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Volver - First impressions


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Restaurants & Bars Philadelphia

Volver - First impressions

gwh912 | | Apr 28, 2014 07:21 PM

My wife and I went to Volver for the pre-theater menu ($75 per + 20%) since she had some finals the next day and didn't have time for the full performance menu. Space is beautiful, and food for the most part varies from very good to great - though, from a value perspective, I believe the pre-theater menu is the better bet (considering only an additional 3-4 constitute the larger menu)

Prior to our arrival, someone called to go over a few "pre-dining" questions - asking questions like mode of arrival, and if "there was anything they can do to elevate our experience". Nice touch, but lots of uncomfortable silence after we politely, not really? :-)

The one strange element was that we referenced my wife has a dairy allergy, but were then asked again by the captain at service if any dietary restrictions he should be made aware of, at which point we explained the details of her allergy again. No big deal, just some new restaurant "kinks" to work out. We had the same experience with the wine pairing - even though I had the grand wine pairing, and she opted out, they paired the first course with wine, and I figured out when they were attempting to pour her second glass that they were mistaken. Again, little to fret about, and both were handled gracefully.

The service is exceptional, despite the opening kinks, and the restaurant's team has done a wonderful job to train all the staff members. It replicates a true "fine dining" environment, while still remaining somewhat casual (two of the parties when we were there were wearing button down shirts with jeans) The only issue we had was with the ridiculously small wine pours on the tasting - though with complimentary champagne in the beginning for my wife and another wine that the sommelier opted to let her try from the tasting, the best of intentions shone through. The sommelier seemed nervous (we asked which prefecture the sake came from, and she said she wasn't sure but immediately came back with the answer and some additional information which we found not only redeeming but demonstrating a desire to answer our question sincerely and quickly)

Anyway, on to the food. The initial try of small bites was interesting - with some caviar and creme fraiche (good, but nothing out of the ordinary); some cured meets including iberico ham and guanciale (good), and, believe it or not, my favorite dish of the night and one of the best bites I have had all year. Unfortunately, I didn't write down the specifics of how they did it, but it was deviled duck liver mousse, with the mousse piped to look like a yolk, and the "egg white" - well, its not an egg white (IIRC, it had strong citrus notes, but I don't remember the exact prep without having my notes handy) and Pedro Ximenez gel. It was literally the perfect bite.

Tsjiki Market Fish with Horseradish and Green Apple Snow - Very fresh fish, and very tasty, though the prep felt a little "wet" to me with the sauce and the snow, slightly "drowning" the beautiful slabs of fresh fish. Maybe a personal preference and probably splitting hairs as the dish was tasty

Cereal Dish (white asparagus milk with rice flakes, quail eggs, chicken oysters, truffle and thyme marshmallows) - supposedly a play on Lucky Charms, this is the most out there the menu gets, but for some reason, it totally worked for me and was an interesting, tasty and thought provoking take on savory cereal.

Living Garden with goat cheese dirt, pistachio puree, duck skin crumble, almond milk crisps, carrots and curried raisins, looked really dry, but upon combining perfectly worked as a tasty and well balanced salad.

Veta La Palma, with Bomba Rice, Shrimp, Fumet, Espelette, Seasonal Fish and Nasturtium - my favorite entree of the night, the seafood broth base was awesome and made the dish. A more traditional prep, for the most part, than a lot of the prior dishes, but a delicious and super flavorful expression of the type of cuisine you would expect from eating at his other establishments, yet elevated and perhaps bolder in flavor.

Wagyu - Cooked on Embers, Beet Root Puree, Salsa Criolla, Beet Root Crema and Nury Potatoes - Look, the beef was definitely high quality, but it was not the best wagyu prep I've had (personally, felt mine was slightly overdone) and the accompaniments were tasty but I didn't fully understand the whole combination. All in all, steak was still extremely tasty, but I had higher hopes considering the pedigree. I do think the dish has potential and hopefully, the temperature issues will be resolved.

Desserts in my opinion were unremarkable.

All in all, I really liked, but perhaps, did not love, the whole experience. It was quite good, but only two of the dishes (one entree, and one amuse) landed in the amazing category for me. That being said, for $75, I thought it was a great deal all things considered, and believe they will continue to get better and refine the dishes and preps even further. Since the waiter, as well as some other preliminary reviews seem to suggest the best dishes are almost all on the theater menu, I don't know that I would jump for the performance menu and associated pricing, until the restaurant was firing on all cylinders. But do go, book a pre-theater tasting, put away any preconceived notions of the place being too expensive or too "not Philadelphia", and have a great and enjoyable meal