excellently with fresh bread, crisp green apple and raw root vegetable accoutrements.
The second course is generously portioned Lettuce Wraps served with cucumber, shredded carrots, bean sprouts, mint and almonds served with a refreshing mandarin orange-ginger dressing. Be careful not to over-do it here you'll need to save room for dessert!
The third and main course offers a choice of fondues, such as the Fondue Feast that includes (Sesame Crusted Teriyaki Sirloin, Citrus Infused Pork Tenderloin, Sushi-Grade Ahi Tuna, Garlic Chili Chicken Breast, Kiwi Lime Shrimp, Spring Vegetable Dumplings, and Fresh Vegetables
). Turn it up a notch and opt to add on or two lobster tails! This course comes with various entrée fondue cooking style options, including my selection, Coq au Vin - a burgundy wine base infused with fresh herbs, mushrooms, garlic and spices. Other choices are Mojo Style (Caribbean--seasoned bouillon with fresh garlic and citrus
), Court Bouillon (a homemade, seasoned vegetable broth
), or Bourguignonne (European-style fondue in cholesterol free 0g trans-fat canola oil
Again, the mélange of proteins in this course was provided in ample portion, all attractively plated to the extent that raw meats can be rendered visually appealing. Then, the fun begins! With each guest having her or his own color coded skewers, simply pick the protein and submerge it in the fondue pot for the appropriate amount of time. Once cooked, take your pick from the variety of dipping sauces provided with the entrée, including a rich teriyaki, sweet ginger plum, lemon butter, and creamy gorgonzola.
I was incredibly impressed by the quality of the meat. The beef was very lean and tender and the other protein items were well trimmed and expertly butchered. The seafood was also nicely cleaned and the shrimp appropriately deveined. Of course, all said proteins are provided in bite-sized portions negating the need for knife or other prep work. Just cook it up and chow down.
Finally, now matter how stuffed you may be as the third course wanes, it's imperative you make room for The Melting Pot's infamous fourth course: chocolate fondue. The Big Night Out menu includes a Passion Fruit Yin and Yang Fondue, which combines the restaurant's signature decadent chocolate fondue with passion fruit-infused white chocolate. Our party, however, chose to keep it old school and instead opted for the pure, unadulterated dark chocolate fondue. This arrived to the table already melted down and ready for action, which it received in short order. This pot of mind-blowing decadence was served with fresh strawberries, bananas, cheesecake, cookie-coated marshmallows, pound cake, Rice Krispies Treats and brownies for dipping.
For my next visit, I have my sights set on the Flaming Turtle: milk chocolate, caramel and chopped pecans, flambéed tableside. Or, maybe I'll try the Amaretto Meltdown: silky white chocolate swirled with Amaretto.
If you are not feeling the tropical trade winds for your dinner experience, you can forego the Big Night Out offering and order off of the regular menu that will undoubtedly have something to tantalize your taste buds – they even offer vegetarian and
gluten-free choices. As a starter or even as a main course, there are multiple cheese fondue selections each are served with fresh breads, vegetables, and apples for dipping. The restaurant has a number of delicious salads; a standout is the Spinach Mushroom Salad with fresh spinach, baby Portobello mushrooms, red onion, chopped bacon, and Roma tomatoes with a warm Burgundy Shallot Vinaigrette. Individual entree selections come with a cooking style that pairs nicely with each. Choose from a variety combinations featuring meat, seafood and vegetables, see the complete menu
Overall, an evening at The Melting Pot is an opportunity to escape the routine of everyday life and create wonderful memories with friends and family. Whether you are spending quality time with good friends as I recently did, celebrating a special occasion, or wowing a business partner, head to The Melting Pot and make it a "big night out" of your own.
The Melting Pot of San Diego in the Gaslamp District is located at 901 Fifth Avenue. It is open from 5p.m. to 10p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 5p.m. to 11p.m. Friday and Saturday. Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 619-234-5554. For additional information visit
The Luxe List product, service and travel review editor Merilee Kern scours the luxury marketplace for new and captivating “musts.” Submissions are accepted via e-mail at Merilee@JustLuxe.com. View all of Merilee’s Luxe List articles from here (scroll to page bottom) and follower her on Twitter here: http://twitter.com/LuxeListEditor.