Fork it over
We do fondue because it’s fun to do. It’s social and interactive. It’s not the ingredients—we’ve all had cheese on bread and fried meats—it’s the friendly, frisky fun of clanging fondue forks with friends that entices me. I love that awkward “I’m sorry, we’ve entangled meats” situation of accidentally getting your shrimp caught on someone else’s chicken.
Vino Reno is a cool little fondue house that acknowledges the cuisine’s playfulness. At the bottom of the one-page menu, there’s a mention of “Fun-due” etiquette. If a gentleman loses his cube in the pot, he owes the table a round of drinks, and if a woman loses her cube she has to kiss the gentleman on her right. After a discussion with the two gentlemen with whom I was dining, Raymond and Brad, over who deserved the privilege to sit on my right, I suggested they quit trying to exploit fondue fun, and we get on with our meal.
The first course was the cheese fondue ($14 for one to two people, $4 for each additional person). The varying lengths of time we let the strong Monterey Jack and Gruyère combo cool on the apple or bread made for a range of textures: runny, gooey or chewy.
“I’m amazed that, depending on how long you hold it, the cheese can have about five different flavors,” Brad said.
At the end of the cheese course, we discovered that scraping the slightly burnt cheese off the bottom of the white ceramic pot was also quite enjoyable.
The wine we chose, Columbia Crest Syrah ($23 for a bottle), was a nice complement to cheese—whether gooey, stringy or scorched.
When our outgoing waitress delivered the bottle, she informed us that the better the wine, the less it seeps up the cork. She felt like one of the group without being imposing, sharing a wealth of wine knowledge and fondue-related minutiae while resting her elbows on our high-top table.
The hot-oil course ($15 to $20 depending on your meat) was the most dangerous. I got the greasy sting a couple times, and I was sitting a foot and a half away from the pot.
The options are endless. We ordered a combination of meats, chicken breast and shrimp, which came with a plate of fresh, crispy veggies: red and green peppers, zucchini, yellow squash and cauliflower. Between the three dipping sauces—soy sauce, mouthwatering sweet chili sauce and vinaigrette—and a tempura batter, every bite of food had six possible flavor combinations. My favorite was tempura shrimp dipped in chili sauce.
My mouth started watering before our chocolate course was on the table. It included strawberry, orange, pineapple and melon, sliced up for our dipping pleasure. The pineapple-chocolate union was a pleasant surprise. However, we all agreed that melon and chocolate made an unhappy marriage.
“My love of chocolate is almost feminine,” Brad said.
“You mean in the way they say that chocolate can be as satisfying as sex?” I asked, thinking maybe I didn’t want to be dipping into the same chocolate pot as Brad.
“Yes. I have to have it every day,” Brad said.
Chocolate every day sounds good, but I think I’m more of a fondue-every-day person, especially if it’s served Vino Reno-style. Too bad the restaurant is only open for dinner Thursdays through Saturdays.