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

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