Jose Garces Is Aiming High with Volver

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From the Garden, including live lettuce from Garces’s Luna Farm.

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.

Check out the menus » 

First Look: Bar Volver

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Last week, we dropped some knowledge on you in the form of Bar Volver’s menu, and over the weekend we paid our first visit. For those not following along, Volver is Jose Garces’ newest venture in the Kimmel Center, a ticketed dining experiment (with opening night this coming Wednesday) as yet untested in Philadelphia waters. One feature of this format is that the beautiful bar at Volver doesn’t offer a traditional a la carte menu, but what they do offer is sophisticated snacks worthy of Gordana Kostovski’s heavy-on-the-bubbles wine list.

Details and lots of photos, right this way

Did We Create This Culinary Monster?

Illustration by Kagan McLeod

Illustration by Kagan McLeod

There’s been a lot of talk lately about what kind of restaurant town we really want to be. In the Philadelphia magazine that’s on the stands right now, I’ve got an essay asking what it means to our restaurant scene when being merely great is no longer a guarantee of success. We’ve been writing an awful lot about VolverJose Garces‘s new high-stakes (and high price) gamble at the Kimmel Center which now stands as the most expensive dinner in town by a long stretch. And as we all know by now, between knee-capping reviews from both Craig Laban and our own Trey Popp, and a whole lot of people on the streets wondering if the storied Walnut Street address might be better off if it was just turned into a Jamba Juice and ignored until all the ghosts of Le Bec-Fin have departed, Avance is having itself a very rough month.

And now, with all this in mind, I just ran across this essay over at Esquire’s “Eat Like A Man” blog which essentially lays the blame for every modern sin in restaurant-dom squarely at our feet.

Read more »

Bar Volver Opens This Evening

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The first-come-first serve part of Jose Garces’s Volver opens to the public tonight. Bar Volver is a champagne and caviar lounge that will feature a selection of small bites including oysters, cheese, charcuterie and three varieties of caviar. Bar manager Gordana Kostovski has created a menu of cocktails designed to pair well with the food coming from Garces’s kitchen. Also available to the Bar Volver customer will be over 1,500 bottles of old and new world wines with a particular focus on sparkling wines.

Highlights and the full menu » 

In the Kitchen at Volver

Kyle Baddorf, Josh Massaro and Jose Garces testing recipes.

Kyle Baddorf, Josh Massaro and Jose Garces testing recipes.

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.

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UPDATE: Tickets To Dine At Volver Go On Sale Tomorrow Morning

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Oh, and while we’re talking reservations, let’s not forget that tomorrow morning at 9am, Jose Garces’s new experiment in “ticketed dining” will begin at Volver.

As we discussed in our first post about Volver’s impending opening, tickets for dinner at Volver are purchased (and paid for) up to 60 days in advance, with new tickets being made available every 30 days. And as we discussed in our second post (once we’d taken a moment to digest the announcement), at the top end, a prix fixe dinner in Volver’s main dining room now represents the single most expensive dinner in town by a large margin.

For those of you who are still confused by this whole scheme, there’s a huge FAQ up right now on the Volver website which gives you all the rules, restrictions and regulations for dining at Volver.

UPDATE: Just got word from the Garces camp that the first actual night of service at Volver will be April 16.

UPDATE: Ticket sales are live right now at Volver’s ticketing website. They appear to be selling pretty briskly, and most of the “Performance” tickets (the full, 12-course spread, not the pre-theatre) are going for $175 a pop. It also appears that they can only be bought by table–ie a table for two for $350, a table for four for $700–and that tax and tip are not included (though the price does include a 20% “service fee”). Two-tops are selling out right now all the way through May.

UPDATE: Nope, got that wrong. Tax and tip are included, you just have to get all the way to the end of the transaction before that bit of math shows up. There are still tables available, but it appears right now that the people of Philadelphia are willing to go down this pre-paying / event ticket rabbit hole with Jose Garces.

FINAL UPDATE: Okay, so here’s the deal. You go in, you pay $350 for a table for two for one of the performance dinners, and then, at the end, you’re assessed tax and a 20% tip. What it comes down to is a $350 dinner for two actually running you $453.60–and that’s still without drinks. At the beginning, it appeared as though the drink-pairing add-on to the performance tickets wasn’t showing up. But now it is, offering you the option to pay in advance for your booze as well–and adding further to your total cost, of course. So that $175 ticket price? That is NOT including tax or tip.

Ticketed Dining At Volver [Official]
All Volver coverage [f8b8z]

Jose Garces Debuts Ticketed Dining At Volver

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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…

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A Preview of Jose Garces’ Volver at the Kimmel Center

Designed by Philadelphian Conrad Booker, the textile mural is inspired by Volver's logo.

Designed by Philadelphian Conrad Booker, the textile mural is inspired by Volver’s logo.

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.

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