Sunday, July 20, 2014

A night at VOLT

I normally am not one to make a big deal out of my birthday, preferring to leave all that party hooplah to the kids.  This year, though, we splurged and went to VOLT, a restaurant I've been wanting to go to for a while now. Brian Voltaggio, who was the runner up on Bravo's Master Chef one season,  is the chef who opened the restaurant, and I had been hearing that it was amazing, so I really wanted to see for myself.

Our meal was really memorable, not least of which was because of the company, two dear friends who accompanied us on this food adventure.  Surprising textures, combinations, and a little food "magic" (or science, whatever you want to believe) left an impression on all of us!

Me and my lovely husband.  I loved the tiled "EAT" on the wall.  Don't mind if I do!

The first thing to come out of the kitchen (besides the home made breadsticks, which were delicious) was this little bite of macaron.  But not any macaron.  This was a liver macaron, with a foie gras filling and cherry puree on top.  To be honest, I thought the cherry flavor got completely lost amongst the strong liver flavor, but the macaron was surprising in its lightness and crisp texture.  Intrigued (because liver is so fatty and normally when making macarons you need to keep all fat out, otherwise you deflate the egg whites and the cookie becomes chewy), I asked one of the staff for some insight, and a little molecular gastronomy was involved to dry out the liver before it was added to the egg whites.  It was surprising and delicious!

You have to take a leap of faith when ordering at VOLT. The menu items (at least on the a la carte side) really just listed ingredients/flavor combinations rather than tell you exactly what you are getting. For example, my first course was listed on the menu as "English peas, crabmeat, buttermilk."  It came out as a soup.  My husband's first course (listed first as "smoked beets with yellow fin tuna and tonnato), came out as these perfect red cubes (see the top of the picture to the left), which I thought at first were the smoked beets.  No, that was the tuna, with just a couple of small pieces of the beets.  So leave any preconceived notions and assumptions at the door, because the chefs at VOLT are going to mess you a little bit.  But in a good way.  All of the food was delicious!  And my pictures do not do any of this justice, because I was trying to be "covert" with my picture-taking, just using my phone, but totally geeking out over the food anyway. 

Even the breads were fabulous!  Our choices were cheddar-chive buttermilk biscuits, a sourdough roll, and a whole grain brioche (if I understand our server correctly, the grain used to make the brioche was left over from the beer brewing process, giving it a unique flavor).  Being a fancy restaurant, they did not leave a bread basket on the table, but served you your choice from a basket they carried with them to the table.  Probably a good thing, because I would have inhaled every one of those sourdough rolls!!

Next came our pasta course.  I had this really interesting carrot pasta (pasta with carrot puree as a sauce) with a coffee foam. Jonathan's was a lobster raviolo (yup, just one), with a pea foam, asparagus and greens.  Maybe it's just me, but I really don't understand the whole "foam" trend.  I think it just makes a weak sauce, but maybe I'm not sophisticated enough to appreciate it. The winner for the night though (and I don't have a picture of this, unfortunately) was the chard agnolotti (kind of like a raviolo in that it is a filled pasta) with applewood bacon. It was fantastic!

The main courses deserve their own photos!

On the right is halibut with white asparagus and rhubarb, and on the left is black bass with roasted cauliflower and a cauliflower slaw that was outstanding!

My entree was lobster with preserved meyer lemon (those are the little dots of yellow), pickled onion and broccoli.  I know the descriptions do not do any of this justice (similar to my photos, alas), but I was hoping to just use the on-line menu.  Our fourth companion had a delicious soft shell crab with rice. Unfortunately, the on-line menu is slightly different than our menu choices for the night.  I'm sure they put that up online just to give people an idea of the food, not the exact food choices for the night they will be there.  Bottom line, my interest in eating the food, trumped my interest in taking notes on exactly what the menu described.  Sorry, dear readers.

As a surprise, the staff brought out a little ball of gelato with an orange coating the made it taste like a creamsicle. With a candle.  :-)  We also ordered coffee and espresso.  The coffee comes in cute French presses for each diner.  Personally, I would hate to be the one who has to clean all of those, because I hate cleaning our French press...but I digress.

Dessert was another revelation!  The top plate was coconut, blood orange and yogurt, but (and I suspect more molecular magic was going on here), the coconut was almost like a light, freeze-dried coconut cream, that had a surprising powdery texture, but combined beautifully with the yogurt underneath. The bottom plate holds what was listed on the menu as "Chocolate, sesame, caramel."  I kid you not.  As I mentioned before, you have to take a little leap of faith at VOLT, but you will be rewarded.  This one was a white chocolate custard, with caramel sauce and a sesame tuile.  Soooo delicious!

We also noted how each food item was served on a different type of plate. Not sure if that was because each dish's presentation was different or what, but it was kind of cool.

Finally, at the end of our meal while we were waiting for our bill, the kitchen gave us these little treats:

From left to right, they are: a chocolate truffle, a financier, pomegranate fruit gelee, and a wee macaron (this one was sweet), with a chocolate ganache filling.  To be honest, if I had known they were bringing those out, I might not have ordered dessert, which is probably why they keep it a secret.  :-)

Not only that, but they gave us little cinnamon cakes to take home!

Thanks to VOLT and its staff for such a lovely, exciting and surprising dinner.  I hope to make it back there, as well as try another Brian Voltaggio enterprise, Family Meal, which is opening a location near us really soon.  I can't wait!!

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