Last Thursday I checked out how menu testing was going over at Volver with Jose Garces, Natalie Maronski and the rest of the Volver team.
I was lucky enough to eavesdrop on the team as they discussed the best way to plate their salad with greens from Garces’ Luna Farm. I smelled water that had the fragrance of pot soil. I sampled “Kentucky Fried Sqab” from the performance kitchen’s pressure fryer. And I got a bite of perhaps the best fish I’ve ever tasted.
Volver is under a month away from opening and the performance tasting menu, which will be $175 per person, is being fine tuned. When I arrived, Garces was reviewing how the "From the Garden" salad was being plated. The team discussed the different approaches. Was an arc of ingredients the best approach? Would a stacked look work better? The team wondered which method would encourage diners to dive right in and get a good mix of food on their fork. The process was photographed and Garces would review the results.
Next up was Kentucky Fried Squab. Again the chefs had their own takes on how to present the dish. But what was most important was that squab. It's fried up in a pressure fryer that is just one of the many cool tools that are available to the Volver team. The squab is served medium-rare with an impeccable crispy exterior and the most intense squab flavor I've ever come across. The bird was popular with the chefs as they carved up an extra order and quickly devoured the pieces.
Kentucky Fried Squab
Also on the agenda was the "Warm Milk and Cereal." This playful take on breakfast featured a base of chicken oysters with truffle rice cakes, bacon, white asparagus spears and thyme marshmallows. It was served with a glass vessel of asparagus milk. The marshmallows, which are a fun homage to Lucky Charms, made the dish.
Warm Milk and Cereal
Volver means to return in Spanish, and the restaurant will feature dishes inspired by Jose Garces' trips around the world. This is particularly true in the Veta La Palma Corvina. Veta La Palma is a sustainable aquaculture farm, 10-miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean in Seville, Spain. Everything on the plate comes from that area including the corvina, which was as spectacular a piece of fish as I have ever had.
Veta La Palma Corvina
Garces was pleased with the work and gave the team the rest of the night off. But Garces and culinary director Michael Fiorello were just getting started. Up next was a dessert tasting. Garces expected it to go till midnight.
From its ticketed pricing to modernist kitchen toys, Garces and his team are creating something the city has never seen before. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.
The dining room at Volver opens on Wednesday, April 16th. The lounge, which will feature a menu of caviar, bruschetta, cheese and oysters opens a week earlier on April 9th.