My wife and I lived for two months in Baltimore and loved it there. Great town, great people, some great restaurants.
On our way back to our hometown of New York City, we decided to go around Frederick and dine at Volt Restaurant. Of all the restaurants in the Balto-DC area, Volt had the biggest buzz, so I wanted to check it out.
I booked a table in the Chef's Kitchen area, but when we got there we were told they had a 4-top cancellation at Table 21. Did we want it? We hesitated for a while, but finally accepted.
Long story short, we were not impressed by Table 21.
Service was very good, considering how small and crowded the kitchen is. But it also felt rushed- dishes coming non-stop. The pacing was dreadful. We've been to other long tasting-menu experiences and they last a good three or four hours. At Volt, 21 courses were delivered in 2.5 hours, with most of them sent in before 7:30pm. We had the 5:30 pm seating, and there is a second seating at 8:30 pm, so it seemed obvious to me that we were served fast to get us out in time.
Chef Voltaggio was there, actively involved in the kitchen. He came by and greeted every guest at Table 21. Nice guy!
Food is good, but almost nothing wowed us. Aside from Voltaggio's TV fame, I'm not sure why this is the hottest table in the DC area. I am glad the molecular thing was not overplayed at Table 21, and the dishes had a good blend of inventive New American Cuisine with some touches of chemistry.
But again, there were very few (if any) moments of revelation, that bite that makes you laugh, that spoonful you almost feel like crying over, that feeling of joy or perplexity... everything here was correct, almost all of it was tasty, but that's it. It felt formulaic, like a "I've-seen-this-before" dining experience. Not a restaurant we remembered or talked about even three days later...
All of the ingredients you expect from a high-end American tasting menu were there: lobster, foie gras, pork belly, scallop, sweetbreads... Plating was correct but simple and not super gorgeous, except for some dishes (tuna tartare with avocado ribbons)
Perhaps it is because my wife and I live in New York City, dining capital of the US, and we have been to great restaurants here and abroad (Alinea, French Laundry, L2o; Arzak, Mugaritz, Sergi Arola), but we both felt that the Table 21 experience was seriously underwhelming.
As I see it, if you live in, say, Manassas and are used to steakhouses (absolutely no offense intended), Table 21 will be an amazing journey. But if you are a seasoned gourmet and have been around, Table 21 might not be it.
It felt to me a bit like "Young Talented Chef Playing Alinea". Bryan Voltaggio is indeed very talented, but not up there with the greatest. Give him another two or three years and he will be first-class. I will be back in Frederick to witness the growth.
I don't know if anybody else has been disappointed or not impressed by Table 21, or do you all out there love it to death?
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