you can read about my first trip to Volt and how great it was. I was itching for another opportunity to go again. my friend invited me to go be a part of their reservation for Table 21, the chef’s table in the kitchen of Chef Bryan Voltaggio’s top notch restaurant. There are 8 seats at Table 21, and from what I gathered, the reservation was made at least a year in advance. Needless to say, this was not an opportunity to miss! We got together for our seating at 8:30 (they have 2 seatings for Table 21 available only on certain nights) and got drinks in the bar. a very cool display in the bar shows the expo window of the kitchen where you can observe each plate getting finished. We were ushered to our seats and things were just as I remembered. the open style kitchen allows for people to see how clean, deliberate, and efficient everyone in the kitchen operates. I’ll first go through the 21 courses (with photos, of course), and then give my impressions at the end. Enjoy!
This is Table 21, right in front of the cold prep station. Mostly appetizers were plated on the stainless steel counter in front of us. It was super nice to see how efficiently everyone operated. Bryan Voltaggio was in the kitchen that night, and we had the opportunity to say hi briefly as we saw him working furiously at the expo window and the flat top station. Table 21 is the front row seats to the kitchen.
The place setting when we sat down had a charger which all our appetizer courses were served on.
To start was a nitrogen-frozen mojito (10 cane, simple syrup). It was alcoholic, which is why nitrogen is needed to freeze it. alcohol has a lower freezing temperature than water, so you have to add a ton of nitrogen while mixing it to make these delicious frozen crystals of mojito goodness.
2nd course was a play on chips and dip. The “chips” were dehydrated prosciutto with a dip of potato and chive. What I wouldn’t give for a giant bowl of those chips!
3rd Course – celeriac macaroon with foie gras filling and a pinch of orange dust. The macaroons were kept in a dehydrator to keep that airy crisp texture. The foie gras filling was a tasty, savory treat.
4th Course – Mock oyster (oyster salsify, oyster leaf, malt vinegar) made with a spherification technique that I am very very jealous of. I had made small coca-cola caviar balls before, but this was larger, about the size of a nickel, and it had a great skin with plenty of oyster-y juice inside. I liked it because it showed great technical mastery as well as a nice play on a tradition oyster on a half shell.
5th Course – sashimi (fluke, yellow doll watermelon, ginger, cucumber blossom) plate was very beautifully done. These bites were individually very tasty and the fish was beyond fresh.
6th Course – ravioli (goat’s milk ravioli, vegetable ash, corn, maitake mushrooms). It was topped with a truffle foam (if I remember correctly). it was a really strong goat’s milk flavor that was mellowed out with the vegetables and earthy mushrooms.
7th Course – Sheep’s milk cavatelli (porcini mushrooms, bacon lardon, flowers, herbs). the cavatelli looked handmade and had a great soft texture that had a great bite. it was the first hit of savoryness that really played up the bacon lardon and creamy sheep’s milk.
8th Course – Butter poached Maine lobster (steel cut oats, honeycap mushroom, kombu, fresh yeast). This was easily my favorite dish so far. The lobster claw tasted exactly how you want every piece of crustacean to taste. It was served with steel cut oats, another favorite of mine, that appeared to be made with cream or at least whole milk. I like steel cut oats with a heavier creamier taste.
9th Course – Rockfish (artichoke barigoule, overnight tomato, roasted fennel, deep fried dill). I’ve always admired perfectly cooked small pieces of fish. they are so delicate and require a little more attention than a whole filet. The combination with the artichoke, fennel and dill is classic, however each part was cooked differently, providing different flavors and textures which I appreciated. Deep fried dill is super tasty!
10th Course – Sous-vide hen egg (ruby quinoa, thyme, minus 8 vinaigrette). Raising the bar once again with another amazing food technique, this sous-vide egg was delicious. the clear-cooked egg white provided texture to the otherwise monotonous quinoa. I like the richness provided by the egg yolk complementing the quinoa and edible flowers
11th Course – Sweetbreads (fennel, oyster mushrooms, hazelnuts, caper dust). I love sweetbreads. it’s like foie gras, you either love it or hate it. this super savory dish was served with beautiful caramelization. I’m never opposed to adding tasty mushrooms to a savory plate.
12th Course – Spring Garden Beets (roasted beets, chevre, coffee soil, asparagus dust). another well-executed play on a roasted beet salad. The beet meringue pieces added different textures to what is normally a pretty poorly viewed root veg. I have grown a liking to beets and this was definitely a great way to experience what beets have to offer.
13th Course – foie gras (nitrogen-frozen foie gras, brioche, crystal lettuce, gala apple). The foie gras course was such a surprise, normally a pate of foie gras is pretty standard, but this presentation with the foie gras “chips” was a fun way to eat the liver treat.
14th Course – Red Wattle Pork Belly (blackberry, cranberry beans, stewed mustard, roasted fennel). Pork belly was cooked perfectly with a delicious scored skin. The crispiness of the skin, smooth texture of the bacon fat, and soft meat made for a bite that I wanted more of. the beans helped highlight the differences in texture, providing a graininess to the traditional pork belly dish.
15th Course – Rabbit Prosciutto (kalamata olive, cassoulet of summer beans, marjoram). I’m not sure why it’s called prosciutto, the meat looked closer to sausage than what we traditionally think of as prosciutto. There was definitely a delicious cured-meat taste, which made for a really good way to introduce some rabbit first-timers to the tasty game meat.
16th Course – Beef Strip Loin (salt crusted potatoes, purple turnip, pickled mustard). This “meat and potatoes” dish was very well done. the rare meat along with the very small (fingerling or new) potatoes was something I’d love to have a full entree serving of. It is a solid dish that is very easy to mess up, another testament to how this restaurant can go from molecular gastronomy techniques to traditional foods with masterful execution.
17th Course – Wedge Salad (nitrogen lettuce, nitrogen bacon, nitrogen blue cheese). although I love your steakhouse wedge salad, this one was not entirely satisfying just because I did not love the texture. it was a very cool way to eat lettuce though. the blue cheese was a little strong – possibly because it was disproportionately more blue cheese than lettuce compared to a traditional wedge salad. technically awesome, but leaves more to be desired.
18th Course – Nitrogen whipped cream, lavender, vanilla, coconut. This was the first dessert course, and it was a very nice palate cleaner (especially after the blue cheese). the light flavors were very clean and pretty much told my taste buds to “change gears, it’s dessert time”.
19th Course – Dulce de Leche (honey, lime, spicy pineapple). it was a plate of different textured desserts. the dulce de leche was the caramel colored log looking thing which had a marzipan or gum paste consistency. the canelle of lime sorbet offered a cool contrast to the sweet leche. The honey was presented in a baked or dehydrated form which was very artistic and visually appealing.
20th Course – Cake (yellow corn sponge cake, blackberry, sorrel leaf, nitrogen creme fraiche). This was another play on a regular yellow cake. The cake was spongy and perfectly tasty. You can tell it was plated just before serving because of the vapor trails from the nitrogen-treated creme fraiche. I wish I could have birthday cakes like this all the time!
21st Course – Candies (passion fruit gelee, macaroon, chocolates, coconut truffle). Solid ending of a variety of dessert items. I couldn’t place it but it looked like this course was designed to be miniature bite-sized versions of normal full sized desserts.
The take-home treats. A box of the 21st course and a list of the 21 courses was sent home with us to take home. I was trying to keep track of the menu by doing small voice recordings of each course when they were presented to us. turns out I should have just asked if they were going to give us a listing, could have saved some time!
As with my first time at Volt, I ordered the arnold palmer. they have some really well-brewed iced tea, and a lemonade that appears to be fresh squeezed and more on the tart side (just how I like it). You can see from the photo the ice cubes are made from the tea so they don’t dilute the refreshing beverage.
The bill was nothing to laugh at – but we knew it was about $121 per person at Table 21. I definitely wouldn’t be able to do this often, but it is absolutely a culinary treat.
Again, Volt did not disappoint. It is a culinary machine that seems to constantly display their culinary mastery through plays on traditional dishes, flavor combinations, and most interesting to me, molecular gastronomy techniques. I was most impressed with Table 21 because it allows a diner to each a wide variety of what Volt is capable of. The techniques I could identify were spherification, nitrogen freezing, dehydration, sous-vide, and emulsification (foams). These are amazing techniques that require a lot of practice and experimentation to perfect. They kind of fall under the “molecular gastronomy” heading, where chemistry is exploited through food – very new stuff in the culinary world.
After this second visit to Volt, I’m fully convinced Frederick, Maryland is blessed to have Chef Voltaggio in its midst. it is well worth the trip up to visit them. Get a reservation and prepare to be wowed. I’m a little concerned that the Voltaggio brothers are opening another restaurant, because it may take Bryan away from the Volt kitchen – which is definitely a big draw for people to come and say hi to him. He was very welcoming of guests and took pictures with people as they left. We did not get a chance to get a group photo, unfortunately, but I guess that’ll have to wait till the next trip!