Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Melting Pot - A First Taste Of Latin America Big Night Out

The Melting Pot remains my favorite restaurant at which to indulge myself. Although it's a chain restaurant, I have found that the Dayton Melting Pot takes great care of it's customers. That level of personal touch is one of the reasons I continue to go to the Melting Pot on a fairly regular basis.

Recently, my husband and I were invited to preview the new Latin America Big Night Out. As you recall, when the French Big Night Out debuted I wrote up a post entitled "The Melting Pot - How I eat At One of My Favorite Restaurants Without Blowing My Diet". For the most part my diet tips have not changed. You're golden if you workout before you go, avoid the starches and breads, skip the alcohol, and don't drown yourself in chocolate. So this time I'm going to talk exclusively about taking on the new Big Night Out: Latin America.

Melting Pot South American Big Night Out
The Raspberry Pico-Rita!
Styrch's Latin America Cryptonite - The Blackberry Pico-Rita
There are several featured drinks to go along with the Latin America Big Night Out. I chose to indulge myself in the Blackberry Pico-Rita. Wow! This concoction is the yummiest thing I've tasted in a log time. Basically it's a blackberry flavored margarita. Yes, they put salt on the rim (always a plus) but the kicker here is the blackberry based pico de gallo that sits on top of the drink. It's spicy, fruity deliciousness. I was determined not to get a drink but when I saw this on the menu I just had to have it. I have no idea how many calories it was and I really don't want to know. It was that good.

Raspberry Caipirinha
My husband and I are HUGE fans of  Caipirinhas. This Brazilian rum based drink also usually has sugar cane, a sugar liquer, and lots of lime. The Melting Pot chose to make it with Raspberry, which was interesting and tasty. But this version seemed so watered down, I don't know how it could be called a Caipirinha. We're used to sipping this drink from small rock glasses, but they put it in a large glass and diluted it with a carbonated beverage of some type. I don't think they really did their homework on this elegant drink. I hope that the bar tenders at The Melting Pot Dayton take a trip down to El Mason and try the Caipirinha there because their raspberry version could be way better than what it is.

Melting Pot South American Big Night Out
Queso Fundido
Cheese Course - Queso Fundido Cheese Fondue - 344 cals
This cheese course has a beer base with a mixture of three cheeses (I remember hearing "queso blanco" and "gruyere" through my slight Pico-Rita buzz). They also add Jalapeno and chorizo to the mix along with lime zest. It is served with the usual Melting Pot items, along with tortilla chips. I couldn't taste the chorizo, honestly. My husband says he could but I think he might have just been trying to one up me in the "who has a more refined palette" contest. We both lamented the fact that they didn't go full out Latin with this - the beer base could have been something like Dos Equis or Corona... maybe a dash of tequila. We also both think it could have benefited from garlic.

Compared to Other Cheese Courses
At 344 calories, the Queso Fundido is not the worst offender. I still recommend the Spinach Artichoke if you're watching calories (298), and avoid the Traditional Swiss (396) and the Wisconsin Trio (374).

Tips: Avoid the chips and bread. Focus on carrots. The apples are especially good with this! Also if you like it spicy, dump the entire thing of jalapenos in it. You won't be sorry!

Melting Pot South American Big Night Out
Shrimp Ceviche
Salad Course: Shrimp Ceviche Salad and Lime Vinaigrette - 393 cals, and 164 cals
Unless I miss my guess, the shrimp is set to stew in the Lime Vinaigrette, therefore you don't have to worry about that 164 if you're looking at your net calories. Believe me, I was shocked to see a salad that had more calories than a cheese course at the Melting Pot. In this dish, the shrimp are pre-cooked, so it's not a true ceviche. It's garnished heavily with guacamole and some Tortilla chips, which is where the bulk of those calories come from. At least guacamole is a "good fat", right?  I had a bite of it and it was really refreshing and, pardon me, damn tasty. My husband ate the whole thing and I opted for my usual California Salad, dressing on the side. Dressing on the side is NOT an option with this dish.

Compared to Other Salad Courses
You are better off picking ANY of the other salads over this one if you're watching your calories. The calorie difference is so much it's not even funny. Without dressing, my favorite the California clocks in at 168 calories per serving (with walnuts and blue cheese on it).

Tips: Avoid eating all the guac, let someone else order the dish and just taste it. And you MUST taste it because it's that good.

Melting Pot South American Big Night Out
Fondue Feast
Entree Course - Latin America Fondue Feast
Note: My notes on this are pretty sketchy. I took a picture of the menu to remember everything, then accidentally erased the picture. So I'm going to do my best here. When I tried to pull the menu up online, the pdf didn't load on my computer. Very sorry.

It's hard to judge the calories in this dish because really, it depends on how much you eat of each and how much you eat of the dipping sauces. We had a tasting option, so you'll get more items if you pay for it. We received: Corn Salsa Ravioli (2 big huge pieces), Mole Chicken (2 pieces), Piri Piri Shrimp (two shrimp each), 1 lobster tail, 2 pieces of pork, 2 pieces of filet, and 2 pieces of sirloin. Hands down, my favorite item on the entire plate was the Mole Chicken. DELICIOUS!!! I could eat a whole plate of that and be happy. I really could! The Piri Piri shrimp were our second favorite item - they were so flavorful they needed no dipping sauces. The lobster was covered in spices, as were the other items (except the ravioli) but they really didn't leave an impression on me. Maybe had I not tried the chicken and the shrimp first I'd have a different opinion, but man... they knocked it out of the part with that Mole!

Melting Pot South American Big Night Out
Salsa Verde
The Salsa Verde - You get the most wonderful treat with this Big Night Out, and that's the Salsa Verde dipping sauce. I went back to the Melting Pot after eating this and requested to get some with my usual vegetarian entree. It's THAT good. I really hope they keep it around. There's a little kick to this sauce and I highly recommend that you try it.

Tips: Skip the ravioli just in case. Watch your sauces and you should be fine.

Melting Pot South American Big Night Out
Dark and Dulce (with too much salt)
Chocolate Course - Dark and Dulce Chocolate Fondue - 244 calories
Note: The Calorie Count does not include the stuff you dip into the chocolate, just the chocolate itself.

As I told my husband, this dish is a menstruating woman's dream! I know that sounds disgusting but you ladies will get what I mean when I describe this. It's dark chocolate, with a big dollop of Dolce de Leche stirred inside. Then, they take sea salt and sprinkle it on the top. I am a big fan of salt in dark chocolate, so this concept was fantastic. Our waiter told us we most likely wouldn't be able to taste the salt and suggested we put some on our plate instead. Boy was he wrong! As you can tell from my picture, our waiter was a little heavy handed on the salt (probably because I told him I like salt). This was too much. My husband made yucky puckering faces the entire time he tried to eat this dish. It wasn't so bad that we didn't still ask for more marshmallows at the end, but my husband nearly gave up several times. With the amount of salt sprinkled on ours he considered it inedible but forced his way through it.

Compared to Other Chocolate Courses
You're pretty safe ordering this dish in terms of calories. It sits on the lower end of the scale. The only one that goes even lower is the Bananas Foster chocolate at 179 calories. That includes all the "pure" fondues, however that's possible.

Tip: Ask for a little more Dulce de Leche and leave the salt on the side, sprinkle on your plate and eat the salt sparingly.

Overall Opinion
My husband and I have already stated we'll go back after they have some time to play with these recipes. The day that we went some of the staff hadn't tasted everything, so I expect there will be improvement. I would definitely try items from this Big Night Out again,and others I would leave alone. I'd skip the cheese and the salad because the calories aren't worth it to me. However I wish the salad were available as a dish unto itself because it's fabulous. I'll eat this entree again just for the mole chicken. I will have to bribe my husband into trying the desert again with salt - I do think this will get better as they work with it. And like I said, I think the Dark and Dulce was made for us ladies. Even if you don't try the Big Night Out, definitely try the Pico-Rita. And HUGE plus on making a Big Night Out where the calories aren't totally off the charts, like the French one (ceviche excluded, of course). In the mean time, I continue to wish there would be a vegetarian option for the Big Night Outs - I wonder what Mole Tofu tastes like.

Amendment:  Found out after posting that we received the "Tasting" portion, which was smaller than the actual entree.