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Oct 15, 2009 10:30 PM

Volt, Table 21: A Return Visit

Tonight we left the Tysons Corner area and deadheaded straight into a gridlocked morass of traffic crunched on the Beltway, travelling into Maryland, inch by inch. Forty five minutes to travel six miles, all with rain pelting on our windshield with the defroster cranked up to clear the windows. At some point traffic opened up and we began to cruise north on 270, our speedometer approaching 30 mph. North of Shady Grove it shot up to 50 and in Germantown we cruised north at 65. Almost ninety minutes after leaving Tysons we were rolling down North Market street in Frederick for a return dinner at Volt's Table 21.

Despite the rain, the jumble of cars and the heat from the windshield' defroster, not to mention 90 minutes for a trip that normally would take 45, Volt's Table 21 waited for us. My wife and I were first here for our anniversary in early July: Almost from the minute we left then we had wanted to return. Then it had been one of the best dining experiences we'd had in the D. C. area, believing that it rivalled Komi, MiniBar, Enzo's Table 21, Eve's Tasting Room and CityZen. A second trip seemed to be necessary to confirm what we had experienced then.

Tonight was that second trip. Given the rain, the wind and the traffic it had to be even better than what we found in early July.

And it was. Volt's Table 21-again-was an incredible experience. Four + hours and 21 courses later we waddled out, sated and smiling, believing that it was more than worth even the worst driving experience to Frederick. In fact we were lucky that it was ONLY Frederick that we had to drive to for this. It could have been Washington, VA or Chilhowie.

While a number of courses were different from what I described in the link above this was an extraordinary evening and dining adventure. On this visit we found a great sommelier, Neil Dundee, who rivals the D. C. area's best. His wine list includes a number of values along with cult wines such a K Vintners "The Boy" Grenache from Walla Walla. Along with Chef Bryan and several other staff he was instrumental in cementing my belief that Volt's Table 21 is the best overall dining experience in the D. C. area. Again, seated literally in the middle of Volt's kitchen, this is a unique evening totally different from anything else available in the area. Some might even suggest (and I would agree) that this is a better overall dining experience than even the Chef's Table (with its $400 suppliment) at The Inn at Little Washington.

A great evening that I had hope those reading this can explore and enjoy. We are indeed fortunate that Bryan Voltaggio has introduced Frederick to Volt and enthusiasts like ourselves to Table 21. The only possible way to improve this remarkable experience would be, one day, to create a similar experience in D. C. In the meantime Frederick is not as far as it seems. Even when it is raining.

Volt. Table 21. A return visit worthy of even another.

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  1. JoeH-- My biggest issue with my Table21 experience was that it was a bit too rushed. How did you manage to get them to slow it down to last 4 hours? I'd have loved that.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Pool Boy

      They do two seatings on weekends, so that might have something to do with being rushed. We ate in just over 2 hours, but we were fine with that pace.

      1. re: Ericandblueboy

        That was not an issue with our experience. There was only one seating on the Friday we went, and we were the only 2 people there, even (believe it or not). So, I was a little puzzled by the pacing.

    2. We have reservations for Table 21 in December (we made them 3 months out!) and your review continues to get me excited for it.

      Is Chef Bryan in the kitchen every day? Is he directly involved in the preparation of the Table 21 courses?

      1 Reply
      1. re: bluepig1

        We arrived at 7:15 and were seated immediately. The first course was probably served at 7:30 or so with the last course served around 10:15. Then coffee. We got into an extended discussion with the Chef and sommolier about wine (the K Vintner's wines and shiraz in particular). It was about 11:15 or 11:20 when we left.

        As far as I know he is there everyday and yes, he personally served a number of the dishes. I must also note that where you sit is probably not more than five feet or so to where the plating is done. This is part of the enormous attraction of the experience for me. It is not just that his food is imaginative and delicious (phenominal tuna tartare and "banana split"-both a "Great Dish" for me) but the physical location of the four seats is extraordinary. There is a table in the kitchen in other restaurants. Here you are virtually in the middle of the kitchen.

      2. We went to Volt for the first time about 3 weeks ago. We ate in the main dining room because we were celebrating a friend's birthday and I knew that the Chef's Dining Room would be way too adventurous for her, let alone Table 21! I understand that Table 21 is a mind-blowing experience. I'm curious, however, about the Chef's Dining Room. Has anyone ever dined there? What were your impressions, not only of the food but of the room itself? I'm asking because I walked by it on my way to the restroom and the room seemed a bit stark and cold; I could be wrong, though, as I only had a brief glimpse, not wanting to stand and stare.

        1 Reply
        1. re: foodtrip

          We ate in the Chef's dining room last month. It's a small room, about 4-5 tables if I recall correctly. We had a direct view of the chefs, and could see Table 21 to the right. While the room is white, I didn't have the impression of it being cold or stark.

          We absolutely loved the food and presentation. The service was top notch. The only quibble would be with portion sizes; very small, as were the matching wine pours. I didn't expect to leave a six-course meal hungry! While we knew the tasting menu would present smaller samples, we didn't expect them to be quite so small! Next time, we'll try the main dining room.

        2. Two brothers, a good friend, and I were lucky enough to make it to Table 21 this past Saturday (after making a reservation over a month ago) and were completely blown away. Every single word of praise for this place is spot on. Our experience in every aspect was extremely memorable from the sommelier, to the service, to the wine list, and most importantly, to the food.

          I found myself rooting very hard for Bryan on Top Chef, but after a visit to Table 21, the show is a moot point. He could be sent home this week and it wouldn’t matter. He, as well as his restaurant, are going to gain critical acclaim not just in the New York/Philly/Baltimore/DC stretch of the east coast, but across the country. I’m already excited to be able to say that I’ve eaten at Table 21.

          8 Replies
          1. re: gregb

            Does Table 21 have a private bathroom so one is spared sharing too much information as with the transgendered post-modern unprivate one the regular public has to use? What's up with that, did they have historical building restrictions so they couldn't privatize? The issue goes beyond the shared adjacent washing areas seen in other abusively trendy places.

            1. re: chowsearch

              Transgendered bathrooms? Are you sure you were at Volt? I've been there twice and there are two bathrooms separate for men and women.

              Went to Table 21 this past August and really enjoyed it. Was wondering if they still have the very succulent beef tenderloin - and if it is still being plated on a very large plate? The beef I had was so tasty but took so long to plate such a huge plate (the depth of the table) that the corn puree started to develop a skin under the heat lamps. Hope that's been rectified.

              1. re: onocoffee

                The separate bathrooms have separate doors, and separate washing areas. At least when I was there earlier this year, the washing areas were separated visually in part but not at all for sound. The area in the mens room that customarily gets privacy was not very private and very close to the audibly-conjoined washing area in a way calculated to be jolting. The overall wash-up experience could be predictably perceived by many as less than pleasant and without an overall feeling of owner concern for customer comfort. Some may think this arrogant, some may feel it trendy, few will find it private.

                1. re: chowsearch

                  Maybe I'm not as sensitive as you but I agree that the partition between the two separate bathrooms isn't floor-to-ceiling. But does that put me off? Or does that lessen my privacy while using the facilities? I did not think so. Nor did I feel somehow invaded because of it.

                  While I didn't think the setup was meant to be "jolting," I did think that the interior design of the bathroom was incongruent with the rest of the space. The dining rooms tended towards a richer, luxurious environment and the bathrooms went towards ultra-modern.

                  1. re: onocoffee

                    Our party of six had an endless discussion about this very topic during our visit!

                    While it was not as intrusive as the communal bathroom of "Ally McBeal," as noted above, it really did seem to be completely out of character with the rest of the restaurant.

                    But then again, so are the brown Converse hightops, so I guess they really are trying to make a statement. I just don't know what it means...

            2. re: gregb

              I called last week and Table 21 is now booked for all Friday and Saturday nights up until July of 2010....I reserved July 23rd. I guess the notoriety coming from Bryan's success on Top Chef is really driving up demand.....good for Bryan, but bad for us that want to experience his wonderful food.

              1. re: ChrisVA

                Oh my God!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! July of 2010? Still, we loved this experience and returned three months after our first visit. It really is one of the great dining adventures anywhere.

                1. re: Joe H

                  I am sure you could it sooner if you go during the week, but with the hour plus drive and then 3+ hours of eating I wouldn't want to have to go to work the next day.

            3. How far out did you make your reservation Joe?

              1 Reply