A menu four months — plus 15 years or so — in the making debuts Wednesday night when Volver opens in the Kimmel Center. Chef Jose Garces’ newest restaurant, an exclusive, intimate locale, is inspired by his extensive travels in the states and internationally. Garces and chef de cuisine Natalie Maronski have been experimenting with translating his worldly concepts onto the plate since January.
“We started with around 20 different dishes, and we’ve been tweaking and fine-tuning and narrowing them down,” Maronski says in the 34-seat dining room, taking a break from prep and practice two days before opening night.
The result is a multi-course, technique-heavy menu with an emphasis on seafood, offered Wednesday through Sunday evenings in a pre-theater and a later seating dubbed the “Performance.”
Every dish has a story behind it; the Kentucky Fried Squab, cooked in the same pressure fryer KFC uses, is a play on Garces’ memories of jaunts to the fried chicken joint with his dad as a kid. As diners, at tables arranged around an open kitchen, watch while the staff prepares plates, servers will explain how each dish came to be. “It’s all part of the show,” says Maronski, 30, the star performer. She plans to be in the kitchen every night. Garces will be there, roughly, 10 nights a month, though that’s subject to change.
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Maronski, who’s been at Garces restaurants since 2006, says her favorite “little bite” on the menu is the biscuit that comes with the squab. A favorite dish is From the Garden, which starts with baby lettuce grown at Garces’ Bucks County farm and brought to Volver still in the dirt, to be plucked and washed when ordered. Nine other ingredients go onto that plate, including goat cheese mimicking soil, thanks to a spoonful of squid ink.
Eat at Volver
Instead of reservations, a meal at Volver requires a pre-purchased, nonrefundable ticket, which currently goes for $75, $100 or $175, depending on the seating. That includes eight or 12 courses but not tax, a 20 percent tip automatically added to the total, or the optional wine pairings. For future menus, which will be adjusted with the seasons, the price range could be $75-$250.
The ticketing system is a first for the city — as Maronski says, “Philly is evolving.”