Last week, I speculated on how this Swiss Alpine style of dipping items into sauces would fare in Maui’s subtropical climate, and after checking it out at a special tasting, I must admit it will fly big time.
In addition, over 300 people who crammed into the VIP party Tuesday raved about how fun and unusual the concept and cuisine are for a restaurant here.
“It’s nice to have a different dining option on Maui,” says Carol Reimann, executive director of the Maui Hotel & Lodging Association, one of the many VIPs who attended the opening party. “I tried the lobster, beef and shrimp and I liked having all of the various dipping sauces, because I get bored with my food really fast.”
The VIPs cruised from room to room through the 6,500- square-foot restaurant with private and semiprivate party rooms, lounge, 150-label wine cellar, lanai complete with liquor license, dining rooms and lovers’ lanes and lovers’ lounges. Feng shui curves and angles added to the island and ocean feel. They savored cheese fondues in one room and entree and dessert fondues in others. The consensus was “thumbs up” by many in the crowd.
Another reason this restaurant is destined to succeed is the owner is part-time Maui resident David Cohn, who also owns Pineapple Grill in Kapalua as well as 10 other power houses in his Cohn Restaurant Group based in San Diego. And, The Melting Pot is one of 126 franchises nationwide and 42 locations in development.
“David Cohn has the ability to open five restaurants here in Hawaii,” says publicist Charlene Kauhane. “It’s a dinner house only and the main feature is that you dine on a four-course meal.”
On the day of our tasting, we tried the Big Night Out, a four-course dinner for two, which begins with Caribbean cheese fondue. The waiter comes out and prepares the cheese sauce at your table, complete with a burner to keep it nice and warm.
The waiter also brings ramekins of prepared items for you to dip in the aromatic cheese sauce, such as Granny Smith apple chunks; cauliflower, carrots and celery; and purple taro bread and white bread hunks.
“It’s a learning experience,” says General Manager Cindy DelleFave. “Everyone gets color-coded fondue forks, so they don’t get mixed up. The veggies are bottomless until the sauce runs out. So are the dessert items until the chocolate is gone. And the good news about the group tables is that they have two burners, so one end of the table may sample a different sauce than the other.”
You may substitute your Caribbean cheese fondue for say, cheddar cheese or Wisconsin Trio or even spinach and artichoke cheese.
The next course in the Big Night Out menu is Tropical Salad of field greens, fresh tomatoes, mangoes and hearts of palm with coconut-crusted cashews all drizzled with creamy citrus dressing. Ditto for substituting salads that range from Caesar to spinach mushroom.
Entree choices on Big Night Out include Fondue Fusion, which is what we enjoyed. It features a platter with lobster tail, filet mignon medallions, jerk-seasoned sirloin, vanilla rum chicken, marinated pork, zesty shrimp, butternut squash ravioli, and fresh veggies.
Mauians may liken the entree course to Japanese shabu shabu, in which you swirl your pieces of meat, seafood and veggies into a pot of hot broth sitting on a source of heat in the middle of a table.
Broths range from coq au vin to court bouillon to Mojo style to bourguignonne, a cholesterol-free canola oil. We went for the coq au vin.
“It’s a very social and interactive experience,” DelleFave says. “You get a flight of sauces such as curry, ginger plum, Green Goddess, garlic dijon, mango barbecue, gorgonzola port and spicy cocktail.”
If you are sauce person, you’ll be in heaven. Bottom line is, The Melting Pot is high-end with fine wines, and it’s a cook-your-own affair, perfect for special occasions such as graduation parties and first dates. Allow at least two hours to experience it.
For more details or reservations, call 661-6181.
The Yin & Yang white-and-dark chocolate fondue makes a delectable dessert with items such as fresh fruits, brownies, marshmallows and rice krispie pieces ready to dip into the warm sauce.
The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo