I went to a fondue restaurant last night with a few friends and a guest from the east coast. My meal cost me $61.
I knew that afternoon before going that it would cost a little over $50, so I was somewhat prepared. Still, that's a lot of money for food I had to cook myself.
It was a very interesting experience, and I'd recommend it to pretty much anyone. But, I don't think I'd ever want to do it again. The food was decent—but more like $15 good, not four-times-that good. It edged out Flying Fish in downtown Seattle as the most expensive meal I've ever eaten, and Flying Fish was exquisite. I like eating out because (1) I don't have to get the ingredients, (2) I can't really cook, and (3) cooking is a lot of work.
The ingredients come to you on plates instead of shrink-wrapped Safeway packages, so that's a plus. The experience of cooking (or, for certain parts, just dipping) your food in pots with long forks is just bizarre. I guess the main point is that it's a strange environment where you're doing strange things with friends, which is a natural conversation starter. (That's one of the best things about board games; they put you into odd situations that lead into interesting conversations.) Basically, I'd liken it to cooking in Iron Chef's Kitchen Stadium while a dozen half-naked ballet dancers in clown makeup dance around the kitchen and sing off-key, and then once you're done, you all go swimming in a pool of Jell-O and eat the food you've prepared while you bob around in spongey, colorful cubes. That's kind of what fondue was for me: a really absurd fantasy tale that happened to involve food. I can't imagine that it wouldn't lose most of its appeal on a second visit.
So, as an experience to have once, I'd rate it quite high. As something to do more than once, I'd rate it low. As a dinner, I'd rate it "average"—but the kind of average that's not really average and actually kind of low: it's better than the status quo, but restaurants don't exist to microwave a Red Baron frozen pizza from the grocery store. I mean, Chili's and Applebee's are kind of the definition of average, and I would have been happier with my food at one of those places.
If anyone comes out to visit me and wants to visit a nice restaurant with great food, I'll take them to Flying Fish. If they want something surreal and wacky and expensive, maybe I'd take them to The Melting Pot, because the ballet and Jell-O place is really far away, and traffic is awful.