>> 4/13/09

71-19 80th Street
Glendale, NY 11385
(718) 416-3755

Anyone who spends more than five minutes browsing this blog of mine knows that I like cocktails, caffeine and alt country... (well, maybe that's new). While my neighborhood may have plenty of options for giving my veins their cappuccino fix, central Queens is seriously lacking in good cocktail lounges, forcing me to trek into Manhattan whenever I want a drink more complex than dropping a shot of Jameson-laden Bailey's into a glass of Harp... (which I like too). I seriously hoped that Simply Fondue would fill that void in my alcoholic soul.

Simply Fondue is, as the name would suggest, a fondue restaurant. But it also has a good-sized bar with a rather large cocktail menu and wine list. Therefore, when Operagirl canceled her plans to booze it up with me last week in the West Village, I felt that this was as good a time as any to guilt her into coming out to my neck of the woods so we could try this new addition to the Atlas Park cluster of restaurants.

The first thing you'll notice about Simply Fondue is the atmosphere, which is... dark. If a vampire was ever going to open a restaurant, it would look like this. Very Gothic, exposed brick walls, leather booths, Victorian chairs, black satin curtails, rococo mirrors and more candelabras than a satanic temple. If someone told me that the conference room in the back was being reserved for a blood orgy, I doubt that I'd have raised an eyebrow. Around the central booths sit individually designed mini-rooms that they call "cabanas", each one more garishly over the top than the next. I say that in a fun way.

Our "dinner" fondue was the Mediterranean, a mixture of cheddar, swiss, basil pesto, garlic and beer, topped in sun-dried tomatoes with a selection of apples, carrots, bread, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes and pickles (??? really?). Very good, very heavy. Not sure about the pickles though.

Already more than stuffed from the first cheesy, calorie-heavy pot of boiling cheese, we decided to try our hands at a dessert fondue. We chose the Bailey's Irish Chocolate fondue, milk chocolate with a shot of Bailey's mixed in. For dipping is a selection of cherries, strawberries, lady fingers, cheesecake balls, pineapple, Rice Krispie treats, brownies, bananas and marshmallows (which you roast over burning 151 rum).

Let's move on the the cocktails, which were the most disappointing part of the meal. Put perfectly honestly, they were pedestrian syrupy concoctions designed more for a girls' night out than for anyone who actually wants to be able to enjoy a cocktail on its own merits.

Operagirl and I ordered four between us. Being one of those guys secure enough in his straightsculinity, I usually have no problem ordering girlishy drinks. This evening, however, tested me like I'd never been tested before. First, I tried the Toasted Almond Martini. Vanilla-infused vodka, amaretto, Kahlua, Frangelico, cream, with a dollop of whipped cream and a flotilla of almond slivers. Not bad, but it's basically a white Russian with amaretto. Operagirl tried the Bad Girl Martini. Orange-infused vodka, peach schnapps, cranberry juice and sour mix resulted in something that she liked but tasted like a melted Italian ice with booze in it. Get the idea? Round two got me the Very Berry, three berry-infused vodkas, blueberry juice and cranberry juice. Skip this spiked version of Hawaiian Punch, unless you like sugar rushes. Operagirl's second round, the Pom Martini was described by her as being "like a pomegranate lollipop... or cough syrup." Every one of these cocktails was like something I could have made from a store bought mix kit.

Well, drinks aside (have wine instead), between the kitch, the boiling cheese, and the fact that I was running around taking photos like a schmuck, Operagirl seemed to be having a ball. "If I were a 17 year-old looking for a seal-the-deal place before prom, this would be the best place."

Two fondues, four cocktails, tax and tip came to $102. Simply Fondue is technically attached to Atlas Park, so they'll validate your parking at their garage. They recommend reservations, especially on weekends, which you can do through OpenTable, but this particular mid-week night, they weren't very crowded.


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