Monday, January 14, 2013

The Fondue Factory

Fondue FactoryMy friend heard a local radio DJ announce a contest to win VIP tickets to a pre-opening of this restaurant. We tweeted him and not too long afterward, we had shiny black passes in our hands.

Fondue FactoryThe Fondue Factory is located in the former Rain club location. But it's totally revamped. The outside looks classy and retro. Inside has a bar to the left, as well as some booths, and upstairs has a long bar area and more booths! We were sat as the last two at the bar area. I would've preferred a booth, but we didn't have an option. The inside has a couple cool murals with retro gangster themes. Almost like a chic speakeasy. The servers have long white shirts, vests and fedoras.

Fondue FactoryFondue FactoryWe were pretty close to the couple next to us, but I turned inward so as to create that invisible barrier. However, the knob for the heat was nearly directly under my lap. That's pretty awkward placement. Especially if it's someone wearing a skirt or dress. They may want to rethink that setup.  The counter had a hot plate where our fondue pot was placed, and our waitress turned on the burner to get things started.

Our waitress, while very sweet, admitted they hadn't trained them in how to make all the different types of fondue. That's not ideal. Since this was a soft opening, there were definitely some hiccups - forgetting plates, forgetting ingredients, not coming back frequently enough, not knowing exactly how the menu works, etc. All things they can work to improve. The bones are definitely here, though.

Fondue Factory
We had a "select" menu, so they may have more on the grand opening. But the basic setup is that there are four courses: appetizers, salads, main entrees and desserts. You can pick any or all. We did all but the salad.

Fondue FactoryFondue FactoryFondue Factory

Fondue FactoryFondue FactoryAppetizers: These are all served with fresh breads, veggies and apples (if you need more of these dippers, it's $8/person). You can only pick one, since you only have one pot, so we had options of a classic Swiss cheese fondue, a southwest Chipotle cheese fondue, and American cheddar fondue, a crab fondue, or a spinach artichoke fondue. We went with the classic Swiss fondue, which was Gruyere and Swiss cheese, combined with white wine, garlic and a blend of spices.

Fondue FactoryThis was good, but the wine was so strong here. I don't know if that's how it's supposed to taste - it may be - but it was definitely too strong on the wine side, and I would've like to actually taste the cheese.

At this point, our waitress didn't turn off the burner, and our pot began smoking pretty heavily. A manager had to turn it off while my eyes stopped watering. We were also waiting for quite some time, so hopefully that gets streamlined. Like, more than an hour between finishing our appetizer and waiting for our entree. In between each course, they take the pot away in a bucket so you can start fresh.

Fondue FactoryFondue FactoryEntree: (We skipped the salad). You have to agree on a cooking style: Factory Bouillon, Chicken Bouillon, or French Bourguignonne. We went with the French, because it's traditional and features their "flavorful Canola Oil Blend." And then you choose which meats you want. I went with the surf and turf platter so that I could try chicken, filet mignon and shrimp. It is $21/person or $41 for two. It also comes with potatoes and vegetables.

Fondue FactoryFondue FactoryWe were puzzled why it took so long for our meat to come out, since it was raw. I haven't been to a fondue restaurant before, so I was surprised we actually cook the food on our own. But once things were finally up and running, and our oil was smoking, we tried cooking a shrimp. The oil popped all over the place, so they had to turn down the burner. Once we finally got that settled, we started cooking up all our food. The meats weren't marinated, and the oil wasn't really flavored either. Just seemed like regular oil. So, for some basic meat, it's good. But really, there should be some seasoning going on.

Fondue Factory
For that flavor, we found it in the sauces. Our server brought out a set of sauces to share: a sweet chili sauce, a sour cream and parsley sauce, and a Chipotle cream sauce. While I still would have preferred my own sauces (Mel does have cooties, afterall), they were pretty good. The quality of the food was good, too. Very fresh. But the cooking is all on you. And I did pretty well, I think. The potatoes, actually, took the longest to cook, but we ended up dumping a bunch in and just skewering them after a few minutes. That worked well.

Fondue FactoryFondue FactoryDessert: My favorite! We got the Crazy for Caramel, which was caramel, milk chocolate and pecans. And their dippers were awesome - rice krispies, marshmallows, brownies, cheesecake bites, strawberries, bananas. Just fantastic. This is dessert all on its own!

But really, the chocolate and caramel is just phenomenal. It's creamy and sweet and decadent, and this was splendid. My only complain was that there actually weren't enough dippers. If you think about it, we only had about 8 pieces each to devour a whole pot of chocolate. With the appetizers, you get way more than 8 dippers per person. But, this is a good problem to have. It's so good that I wanted more of it. A few extra dippers would set this dish over the top. We also got a complementary drink, which we ordered at dessert. My Moscato was fabulous.

Fondue FactoryFondue FactoryI think the idea here is really cool. It's more than just a typical dinner - it's also interactive and entertaining. It's an experience. There aren't a whole lot of options for this kind of dining experience in Morgantown, besides hibachi. And here, you don't have to worry about shrimp flying at your face. The servers learning the menu and how to cook everything will come in time. It is a little pricey - I think about $50 total, including tip. But that's if you go all out. You can definitely do it for cheaper. BUT, make sure you have a good chunk of time set aside. We were there for 4.5 hours. I think that will also improve over time, as well.

The Fondue Factory on UrbanspoonAs far as the food goes, our appetizer definitely needed less wine. Our entrees needed more flavor - either marinated meat or flavored oil or something. Show me why I should go here instead of doing it at home. The dessert's flavor was grand. But that's what a soft opening is for. I can't wait to try it again in the future - when I have the extra dough.

Grade: B