An evening at Urban Fondue   Leave a comment

Urban Fondue/Bartini's Spicy Mango Martini, using their house infused chili pepper vodka muddled with fresh cucumber, and shaken with mango and lime juice, was a nice drink while perusing the menu and waiting, but I'm not sure how any of their martinis on their regular menu go with the food. I suppose that's what their happy hour menu is for… it seemed to fit in more with their Bartini front (connected, and just next door to this fondue restaurant part but with a bar feel rather then plushy booths).

I picked the starter of Ruby Port Fondue of white cheddar, Swiss and Gruyere cheese finished with caramelized sweet onions and port wine. Served with local hearth baked bread to dip in the cheese, and we also ordered (for additional prices) the sauteed button mushrooms and fruit plate (willamette valley fresh pears, apples and ruby grapes). This is always my favorite part of the fondue experience, cheese! I make a pretty good fondue myself, but the flavor of this port and onion and cheese simmered together was complex and very enjoyable, more then the typical fondue recipe would give you- now something else to think about adding to enhance cheese fondue besides upgrading the cheese or wine or beer (Guiness or interesting microbrews). The fruit and doughy bread were good accompaniments, and the sauteed mushrooms were great though a bit on the small side.

When Urban Fondue begins to prepare the table for the entree, they hand you this cute lil timer. Behind, you can see how plush this booth for 2 is!

Since it takes a while to cook your food (as evidenced by the times on the timer) and you only have 2 fondue forks a piece, you really need a side to share to eat while you are waiting. The side we ordered to share while waiting for whatever was on the end of our fondue stick to finish was the Gratin Yukon Potatoes with parmesan, black pepper, and gruyere. It was a creamy soggy mess, despite the visual tease of the oven crust, it wasn't there. Oh well… I don't like making gratins because it's time consuming to prep, but this shouldn't even count as a gratin. Potatoes are great base for flavors, but texture is so important.

The vegetarian came with these six dipping sauces for us (starting from the back, L to R) Blackberry Ketchup (yum!), Pesto, Apple Chipotle Relish, Sun-Dried Tomato Aioli (also yum), Lemon-Garlic Butter with Parsley and Caper, and Chili Vinaigrette. One thing I didn't like is that other fondue experiences I have had, such as Gejas in Chicago or the chain Melting Pot, you get a lot more per person in terms of dipping sauces to try. Since their cost is so low (just prepping ingredients and cleaning the pots which is definitely a pain), these sauces and the raw ingredients are the main differentiators that can make a fondue experience great Only the Blackberry Ketchup and Sun-dried Tomato Aioli stood out at all.

The broth we used for our entree was a tomato fennel broth, a flavorful composite of vine-ripe tomatoes, fennel, parsnips, and sweet peppers finished with flat leaf parsley and cracked pepper- at least this was delicious, we kidded about just drinking it if it hadn't been so hot. Urban Fondue's vegetarian platter includes these for dipping:  tofu, marinated tomatoes, artichoke hearts, grilled sweet onions, sweet carrots, mushrooms,and asparagus. None of these "dippers" stood out- sad, especially given the local bounty here, and except for the tofu, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, and onions, nothing more then a bite worth and minature sized. The onion was hardly grilled, and the artichoke hearts mushy, leaving only the tomatoes and tofu to try to hold up this platter as some sort of "entree".

Chocolate Martini with the Banana Foster fondue with house made caramel with a hint of banana liquor topped with caramelized bananas foster and vanilla whipped cream, then served with this plate of seasonal fruit (pineapple, strawberries, banana), cheesecake, cookie dough (peanut cookie and chocolate chip cookie), mini-cream puffs, and pound cake. In the back was a nutty wafer. The trick with cooked fruit is that if it is overcooked, it turns a bit sour and gets very mushy, so you need to counterbalance it. This fondue really needed more counterbalance, unfortunately. The stuff on the plate was fine plain, fortunately- a interesting mix, much more then for the veggie entrees.

In sum, the fondue concoction of cheese and broth were great, though the accompaniments were not. Dessert-wise, the banana foster sounds better then it tastes- maybe go with the traditional chocolate to give justice to the dippings for dessert.


Posted December 20, 2009 by pechluck in Uncategorized

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