20 Observations On Last Night’s Performance Dinner At Volver

volver-performance-menu-autographed-4-23Last night, Art, Victor, myself and some friends were lucky enough to be able to sit down at Volver and actually eat our way through an entire “Performance” dinner during the regular course of service. It was the 6th night of business for the restaurant. The room went from nearly full to nearly empty during the course of our 4 hour long, 14-course dinner. And, for each of us, the meal encompassed some of the best, most surprising, most challenging and most amazing plates we’ve ever had. It wasn’t all perfect, but it wasn’t far off. Off the tops of our heads, here’s what we came away thinking of Jose Garces’s newest, most daring experiment.

1) You may think that you want to leave Volver and go elsewhere for a nightcap. Don’t do it. This is one of the most indulgent experiences you can have in the region, and you don’t need to consume a thing after it is over. Go home. Go to bed. –Victor Fiorillo

2) The KFS (Kentucky Fried Squab) is served on a plate with pictures of hands placed like they are cradling the food. And on the bottom of the plate (where precisely no one will see it) are the backs of those hands. –Art Etchells

3) Every single course had a reason to be there. And every single time it was because Jose Garces wanted it there—because it was inspired by some moment from his life or career. As egocentric as this is, I still prefer stories about the chef eating KFC when he was a kid to stories about the provenance of my leeks. –Jason Sheehan

4) Having the Milk & Cereal, Veta la Palma and the Beef on Embers–three of the best plates of the night–included on the $75 pre-theater menu makes that menu one of the best bargains in town. –AE

5) After eating the live sea scallops, you will never want to eat a dry scallop again. –VF

6) I want Siberian sturgeon caviar to start every single meal of my life from here on out. –JS

7) The market fish comes with “tears of fennel.” How do you make fennel cry? Tell fennel it will never be loved like ramps? –AE

8) About halfway through dinner, right after the absolutely amazing Veta la Palma, with fish that came from some kind of freaked-up Spanish fish utopia, Art turned to me and said, “I have the perfect headline for the post tomorrow. ‘Start Saving, Assholes.'” –JS

9) The deconstructed carrot cake (with candied baby carrots, liquid-nitrogen-frozen coconut-labne mousse and about a million other elements) may be my favorite dessert in Philadelphia. –VF

10) The peas were the course that I had the biggest problem with (heavily buttered peas as a palate cleansing course is kind of like using mashed potatoes and gravy as a palate cleansing course), but they were still the second-best peas I have ever had in my life. –JS

11) Yes, I am so big a nerd that I have a second-favorite peas. –JS

12) The service was extremely polished, especially for day six. –AE

13) The beverage pairings were as exceptional as the food itself. Sommelier Gordana Kostovski is not only gorgeous, she’s also one of the best in the business. –VF

14) The beverage pairing offers more than just wine. I spotted a sour beer and a round of sake. –AE

15) On the entire beer list, the only bottle I even recognized at first glance was a Hitachino Nest brown ale. –JS

16) If fourteen courses sound insurmountable, know that the meal is paced in a way that it is entirely doable. It averages out to one course every seventeen minutes, and the plates are small. –VF

17) The final course, an 85 day aged Wagyu steak, needs to be half the size that it is. At that point in your meal, trying to consume the entire piece of one of the richest steaks you will ever eat in your life is nearly impossible. –VF

18) I would put Volver’s Milk & Cereal (as it was presented last night, in the full flower of its weirdness) up against any other single dish at any restaurant in the country right now. –JS

19) Debating whether a $700 meal is actually “worth it” is a little bit like arguing the merits of Acela to someone who swears by the Chinatown bus. –VF

20) Yes, you do get a Jose Garces autographed menu at the end of your meal. So, you know, totally worth it. –AE

All Volver coverage [f8b8z]

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  • eatmoardrinkmoar

    Only one recognized beer? How do you have this job? I’m by no means a critic and I’ve had 5 of the beers on their opening list.

    • Jason Sheehan

      Granted, I just gave it a glancing look and, at that point in the evening, had already moved past beers and was onto cocktails…

      • Sam Clearfield

        strange decision to include someting like that in the article then if your explanation was to say oh well i barely looked at it

    • Shason Jeehan

      I’ve had 7 of those. At least 4 of those can be easily found at many bars and bottle shops in the city.

    • gc

      All of those beers are easily found in Philly. I am very underwhelmed by that beer menu, they are decent, but nothing mind blowing. Also nothing from any local breweries ? I can understand they are probably not going to live or die from their beer list, but this one is sub par.

  • Stop hitting on cute sommeliers Victor

  • JimBucksbury

    “Debating whether a $700 meal is actually “worth it” is a little bit like
    arguing the merits of Acela to someone who swears by the Chinatown bus.”

    Very interesting (and condescending) analogy coming from someone who was undoubtedly comped for his $700 meal.

    • Dan

      Agreed. Also a dumb analogy because nobody would pay extra for Acela over the standard Metroliner if they weren’t charging it to a client or using it purely as a status symbol. You save negligible time by using Acela and the cost is exorbitant.

      On second thought, perhaps the analogy is apt…

    • Ken Nemeth

      Best to avoid trying in any way, shape or form to convince anyone that a meal is worth $700. If you happen to be lucky enough to be able to afford it, go, but don’t try to justify it.

    • Earl J

      Agreed, $700 x 2 or more for a meal is fine if you are not paying the tab but I would love to see you take out 14 or more Benny’s from your wallet to actually PAY for the meal.

    • DevilsAdvocate

      Once again, the price is $175 per person for 16 courses of food. Equivalent to $10.93 per dish. Not including alcohol…Just to clarify

  • JoAnn

    No one needs a $700 per person meal. It all ends up in the same place…the porcelains facility. Just throw the money directly into the toilet.

    • DevilsAdvocate

      It is not $700 per person. It is $175 for Sixteen courses of food. that equals $10.93 per plate of food. Sounds like a good deal.

  • tjt

    did anyone actually learn anything about the meal itself from reading this? I sure as hell didn’t.

  • Tab

    This is a poorly written and poorly researched pseudo review that not only borders on shilling, but contains a lot of revealing clues about the utter lack of knowledge of the diners.
    There is nothing creative here that has not been done for the last 5 years at Saison, Atelier Crenn and Ben Shewry’s cookbook “Origins”.

    Veta La Palma is a basic farm raised fish.
    Siberian Sturgeon is illegal in Russia thus it is farm raised in tanks in Florida.
    There is no wild Siberian sturgeon caviar.
    Deconstructing cakes is like 10 years old.
    What rock have you guys been hiding under?