Once upon a time I was sitting outside of Varga Bar at 10th and Spruce, looking over at the packed sidewalks at Kanella and remarked this might be the most bumping corner in all of downtown Philadelphia without a place named Parc on it. I also remember thinking, now if something could turn up the voltage at 20th and Lombard across from Pub & Kitchen, then 10th and Spruce would have some competition. Read more »
We’ve said a lot of things about Volver over the past two years. From excitement over its potential, to bewilderment over its policies and pricing, to amazement at our first experience with a full-on performance dinner, to more bewilderment as the menu resolutely refused to change over the course of many, many months even as the concept got tweaked to make it more approachable in the second “season”.
Along the way, Volver picked up the only 4-star review that Trey has ever handed out at Philly mag, warranted a special, extra digression online after the review went up, discussing the booze, the price, the stars and the fish with its own TED Talk, and then frightened us all deeply when it announced a summer vacation–a two month long summer vacation which, not for nothing, seemed extraordinary and odd. I mean, what restaurant just gets to close down for two months in the middle of summer? What is this, France?
The team promised that they’d be re-opening on September 2nd (with Bar Volver debuting early–this Wednesday, as a matter of fact), reinvigorated and with brand new menus. We were skeptical, but hopeful. Volver has had a weird, bumpy run. We have been both fervent supporters and aporetic assholes, loudly voicing our worries and complaints in public. But the place still served me (and several of my colleagues) some of the best plates we’ve had in years, and considering the professional mouths I associate with, that’s no small thing. So when they invited us down to the kitchen late last week to show us what they’ve been working on during their summer vacation, we wasted no time.
Every Wednesday night, Bar Volver offers special deals on cocktails, wine and snacks (PDF). And tomorrow, Wednesday, January 14th, Jose Garces’s Kimmel Center bar has a little something special planned.
Volver’s chef de cuisine, Natalie Maronski who was Garces’s chef at Chifa (the Iron Chef’s Peruvian/Chinese mashup), is bringing back some of Chifa’s favorite buns, duck tacos, wings and other dishes for one night.
Happy hour at Volver runs from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and you’ll want to get there early to get a taste of Chifa.
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!
Editor’s Note: Beginning this month, Trey Popp’s reviews for Philadelphia magazine will be running first on Foobooz–weeks ahead of their appearing in print. And what better way to kick off this new arrangement than with the first four-star ranking that Trey has ever given–of his near-perfect experience at Jose Garces’s remarkable new restaurant, Volver.
Halfway through dinner at Volvér—after the scallop that was seared while still living, after the duck-liver mousse in a trick egg white conjured out of goat milk and orange-blossom water, after the puffed pork rinds with smoked-buttermilk dulce de leche and the bacalao takoyaki’s crepe-edged crackle—a savory course arrived in a pair of cupped hands.
Tonight is the night that Jose Garces’s Volver debuts its ticketed dining at the Kimmel Center. The restaurant will immediately leap to number one in the city in at least one respect, Volver will be the most expensive dining experience in town.
What remains to be seen is whether Garces, chef de cuisine Natalie Maronski and their team at Volver can deliver. There are two menus available, the pre-theater tasting of eight-or-so courses for $75-$100 and the performance tasting, which rings in at 12+ courses for $175 per person. These prices do not include tax, gratuity or alcohol. The grand wine pairing, which is available with the pre-theater dinner is $50 and includes tax and gratuity. That means early evening diners can get out for $146 per person with wine pairings. Or if you want to go all out with the performance tasting, it will be north of $300 per person with the drink pairings.
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, Jose Garces’ culinary showcase is set to open in April at the Kimmel Center. The space will feature a caviar and champagne lounge as well as a forty-seat performance dining area. Garces, architects KieranTimberlake and interior designer Marguerite Rodgers have collaborated to design a space that highlights the arts, culinary and otherwise.
Celebrate (or mourn) the end of summer this Sunday September 23rd at 4:30pm at Chifa. Chifa’s End of Summmer Barbecue will feature all-you-can-eat grilled meats plus starters and sides. The family style meal is $35 per person.