Jose Garces Debuts Ticketed Dining At Volver


So now we have a date (of sorts) on Jose Garces’s Kimmel Center project, Volver. Word has just come down that, starting March 12, people will be able to purchase “tickets” to dine in the main dining room at Volver.

And how is this going to work exactly? It’s simple (kinda). There are essentially two rooms at Volver–a lounge and a dining room. The lounge will operate like a normal restaurant, allowing walk-in seating and all the stuff you’d expect from a normal restaurant experience. But the dining room will be open only to those who have bought a ticket for the nights performance (meaning dinner). Here’s the official description…

The 34-seat dining room will offer two nightly seatings for parties of two, four or six guests. The pre-theater tasting menu will feature 8 courses ranging from $75-$120 per person. The second seating will feature a first course of 4 snacks, followed by 12 courses, ranging from $175-$250 per person. Ticket purchase includes a table for two, four, or six guests, sparkling and still water, a 20% service charge and tax.

There will be an optional beverage pairing (not included in the ticket price) which can be tacked on when you buy your ticket, or a la carte drinks available. And starting in just a couple weeks, you’ll be able to purchase your tickets online at up to 60 days in advance, with new tickets being released every 30 days.

Okay, so what does all of this mean, exactly? Basically that, for the first time in Philly, you’re being asked to buy tickets for dinner the same way you would for a show–booking and paying in advance. It does NOT mean that Garces himself is going to be there every night (according to his people, the Iron Chef will be there for an indeterminate number of nights a month, in addition to being involved in the planning of menus and such), but does guarantee you a seat at the table, as it were. Essentially, you’re being asked to make a reservation and pay up front–nothing more and nothing less.

So the question then becomes, how badly do you want one of those tables? Are you willing to pony up the cash upfront for a completely unknown (and, at least for the time being, unknowable) experience? Basically, do you trust Jose Garces enough to hand him $250 and hope he (or his people) make you a dinner that’s worth it?

All Volver coverage [f8b8z]

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  • DTurner

    I am still a little confused. Is the ticket is an additional cost or are you simply paying up front for your meal?

    • You are paying upfront for your meal. Same as Next in Chicago, and a number of other places around the country. Also common for underground restaurants.

      • DTurner

        Very good, thanks for the clarification.

      • Jimmy

        Huge difference between buying a ticket for food cooked by Achatz and one for food from Garces.

        • True, but it is cheaper than Next.

          I can’t say I’m hugely excited though, especially if there is no guarantee that Garces will even be in the kitchen. This is up there in price with Vetri, Lacroix, Avance, and The Fountain, so at the extreme for Philly.

          I thought the original plan was a handful of people being cooked for by Garces personally, not 35 people, twice an evening by one of his staff.

  • Idia Legray

    How can one pay up front if they don’t know if they are going to want to order the $75 or a different priced dinner in advance?
    Where will the menus be? And does this mean that you are forced to choose what you want to eat way before the fact? That’s weird. Maybe you won’t be in the mood for that particular choice by the time you get there.
    I can understand making a reservation strictly for your party in advance ONLY if you plan on going to the concert that evening and hold a paid for ticket, like the Met Opera does in their Grand Tier Dining Room. You only need to show your orchestra ticket and your name will be on a dinner reservation list.
    But being forced to choose your menu way in advance is a bit over the top to me.

    • They_Call_Me_Bruce

      You don’t choose your menu. This isn’t ala carte, it is a tasting menu, which means you are at the mercy of the chef. Your options are how many courses. The chef cooks what he wants based on what’s in season, and what he thinks pair well together.

      • Idia Legray

        You’re kidding! So dietary concerns are not addressed?
        Wow! How “haute” can a restaurant get?
        (I’m out!)

        • No, they do ask you before the meal starts if there are any dietary restrictions, and it would be wise to discuss this with them when you are making a reservation. These places usually have a limited ability to make changes.

          But if you have extreme restrictions or are a vegan, these are not the sort of restaurants you should be going to.

          Of course, if you don’t like spicy food, you shouldn’t go to a Sichuan restaurant (it would be kinda silly to ask the Chef of such a place to make everything non-spicy). No big deal. There are plenty of other places to go.

        • Joey Meatball

          You’re and Idiat

      • Idia, there are a number of other “tasting menu” only restaurants in Philly. It’s usually a thing one sees at only the most expensive restaurants, and only a few of those. Places you go to celebrate a special event, not stop in for a snack if the mood strikes you. Like Vetri.

        Another less expensive one in Philly is Marigold Kitchen, where I dined a couple of weeks ago. We were served 16 “courses”, although a lot of those were bite-sized. The only choice we were offered was between one meat and one fish for the largest “entree” course. There is an example menu online, but the Chef only decides what to serve based on what he liked in the market that morning.

        If I remember correctly, that was ~$85/person (BYOB), and our meal took 3 hours. It was excellent.

        No ticket of course at Vetri or MK.

        • Idia Legray

          Hi Philly’s BB:
          It has been years since I dined at both Vetri & Marigold Kitchen but I definitely chose what I wanted from a menu handed to me. There was no guesswork.
          I guess things have changed now.

  • just how quickly do you eat?

    so just how quickly do we need to eat 8 courses before a concert? And, how do we manage to stay awake for the performance after consuming all of that food?

  • Little Guido

    The biggest disservice here is to Chef Natalie Maronski. Garces and his PR team did NOTHING to get the city excited about the actual person who these too expensive dinners will be coming from. Fork, Avance, Laurel, Sbraga, and, of course, Serpico had the right idea in marketing their chef as much as the food and space. Made dining an experience. Garces seriously thinks people are going to pay for this from a chef they don’t know? And even if they do know, she’s remembered for the clunker that was Chifa. (I actually really liked it) . Garces will be fine no matter how this does. Hope the best for Chef Maronski.

  • PhoodPhight

    I don’t think the idea is ridiculous, but the execution is. The same price per head gets you a reservation at bar mini in DC. It seats 6 (12, if you consider the other people who start about 60min after your seating) and lasts close to 3 hours. And, when I was there, we went through 29 courses. Though, to be fair, a decent amount were bite sized.

    That said, $250 for 12 courses, in a dining room with 33 other people, and unlikely actually have Chef Garces there is not something I’m that interested in attending.