Amada | Courtesy of Garces Group
When he opened Amada nine years ago, Jose Garces had two visions for his debut restaurant. Only one survived—succeeding so lucratively that it suffocated the other.
You can still visit the latter’s burial place, though: just ask for one of the best six seats in the house.
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Chef Jose Garces is a busy man with two new restaurant openings.
Tomorrow, Tuesday, July 8, the newest iteration of his Distrito brand opens at the Moorestown Mall. Chef Garces brings the flavor of Mexico City to New Jersey with a full bar of 100+ tequilas and shareable plates, good for families and large parties. And drunks. Lots and lots of drunks. You’re welcome, New Jersey.
And that’s not all…
Illustration by Kagan McLeod
I saw this coming years ago. Not because I’m clever or prescient or some kind of unappreciated soothsayer of cuisine, but simply because I was on the front lines. I was a restaurant critic in Denver, Colorado, back during the second boom of New American cuisine.
I saw this coming years ago, but it had no name — not until GQ’s Alan Richman gave it one a few months back. He wrote about young chefs, exclusively male, working “with like-minded discipline, hardly ever haunted by doubts, seemingly in possession of absolute confidence.” He called it “Egotarian Cuisine” — food that is “intellectual, yet at the same time often thoughtless … straddling the line between the creative and the self-indulgent.” More to the point, food that is created solely, and with arrogant singularity of vision, to please the chef. Not the owners. Certainly not the customers. It’s food as memoir and manifesto. And often, it’s terrible.
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For the month of July, Iron Chef Jose Garces’ restaurant, Village Whiskey is heating things up with a mouthwatering burger, and you can thank San Fermín’s Running of the Bulls for it.
To celebrate the event, Village Whiskey will debut the Angry Bull Burger featuring aged manchego cheese, chorizo billbao, fried padron pepper, tempranillo grilled onions and smoked paprika aioli. The burger will cost $22 and that’s no bull.
Village Whiskey [Foobooz]
Summer was already looking awesome with the imminent opening of Spruce Street Harbor Park. But not only is the Penns Landing pop-up going to feature hammocks, an urban beach, boardwalk and much more. But now we have the details on Blue Anchor, the floating pop-up restaurant and bar. The Blue Anchor, which is being run by the Garces Group will open Friday, June 27th.
The food menu, which will feature items like burgers, salads and fries, was put together by Jose Garces and will be executed by the Garces Events’ Chef Adam DeLosso. Drinks available will be a wide range of local beers, red sangria and daily cocktail selections.
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Marc Vetri‘s singular hold on the Moorestown Mall is about to end. Come July 8, Jose Garces will become his new neighbor with the opening of his third Distrito location.
So what can we (and the good people of New Jersey) expect from this new Distrito? Mexican wrestlers, a floating fireplace, pork belly tamales and lots and lots of tequila.
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People go to bars for all kinds of reasons. To hang out with neighbors over three-dollar lagers. To knock back Beam-and-Pabst specials while stomping their feet to liquor-drinking music. To find out what happens when an eccentric teetotaler mixes a vast booze library with grapes juiced to order. To be quiet and get drunk.
In other words, to escape. And if Philadelphia is what you want to get away from, you need travel no further than to the bar at Volver.
Like the ticketed-entry dining room it abuts in the Kimmel Center, Jose Garces’ champagne-and-caviar lounge is in Philadelphia but not quite of it. Look one way and your eyes fall on a marbled white bar lit by the glow of four sleek halos that could have been commissioned by Starfleet. Look another—at an ultra-saturated blue textile mural crafted by local artist Conrad Booker out of 4,000 buttons and 200 yards of deeply dyed burlap—and you feel like you’ve warp-tunneled your way into Pedro Almodóvar’s Madrid. Meanwhile a soft-footed fleet of servers patrols the ebony-stained floorboards wearing black quasi-judo jackets trimmed with Jupiter orange, like a squad of acrobatic assassins waiting for Roger Moore to request a shaken martini.
It is a very, very cool place to sit down for an hour.
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A few additional musings about my meal(s) at Volver
Volver is very expensive, but…
As I noted in my review, “There’s no arguing that the $600 my wife and I spent, including a few glasses of wine and an inspired beverage pairing, could have bought a fantastic meal elsewhere with enough money left over to feed 10 foster children for a month.” But it’s also true that a year’s worth of cable would feed even more mouths, and that forgoing an iPhone upgrade would save you enough for the full 14 courses at Volver. Personally, I still wrestle with the cost of meals like this. But the debate over the cost of dinner shouldn’t take place in a vacuum. Everybody makes his own choices about what to spend money on, and eating out is one among many options to spend wisely or poorly. I mean, right now the 76ers are selling single courtside tickets for $790. The Sixers! After going 19-63!
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Jose Garces at Luna Farm | Photo via Garces Group
Michael Klein follows Jose Garces around town, checking in on the Iron Chef’s empire and reaffirming that being a big-shot restaurateur is big business.
Garces has five projects ranging from a branch of Distrito in Moorestown, NJ to Rural Society, an Argentinian steakhouse that he’s opening in Washington DC.
There’s even some talk about exit strategies.
Where’s Jose Garces going? [Philly.com]