Friday, January 22, 2010

A Russian Peasant goes to Volt

First, let me say that I am in no way qualified to judge or critique Volt from a true haute-couture of food perspective. I really don’t know if a beet infused foam bead tastes like a beet infused foam bead should taste. I’m only able to say whether or not, from my peasant perspective, it tastes good. I shall leave the wheatgrass foam critiques to the Tom Colicchio’s of the world.

So….does the food at Volt merit all the glory received since the latest season of Top Chef began to air? Well, after 5 visits, I can emphatically say yes…and no.

Oh, you already know why the answer is “yes”. The style, the service, the ambience, the vibe of the place. And, much of the food is pretty darn deli

cious. The portions are smaller than we have come to expect from restaurants. But the complexity and intensity of flavors more than make up for a reduction in volume. Plus, although the sizes appear small, I have never left t

here unsatisfied. (I’m just wondering – are their portion’s size actually what a serving should be? Hmm…that could explain SO much )

Pork tenderloin has been on the menu for two of our visits to Volt. Both times, the dish was artfully presented and appropriately accompanied by perfect little vegetables. The preparation of the meat however has been inconsistent.

At lunch, the pork was perfect: soft, tender, and nicely pink in the middle. My dinner entrée, sadly, didn’t fare as well. Though it was seasoned nicely, the meat itself was overcooked and kind of dry. Not so dry as to be inedible, but dry enough that I wasn’t making the swooning noises that normally accompany dishes prepared at Volt. Dry enough that I wished I had kept my salad so that I could swirl the meat around in the left over vinaigrette.

Before you start hollering at me and admonishing me for not sharing my feelings with the server so that the kitchen had a chance to fix the problem, let me explain. Yes, I could have sent it back and waited for them to remake the dish. But everyone else at the table had their food already and it would have put a real damper on the evening if I delayed everything by sending back my dinner. So I didn’t.

Plus, at this high level of cooking, shouldn’t someone in the kitchen have noticed that the meat was brown instead of pink? The meat was sliced before being brought to the table so the center of the meat was clearly visible to the cutter/presenter/server. This wasn’t a beat the clock in a Top Chef challenge so there was surely enough time for t

hem to recognize the problem before they delivered it to the table.

Lucky for our table, the other three had dishes that were just fabulous. Lobster that was tender and sweet and tasted of the sea. Beef that was meaty, rare and meltingly soft.

By the time dessert arrived and the sauterne was poured, all negative thoughts of pork were banished. My friends, I just can’t describe the dessert well enough to do it the justice it deserves. I’m thinking that it was very much like the dessert BV made during Episode 9 of Top Chef (

It was chocolate and chocolate and some chocolate and creamy and rich and smooth and, well, if I were at home I would surely have licked the plate.

The lunch cavalcade of chocolates was less successful. This time, instead of a dark chocolate ganache, it was white chocolate (which, of course, isn’t chocolate at all but cocoa butter sweetened up and flavored so that it tastes good – but it still ain’t chocolate.)

The ganache was served with a smooth milk chocolate ice cream and crispy chocolate tuiles. 4 out of 4 of us loved the ice cream. 0 of 4 of us liked the odd, somehow gelatinous ganache.

Nobody took a second bite. Then there were these little flat candied Florentine-looking crisps placed into the ganache, just so, to give some height to the dish. Pretty. Everyone took a bite. Brows furrowed, we asked each other, “Does yours taste burnt?” We asked our very fabulous server about it and he informed us “They are supposed to be burned”. Really? Burned is a good thing? Who knew?

To me, it wasn’t that good kind of crackly burned like the top of a Crème Brule. It was more like when you put the cookies in the oven and then get so engrossed in Desperate Housewives that you forget all about them and come back later to hard disks with dark brown edges. If you were to eat only the edges – it would taste freakishly similar to the tuiles. What can I say – if they’re supposed to be burned, they’re supposed to be burned. What do I know? As I said before, I’m a peasant.

Let’s see, what else did we have. There was the creamy, rich chowder with a sweet little scallop in it. What fabulous flavor. Striped bass on a potato soufflé with mussels on the side. My fish was so perfect and so sweetly non-fishy, that even a non-seafood lover would have fallen for it.

I could have skipped the mussels though. They were cooked well, but very fishy. That’s the thing with mussels – you never know how they’re going to taste until you actually taste them. One day, you can get big, plump tender and juicy mussels – and the next day, well, you get the Jersey Shore, Bro.

This has gone on long enough – time to wrap it up. Do I like Volt? Yes. Is it perfect? Not yet. Should you go? Absolutely. And cross your fingers that the real chocolate ganache is back on the menu…


Nickname unavailable said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for real dining reviews in Frederick! I always love reading your posts! Good to get the skinny on restaurants from someone willing to tell the whole truth!

MHB said...

Oh, Dining Diva, I soo love your posts. Please check out the weekday lunchtime sushi buffet at Matsutake.

Is it the finest sushi this side of Tokyo? Well, admittedly not. But for sushi gluttons and wasabi masochists it's an utter delight. And at $12 a pop it's a serious waistline hazard.

TheLocalsFavorites said...

Have you all checked our Monocacy Crossing off of 355 just outside of Frederick? It is awesome. I am looking to get several restaurants on my website to include Monocacy Crossing. It doesn't matter what you order it is so good!!! I am a food snob big time that is how I came up with the idea of putting this website together, check it out!

Dining Diva said...

I love Monocacy Crossing - one of my favorite places to go in the county. Their Diver Scallops with Bacon Vinaigrette is pretty doggone delicious! I've never had a bad meal though. My only complaint, and it's minor, is that I always have to take layers of clothing becasue the dining room can be quite cold in the winter. Hard to keep the heat inside in these older buildings.

Anonymous said...

am looking to get several restaurants on my website to include Monocacy Crossing.