Volt

 Well, I know the professional critics will not review a restaurant until at least three months after it opens, but hey I’m just a rank amateur, so what do I care.  With all the anticipation I’m not inclined to wait more than three weeks.  Also  my brother and his wife were in town so it seemed a perfect occcasion to check out Volt this weekend.    Doing a little research I learned that Volt is divided into several areas:  a bar/lounge, the main dining room, a group area and the chef’s dining area.  Besides overlooking the kitchen, the chef’s dining area is the only place where you can get the five or seven course tasting menu ( FYI you cannot order a la carte in this area).  We decided to go large and managed to score a reservation at  the chef’s dining area.  The chefs dining area consists of  four tables that overlook the kitchen.  Beautiful tiled walls, soft indirect lighting and an impressive sculpture/light fixture made the area feel like the fine restaurant it is.  The place settings were beautiful: big white china, with hefty, stylish flatware and best of all- the stemware was all Riedel, including the water glasses.     Even more impressive: when you eat in the chef’s dining area nothing but a waist high counter separates you from the kitchen and staff.  It  takes guts to have up to 16 pairs of eyeballs on you as they cook.  Watching the staff was amazing.  The choreograph of a well-tuned kitchen was evident.  They communicated mostly non-verbally and when they had to talk they did it in head-to-head hushed whispers.  Above it all Chef Bryan Voltaggio supervised the whole process with an aquiline presence.  I didn’t see him smile once the whole evening.  The only clunker that I observed was that it still seemed like the wait staff was finding its way and there was some confusion with further explaining and switching of dishes.

The food is what I would call New American Cuisine.  An eclectic mix of flavors and styles that combines ingredients in new ways.   All of us opted for the five course vegetarian tasting menu ( if anyone in authority is reading this we would’ve gone for a seven course vegetarian menu like you have with the meat if it had been available) and the wine paring.  Immediately we were given a series of three amuse-bouche that were not on the menu (throughout the night we were given small extras that were not on the menu: bread, extra pours and glasses of wine, an extra dessert, a chocolate plate at the end, and the ladies got sweet biscuits “for their morning coffee.”).  They were stupendous.  Two really stood out:  A  small demi-tasse of corn custard with chili oil and morel mushroom, and then a bite of compressed watermelon  with vanilla sea salt.  The comment was made that we could’ve just had a whole bowl of the corn, called it a night and been ecstatic.  I agree.  The first course was an English pea soup with carrot ravioli, and a pea shoot tempura.  The soup was a vibrant green and tasted like dewy peas plucked straight from the garden.  The only complaint was that I felt the soup was slightly too salty-(in fact the only complaints of the night were that we felt the kitchen was too heavy handed with the seasonings in the soup  and in the eggplant (course #4)- too much pepper).   The night proceeded in an unrushed and refined succession of delicious dishes. I am not going to give a blow by blow here, but each course was amazing:  summer heirloom tomatoes made three ways, yellow corn ravioli, eggplant confit and a dessert titled:  Chocolate and Hazelnut “pave” chocolate caramel, praline anglais and frozen hazelnut custard.   To top it all off we ordered another dessert:  the goat cheese cheesecake which was ethereal and goat cheesy and sweet (if that makes sense) all at the same time.  Each course had a very good to excellent pairing with wine and some of the courses were quite difficult to match (I’m still not sold on the heirloon tomato- prosecco match, but it certainly wasn’t bad).  The sommelier Aaron was always there to describe each pour and answer our questions about the wine.  I’ll go into detail perhaps in a supplemental review (or perhaps do more research-yay!) but the cocktails were top notch as well. 

Bottom line is that Volt lives up to and exceeds all the hype.  I went there armored in cynicism, but instead we had an amazing three hour dining experience.  Frederick is lucky to have this establishment here. The food, the atmosphere and the service was superb.  There is nothing that comes close to rising to this level in Frederick and very few that rise to this level in whole the region.  I could see this restaurant becoming Frederick’s answer to the Inn at Little Washington.  My brother, who with his expense account has dined in places like Le Bernadin, Per Se and other fine dining establishments, agreed with this reviewer’s opinion.  One thing worth mentioning:  for although Bro may have brought his refined  palate to dinner, alas he did not bring his expense account.  Dinner was not cheap.  For four of us with the tasting menus ($69 for the menu plus $35 for the wine each), wine parings, 5-6 cocktails, and an extra dessert plus  coffee brought the tab with tip  to $580.   Now I was hesitant in mentioning this because of my concern  that people will think Volt is an unaffordable luxury or a once in a lifetime special occasion place.  Everyone’s tastes and budgets differ, but bear in mind that we went whole hog, so to speak.  Looking at the a la carte menu I think  that dinner for two, perhaps sharing an appetizer and dessert and having a wine or two by the glass would run you around $100-120.  There is also a lunch menu and the lounge to consider.

Give it a try and as always your comments are welcome,

Fred

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14 Comments

Filed under Food, Restaurant Reviews

14 responses to “Volt

  1. Sounds awesome. When I spent the day with Bryan he didn’t smile much either, I think he’s just a really focused person both in and out of the kitchen.

    Curious: have you been to IALW? When and what did you think?

  2. A vegetarian tasting menu? Swoon. I have a birthday coming up…

    Thanks for taking one for the team and review it for us!

  3. fredfood

    Rochelle- I’ve never been to IALW. It’s on my list of things to do someday.

  4. fredfood

    Mazeway- yes I thought of you guys when I found out they had the vegetarian tasting menu! It would make a perfect birthday dinner. Some of the dishes are on the a la carte, but you have to sit in the chef’s area to get the full tasting menu.

  5. Jeff

    Just what I have been looking for you. A review from someone not related to a newspaper. My wife and I are planning on dinning there on 8/30 for our Anniversary. We are planning on the 7 course tasting menu. After reading your comments I know we made the right choice to stay local and try Volt

  6. fredfood

    Jeff-
    Happy Anniversary. I’d be grateful if you could let me know how your experience is by posting a comment or emailing me by clicking on the ‘contact me’ button at the top of the page.
    Thanks,
    Fred

  7. mickanem

    Fred, I too, am happy to see your review. We are planning on a birthday celebration at the chef’s table there mid-September and will be ordering the 7 course tasting menu. I’ll be sure to check back and let you know how it went. Can’t wait!

  8. fredfood

    I look forward to the report.

  9. jeff

    We just got back from our trip to Volt and the one word to describe it is INCONSISTANT. Full details later.

  10. jeff

    Let me state that we were very excited about going and our expectations were no more or less than what others had to say about Volt.

    Well here are the details. We arrived at 5:00 for our 5:30 seating and went to the bar and had a drink. We were seated around 5:30. We decided to go with the 7 course tasting with beverage pairing. First came the 3 amuse-bouche a wild salmon tartar, compressed watermelon with vanilla sea salt and red pepper custard with trout roe. Wow! On all three. Unfortunately these were some of the best courses of the night. Next we had the summer heirloom tomatoes made three ways they were good, then we had a shitake mushroom soup–delicious. Then came one of our biggest disappointments the 3rd course was halibut over banana arugula risotto with banana croquet, the fish was way too salty, risotto was under cooked and the banana croquet was almost frozen. Next came the foie gra course which was fair. Then our main protein came, I don’t eat beef or pork, so at the beginning of the meal we discussed that with our server and she suggest either lamb or chicken and my wife let them know I really like lamb. The meat I was served was a pork loin that had been sitting under the warmed a little too long. The first two bites were so dry I almost choked. After that I asked for an intermission, something to clean my pallet. They selected an apple brandy. Then came the cheese course and it was good. A goat cheese brie from GA with crushed pistachios and coco and a broche. At this point we decided we wanted to try a couple of the desserts beside the Chocolate and Hazelnut “pave” chocolate. I then noticed that they were running behind schedule for their 7:30 seating, so I thought I would help them out and let them seat us in another area of the restaurant either the main dining room or the bar to finish off our deserts with beverage pairing. They were more than happy to move us, but it seems as if they forget us as well. They placed us in the bar and our desserts came, some with the beverage pairing and some with out. We did not get any chocolate plate at the end or sweet biscuits for my wife’s morning coffee. The sommelier was on target for most of the night, I would say the only course he missed was the main protein, he served me a Syrah and it really over powered the pork.

    . There were some absolute delicious courses and there were some poor courses. We expected the service to be a little shaky due to the fact they have only been open for a month, but I would think you would try and stay consistent in the Chef’s table area, but I was wrong. Would we go back probably, would we do the Chef’s table again probably not?

  11. Cindy Sternberg

    We were at Volt on 08/30 to celebrate our anniverary as well – and for the most part I would agree with Jeff. The food was great but the service was inconsistent on this night.

    We arrived for our 7:3opm reservation for the Chef’s table about 10 minutes early and were seated immediately. Unfortunately, we were seated and waited and waited… Our water was poured and then we waited ~15-20 minutes before we were acknowledged by anyone. At that point, our server brought us the cocktail menu to review. Why didn’t they give us the cocktail menu when we were seated?? We then ordered a cocktail but again waited 10-15 minutes before our cocktails were delivered and given the menu to review – (btw: the cocktails were amazing!). All in all, we waited ~ 40-45 mintues before our order was taken.

    We ordered the 7-course tasting with wine pairing. I would agree with Jeff’s assessment – particularly course #3 – the halibut was extremely over salted – and I considered sending it back. By course #4, service was falling apart. We received course #4 but had to wait ~10 minutes for our wine service to arrive. My husband opted-out of the foie gras and had the corn ravioli instead – again amazing! Course #5 – the beef was excellent as well – again had to wait for the wine to arrive; however, the Syrah was paired extremely well with this course. Course #6 – the cheese course was ok for me – but I think this was just a personal preference (don’t like soft cheese or beer). My husband loved it – especially the pistachios with the cheese and the pairing with beer.

    Then, came dessert… We received our dessert and were awaiting our coffee when Hilda (manager?) visited our table (this was visit #3 from her during our evening there). She commented that I “looked freezing” (yes, I was sitting right underneath the air conditioning vent all evening) and “would we like to finish our dessert in the lounge”. We indicated that we midway through dessert and awaiting our coffee to finish the evening. My husband asked her directly – “are you just trying to turn this table over?” and she smiled and then asked if I needed a shawl since she had one in the closet.

    My guess is that I probably “looked freezing” at her prior 2 visits but it was only when she wanted to flip the table for the next seating that she asked if I were cold. This one incident really put a negative impact on the entire evening. Had she been honest and asked us prior to us receiving our dessert, we probably would have moved to the lounge. Had we not had to wait 45 minutes to order our dinner, we would have finished our meal in plenty of time for the next seating.

    Overall, I was disappointed in the evening. I know this is our first time there but the food proved to be great but the service inconsistent. Also, the chef’s seating area was extremely noisy during our dinnner there. So again, I would agree with Jeff: Volt – Yes, as I believe that the can fix their service issues; Chef’s table – No, this is not Hell’s Kitchen – there really isn’t much to see – and I think it takes away from the dining experience.

    I am from the school if you are going to complain that you need to offer some suggestions/recommendation:

    So, here they are:
    – Greet guests by their name (we made a reservation; you have our name; use it). This is low hanging fruit…
    – Offer your guests to have a cocktail in the lounge before you seat them or give them the cocktail menu when they are seated.
    – Have fewer tables in the chef’s dining room. Servers could barely maneuver between the tables as they are so close together and it was extemely loud.
    – The manager/maitre-d’ needs to own the dining room and it really didn’t feel that there was one person in charge on the front-end of the house.
    – The servers and sommelier need to be on the same page. No excuse to wait 10 mintues for your wine pairing.
    – Golden rule: Tell the truth.
    – See #1. Thank your guests and say good night using their names (we made a reservation; you have our name; use it). This is low hanging fruit…
    – Come on. I want you too succeed.

  12. fredfood

    Jeff and Cindy:
    Thank you for those very detailed comments. I appreciate the time you put into writing them. I also noted that I though one dish was too salty and one had too much pepper. Its interesting that although we had different tasting menus we all agree that the weakest dish was the entree. We were there for the 7:30 seating, so judging from your comments it seemed to be much more relaxed. We didn’t get out of there until after 10:30.

  13. Diana Smith

    VOLT is awful-I’m sorry to be the one to break the news. If you want that type of food, just go to Minibar. Its all the same anyways, because Brian at Volt just copies all of their food. Its sad really, to have a place of your own with no creativity.

  14. Pingback: Bryan Voltaggio on Top Chef Season 6 « Fred Foodie- Eating and Drinking in and around Frederick, Maryland

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