This is for a series of posts related to Iron Chef Jose Garces including:
Amada, Distrito, Rosa Blanca, Bar Volver, Buena Onda, The Blue Anchor, PHS Pop Up Garden, JG Domestic, Tinto , Tinto , and Village Whiskey.
When Volver opened in Philly, it promulgated the arrival of a ticket system a la Momofuku Ko and Alinea. While this works in only a few New York and Chicago restaurants, Philly's foodies were not having it - especially with the city's highest tasting menu price point. After a year's run in the Kimmel Center, Iron Chef Jose Garces recently decided to lower the stakes. Volver has now opted for a standard reservation system and more competitive pricing.
I'll keep my opinions to myself on Volver until I try it out. But earlier this year, the GF and I did stop by Bar Volver to try some of their "bites" and cocktails before heading to see Sister Act at the Kimmel Center.
The entrance to Bar Volver and the main restaurant are on the north side of the orchestral hall in the Kimmel Center. It's sleek and spacious, with a glass wall filled with bottles of wine along the entrance. Seating is available around the main bar, with comfortable lounge chairs and tables off to the side.
Mission Margarita [$12]
Reposado tequila, Pedro Ximenez sherry, lime, fig
The GF started off with what she deigned to be one of the best margarita's she's ever had. The smooth tequila was pronounced, but the understated sweetness from the sherry and fig balanced it out nicely. And with the brightness from the lime, this was definitely a winner.
Truffle Rush [$12]
Bourbon, truffle, lavender honey, lemon
When I saw that there was a truffle cocktail, I was intrigued and knew I had to try it out. I assumed the truffle and lavender honey was from Garces Trading Company, and while this was an interesting tipple, the truffle overpowered the bite of the bourbon. After a few sips, the headiness of the truffle was all I could sense.
Yuzu mayo, edamame, shiso, chile oil, crunchy garlic
But on to the food! One of the highlights from Volver is the fact that they get a daily shipment from the famed Tsukiji Market in Tokyo, Japan. The components of the traditional tartare came out in separate stainless steel dishes. The tuna had nice texture and a lusciousness that was perfect for the tartare.
The wasabi-yuzu mayo was a nice counterpoint to the fattiness of the tuna, with the crunchy garlic adding additional texture. The tartare came with a quartet of grilled foccacia - a common element to many of the other dishes we ordered (read: we had way too much bread). Still, the bread was fresh, pillowy, and crusted on the outside.
Wagyu Tartare [$12]
Shallot, dijon, capers, quail egg yolk, tomato, fines herbes
The wagyu tartare was served similarly. It was fresh and was well-seasoned to accent the great beefiness. The dill was bright, with the capers and tomatoes providing the acid.
The creaminess of the egg helped to bring everything together. This was all served with more foccacia
Wagyu Tartine [$9]
Shaved ribeye, black truffle provoleta, charred scallion
We decided to try two tartines as well. The wagyu was shaved thinly and was complemented with sharp Argentinian provolone. The charred scallion mix provided great acid and flavor, all atop some more grilled foccacia. Elevated cheesesteak anyone?
Ham & Cheese [$6]
Spalaccia, red pepper confit, tomme de savoie, basil aioli
The ham and cheese highlighted La Quercia spalaccia. The cured shoulder is from acorn-fed Iowa Berkshire pigs, aged up to 22 months. This resulted in strips of pork that were almost glassy and translucent. The richness of the ham was complemented nicely by the acidic sweetness of the red pepper confit and the herbaceousness of the basil aioli.
Iberian cured pork loin, red pepper - Dehesa Cordobesa; Adalucia, Spain
Loving secreto, I had to get an order of the lomo iberico as well. While I didn't know that it came atop more of that foccacia (sense a theme?), the ham was clean and delicious. The acid from the tomato underneath helped to balance the fattiness of the pork. Due to the overload of foccacia, we opted to forego most of the bread for this course. This may have been for the best because there was less to detract from the secreto.
Triple Cream [$12]
Organic cow's milk, cave-ripened organic triple cream - Champlain Valley Creamery
We decided to end our meal with a triple cream cheese - light, airy, and buttery, with some slight bitterness at the end. Delicious and of course, served with more of the foccacia.
Service was friendly, but contained. From what I hear, there is more of a show put on at Volver. As expected from Chef Garces and his staff, the flavors were all there and the dishes were well-seasoned. The bread overload aside (I realize the typical Bar Volver diner will be ordering one or two bites), Bar Volver offers nice riffs on cocktails and an array of dishes that will whet your appetite to consider shelling out for the true Volver experience.