Monday, September 7, 2009


I'm going to make this very brief, because I think it's important for you all to know this. Excluding family holidays and meals to celebrate amazing life events and achievements, my meal at Volt was the most incredible I've ever eaten in my life. 32 years and counting, with the better part of the past decade including an ever more frenzied search and appreciation for food of the highest quality; meals eaten in Paris with friends and stars, meals eaten in Rio before Fogo was cool, meals eaten in Budapest with the old world looming over me, and meals eaten in the City where the crush of new restaurants folds the pretenders or poorly timed in a heartbeat.

I will not post any pictures of this meal because that wouldn't be fair to the chef, who created the elegant platings and watched over every speck and morsel of food coming out of his kitchen. I think it fair for a meal of this quality that you experience it in person or ask someone who has been there to paint you a picture. It will be worth it, in this circumstance, to have the thousand words rolling off their tongue rather than blithely glancing at a photograph and considering yourself would not be.

21 courses is a significant amount of food for anyone. And there were some at the chef's table our night who hit the wall at about course sixteen or seventeen. They don't consider the experience any less extraordinary, and I don't think any less of them. This was a mammoth undertaking.

Starting out of the gate with a cocktail of citrus vodka, frangellica, egg white, and a sugar-rimmed glass? That's right, said our friend the Som, we started off with dessert in the form of a Chocolate Cake Cocktail. Never mind, of course, that courses nineteen, twenty, and twenty-one were also more traditional (at least in being solid) desserts. We began...

Three and a half hours rolled by with bass accompanied by Pattypan squash and a saffron risotto, sweetbread in tempura, a chicken wing riff that included freeze dried blue cheese and a celery leaf, and a milk/white/dark chocolate combination that would send an addict off the wagon after 11 of the 12 steps of chocohalism couseling.

There was a beet macaroon dipped in liquid nitrogen. There was foam and don't hate. It wasn't last year, it wasn't passe, and it wasn't unnecessary. Sat on top of the ravioli that sat on top of the sweetest local corn I have ever tasted. Remember, best meal of my life. If this guy wants to put it on my plate, it was necessary.

There was almond dust and walnut crush. I put steak in my mouth and remember wanting more but nothing else.

You might not, but I can't forget the cranberry beans that came with the pan seared pork belly and pancetta. I know, it's not like me to focus on that. Perhaps I was in such a state that I was able to transcend pork. In any case, it was stunning. All of it.

Even the vanilla brioche onto which I spread my foie made me happy. I've referred to the bread as the 'flavor delivery vehicle' in past, relegating certain pieces of a dish to simple conveyance. But not here. You wanted the sweet crunch of that bread, and that bread only, under the luxurious foie. And, God I wanted another sour cherry.

Chick pea gnocchi arrived in the middle courses. I had seen it on the menu and hoped it was one of the items chosen for us that night. The flavor of the cecci and the form of the gnocchi were soft and perfect. They are supposed to be pillows and I was ready to sleep.

The egg was poached. So. Slowly. It had been in the water for an hour by the time it was plated for us with the turnips and the carrot and the shredded black truffle. A mountain of truffle and all I could focus on was the egg. How the white formed solid and how the yolk broke, oh so slowly when you pushed your fork down. Lava far from the heat of the cone, still flowing but not caring about break-neck speed anymore. A sprig of green falling from the carrots and the truffle to add contrast to your mind.

That reminds me. I need to tell you there were no garnishes here. There was nothing on any plate that did not add to the composition of the dish. If it was there because it was green, it was also very important that you have a piece of it when you TASTE the food too. The Chef wanted you to taste that color with that dish. If there was dot of balsamic reduction, make sure it was shared evenly among your three bites of loin of rabbit with the herb crust. He took the time to have that reduction there, you should take the time to taste it.

Neil the Som and Johna took care of us all night long. Greeted by the chef and then a good bit of time with him after the meal made our choice of the 8:30 Chef's Table the right one. He checked in with us throughout the experience as he was working the kitchen. There was never a moment when we were unattended, and no one ever got in the way of our meal. Perfect balance service without overbearing attention. Even the lads on the line would see us craning our necks to see what might be coming next and give us a quick 'rabbit' or 'lamb' heads up. [Thanks to all of you for such a brilliant evening!]

We walked out at the end of the night with the last of the dessert wine and a parting gift of poppy seed cakes so tomorrow morning wouldn't seem so dark even realizing we were eating somewhere other than Volt that day. We babbled about foie and pork belly, and how they fixed a separate dessert for SM on the fly when told of an allergy, and how we must go back again, and wasn't the sweetbread perfect in every way. And we slept and woke up the next morning full of the night before.

I'm going to stop now. I've typed quite a bit. I hope you take time someday to eat here, or somewhere like it. I don't think I want to eat like this often, I don't want to ever lose the wonder of it. And this place created wonder.

Volt on Urbanspoon


Jeanne Muir said...

my husband surprised me with Table 21 for our anniversary in May. It was a fabulous meal and the staff was so generous with their time. We got a tour of the kitchen, explanations of every course we ate and some we didn't, and a tutorial in the art of plate wiping. It was memorable. I didn't like every course but I loved the meal.

Stephanie said...

I couldn't have described it any better myself! Awesome meal with amazing friends. . .

Renee said...

This restaurant is owned by one of the contestants of the new Top Chef airing right now, I believe.

TooBlue said...

HOW did you guys get a reservation? I was just talking with someone this weekend who said similarly complimentary things, but had gone before the place blew up--thanks to the chef's noted participation in TC. Guess it's the waiting game for now...

kitchengeeking said...

We made the reservation before the show started and actually were there the first or second week of episodes, so we caught it right on the edge.

I'd definitely say that if you can get a reservation there, any reservation, not just Table 21, go do it and eat that food. It's spectacular.

Nakiya @ Taste of Baltimore said...

Wow!!!! What a review! I've heard such great things about Volt - perhaps it's time to drive on over to Frederick soon :)

I still can't imagine 21 courses though, I feel like you would need to prepare yourself all week for something like that!

kitchengeeking said...

@Nakiya - Thanks! Like I said, there was one in our foursome who really did hit the wall. But we all really enjoyed it nonetheless.

Kelly Fiore said...

Since my husband and our friends are going to Table 21 tomorrow night for dinner, this was the perfect way to psych is for it! We can't wait -- our friends went there this weekend for drinks and found out that Table 21 is booked now until March! I plan on watching Top Chef tonight (Restaurant Wars!) and having the best dinner tomorrow! Thanks again for this post. Really beautifully written!

PENALTYna said...

I just added Volt to my wishlist!! so excited!! thanks for the informative write up!! i'm a bit nervous about Table 21 but what the hey, we only live once right!;)