Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Volt! Volt!! Volt!!!

It's finally here -- Volt is set to open this Friday, July 25. To say that I am excited about this new downtown restaurant would be an understatement. And I'm not the only one!

Just in case you didn't see it, here's a link to an article in today's Frederick News Post written by one of my favorite local food writers, Rochelle Myers: http://www.fredericknewspost.com/sections/art_life/display_food.htm?storyID=77843

Volt is going to join an already great downtown Frederick restaurant scene, and I'm excited to see how this upscale addition pans out. You can check out their offical website here: http://www.voltrestaurant.com/

The hype, at least locally, has been HUGE, and the pressure is obviously on. As they get ready to open their doors, let's review a few rules to visiting a new restaurant:

# 1: Give them a little bit of time to find their feet

What the heck does that mean, you may ask? Well, let them get everything running smoothly before you start to judge them. Regardless of how polished each person's skills are, it may take a little time to have everyone working together like the well-oiled machine they hope to be. Even Thomas Keller (culinary demi-god chef/owner of Per Se in Manhattan & The French Laundry in the Napa Valley) brought many of the folks running his first restaurant to open the second, and still they hit a few (minor) bumps in the road.

No matter how great you are at your job, you weren't the best you could possibly be your first day, or even your first week.

# 2: Restaurant reviewers don't typically review restaurants in the first 3 months - neither should you

This sounds an awful lot like rule #1, but it's an important point. Don't trash the staff if you don't have the perfect first dining experience. Loosen up a little and relax. Don't be uptight, and have a good time. They will impress you if you give them a chance.

#3: Trust Your Chef

From all the hype, it looks like Voltaggio is the epitome of what chefs today want to be: He's focusing on local ingredients (in Frederick County, how could you not???), he's renovated an historic building to make the restaurant what he wants it to be, he's build a staff from the ground up. He's a local boy coming home to show us what he's got -- let him show you. Whatever you do, try the tasting menu. This is where you typically get the best your chef has to offer.

#4: Don't be afraid to try something new.

If ingredients sound a little freaky or unusual on the menu, or if the plate presentation isn't what you normally see, don't be afraid! Give something new a try. You may like it more than you think


That all said, I really cannot wait to give Volt a visit. I have high hopes for Voltaggio and his partner Hilda Staples, and think they're going to blow us away. Give them a chance and let me know what you think. Me? I'm making my reservation for early September as soon as I can. Woo hoo!

12 comments:

Lily said...

I completely agree with your comments. Your willingness to spend $200.00 on a meal while holding the restaurant accountable for almost nothing is truely impressive. Unfortunately for the consumer, the restaurant does not lower its prices during the first 2 months that it is open for this "working out the kinks" period.
My real complaint with Volt( having dined on 8-10-08) was the staff. There are some forgivable situations, but the staff is bordering on incompentent. Perhaps the staff is moonlighting at Volt between shifts at Applesbees? Our waitress presented my beef as lamb. Had to leave our table on several occasions for simple menu questions and the "sommelier" presented us with a chardonay...we ordered a pinor noir. The staff is too young, and way too green. The resurant, in my opinion, did not have a full bar and could not make a cocktail I requested, and only had only one port wine for dessert.

Some tables have marvelous views of the downtown area, others are along a bench next to a loud waiter station (our table).
The negative: local lamb from PA is not recommended. Over seasoned, perhaps because its August? Or perhaps because pennsylvania lamb can't hold up to its New Zealand counterpart?
The beef was excellent and cooked to perfection, however the 4 oz portion size left us wanting a bit more.
Perhaps the DC crowd has smaller stomachs? But this is Frederick, and I don't know how long it will last once the buzz settles.

PS-The staff uniforms are awkward looking, should deffinately re-consider.

Chef Christine said...

Don't give up on them yet Lily! I really believe that you just need to give them some time to settle in. They have the credentials (and from what I've heard, the talent as well) to really make Volt hop.

A lot of folks are really excited about Volt and I think Voltaggio, Staples & staff will deliver. After all, they've only been open a few weeks. Go back in October and let me know how it is then. I'll bet that you'll be singing a different tune ;)

Anonymous said...

Our party had the best laugh at Volt's expense last night. Without a doubt, Volt is the most pretentious restaurant ever. Was it the foam garnish? Foam, as in bubbles. Little tiny bubbles. Or, was it the server (waitress) who said "we weren't sure Frederick was ready for a place like this." Bottom line was the very average food (at best) and the very poor service did not match up with the image and the prices.

I wonder who'll be in that location next year?

Dennis said...

I've got to say that I'm completely confused by both Lily and Anonymous. Lily put in sommelier in quotes like he wasn't truly a sommelier. Volt's sommelier was the sommelier at The Inn at Little Washington before he joined Volt. You don't get better credentials than that. And I don't know how you can spend $200 on dinner at Volt. I've eaten dinner there twice. The first time, we ordered from the regular menu. Our waitress explained that we should order all four courses and we did. We had an excellent meal (I had the English Pea Soup, Lobster, Duck, and Chocolate desert) that cost us between $50 and $60 each before wine. I must not have as sophisticated of a palate as Lily because we didn't spend $140 each on wine (we didn't spend that all together on wine!). My second meal at Volt was the 7-course Chef's Tasting Menu (an incredible experience that I recommend) which including wine was in the $140 each range -- a price I'll only pay for a true celebration. It was the most amazing dining experience I've ever had. The servers were very attentive. The sommelier spent time with us before and during the meal explaining what he was serving us and why. And the Chef (it was Graham) included 4 extra mini-courses so we ended up truly tasting 11 courses. I'm a big guy and I like a big steak for dinner as much as the next guy but I can tell you that didn't leave Volt hungry either time. No plate was ever covered in food. But collectively there was a lot to eat. And the new taste and texture combinations were incredible.

daniel said...

I have to differ with you lily. I dined at Volt this evening and had the finest dining experience I have ever had. Our meal was under $200.00, including drinks. I feel that with the service and food quality it was worth far more.
Our waitress was young, but incredibly knowledgeable of the menu, able and willing to answer all of our questions. She even went into detail about the culinary techniques for the beef, lamb, and duck. And she was very excited to tell us about their homemade icecream which was, incredible! She was adorable.
We dined in the main a la carte dining room, our table was by the window overlooking patrick street. It was very comfortable, and the only noise I heard was from other guests, not staff members.
I have not one complaint, and I am not giving them slack for just opening. Their staff seems highly trained and professional. The meal, and service were flawless.

daniel said...

I have to differ with you lily. I dined at Volt this evening and had the finest dining experience I have ever had. Our meal was under $200.00, including drinks. I feel that with the service and food quality it was worth far more.
Our waitress was young, but incredibly knowledgeable of the menu, able and willing to answer all of our questions. She even went into detail about the culinary techniques for the beef, lamb, and duck. And she was very excited to tell us about their homemade icecream which was, incredible! She was adorable.
We dined in the main a la carte dining room, our table was by the window overlooking patrick street. It was very comfortable, and the only noise I heard was from other guests, not staff members.
I have not one complaint, and I am not giving them slack for just opening. Their staff seems highly trained and professional. The meal, and service were flawless.

Chef Christine said...

Sounds like we've got both sides of the coin! I think this backs up my initial statement that you need to give them some time to find their feet -- don't you? It takes a while to really get the team to gell, regardless of how great they are. It seems like Volt is starting to really get it working, though obviously the concept isn't for everyone (no restaurant is). What some may view as pretentious, others really dig as expertise. It all depends where you're coming from.

The comment about "not knowing if Frederick is ready for this type of restaurant" still bothers me a little. Of course lots of folks are thinking that, but it's difficult to address directly with the customers without seeming condesending, which I'm sure was not the intention, right? See how tricky that can be?

A lot of folks are talking to me about Volt, and they are all saying that the food is impeccable. Completely delicious. Outstanding. The other thing they're saying is that the portions are tiny. It seems like it really is necessary to go with four courses if you're not going with the tasting menu (still my #1 recommendation!). Of course, we're all still in the mindset that bigger is better. If you know anything about The French Laundry or Per Se, you know that the portions are itty bitty. That's kind of the idea; making the customer want just a little more, then blowing them away with the next thing. It seems like Daniel & Dennis are both really, really pleased with their meals. I'm still really looking forward to eating at Volt, and I'm saving my pennies to do it!

Bill said...

I just found this blog thread concerning Volt. A friend of mine forwarded it to me as I have visited Volt several times. I have dined in the main dining room, the Chef's Table, and at the bar. I have been to Volt for dinner and for brunch.

Volt is fabulous. There is nothing like it in Maryland, let alone poor old Frederick. The menu is fresh, creative and sumptously fulfilling on multiple levels. I won't bore you with the specifics of each dish I have tried, but I suggest you dine at the restaurant and try it for yourself. It is a completely unique dining experience in the metro area.

I cannnot make heads or tails of Lily or Anonymous's comments. They do not jive with the actual experience enjoyed at Volt (Though there is foam and it is sublime). Lily's comments regarding Volt's Sommelier are incorrect at best, and mean spirited at worst. I have asked for guidance from the Sommelier on several occasions with regards to wine type, style, pairing with food and price and the guidance has been flawless.

Service is personal and unobtrusive. I am impressed with the youth, vitality and overall competence of the staff. It is true they are young, but they are sharp. Volt has been open for a month and the service improves on itself each week.

As for price, I hosted a party of 10 at the Chef's table and we did the 5 course tasting menu and wine pairing (+drinks). Total tab for 10 with 20% tip was $1500. This is about the same or lower than a similar dinner I hosted earlier this year at one of the then leading restaurants in Frederick. Dinner at Volt in the main dining room for 3 with drinks and wine was $185 a few weeks ago. Brunch for 4 on Sunday (1st brunch service began on the 24th) was $100 with drinks and tip.

There is a bar menu if you want a snack or a light meal. Hanger steak with Frites is $12 and is a meat eater's dream.

Go to Volt. Spend a little , spend a lot, I don't think you'll be disappointed!

Lily said...

Yikes! Mean spirited? No. Standards? Yes. It does sound like other diners had more pleasant dining experiences, which go toward a rating of inconsistent at best. And as for the chef throwing in 4 mini courses for Dennis...well, lucky Dennis. I got a box of stale anise cookies as a parting gift/consolation prize for making the rash decission to dine at Volt.

I am but one diner, and I am entitled to my opinion. And you, my dear Bill, are entitled to spend your money during a recession in any way you like. Forgive me for not hurridly making another reservation.

Frederick is ready for fine dining restaurants, but I don't think this one qualifies on price and white linen alone.
--Mutton dresses as lamb.

Bill said...

Lily, Sorry to hear that.

I'll be at the bar.

Liz said...

Lest anyone be confused by Daniel's comment, VOLT is on Market Street so it would be hard to see Patrick street out the window! Haha!

We went to the bar last month and are going for dinner in a couple weeks. I've met Aaron the Sommelier a couple times and it's obvious to me that he loves his job. I'm looking forward to my first meal at VOLT.

Anonymous said...

Its so exciting to hear the opinions of Frederick Foodies. We know whats good, and whats not. We are educated and we have refined palates. For years it has been: "We know nothing about fine dining in Frederick" and I can honesty say that is seems Volt wants to take advantage of that. I dined a few days ago, and it was one of the most horrible dining experiences to date. I dont want to go through the whole meal, it was too bad to recap-so we'll highligh the lows! First and foremost, was the bread. I am truley sorry, but that wasnt bread. It was flour, yes, but with no gluten and no SALT! The appetizers were underseasoned as well, and boring. Mids of Foie and Squab were not even thought out. Foie with a slice of melon? If I were the "Chef" I would be embarassed to say that was my dish. And the squab was overcooked. I cant remember mains, nor would I want to. And then we come to cheese. How can one mess up something so beautiful? With cocoa, thats how. Im so embarrassed to see Frederick finally on the dining scene with Volt. It is truely what every restaurant fears that they will be, bad.