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Tickets Needed For Volver

Looks like he's going the Alinea route here. But for those prices, I'd like to know for sure if Garces is going to be in the kitchen on the night I am going. I think I'm going to wait a while on this one to see how it all works out.

http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/th...

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  1. Are there any tasting menus in Philly that cost $250? What is the Chef's counter at Lacroix?

    For that price, they are basically saying it's going to be the equivalent of a Michelin 3-star.

    3 Replies
    1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

      Lacroix's Chef's Table is $165pp, but it says "up to 12 courses" so I don't know if that price adjusts accordingly.

      http://www.lacroixrestaurant.com/chef...

      1. re: Philly Ray

        I suppose the $175-$250 range is dependent upon whether you get the caviar/foie gras supplements or not. So $175 is not completely outside the Philly ballpark, but it had better be amazing at that price. Also, it's not all that exclusive if they have 2 seatings and 35 seats, and Garces won't even be there most of the time. I might consider paying it if it was only 6 seats at the counter and I knew Garces was cooking for me (which is what it originally sounded like).

        1. re: Philly Ray

          I have been to Lacroix chef's table twice and IMO it's a bargain. They adjusted the price a bit when we wanted some more expensive ingredients.

      2. "Ticket purchase includes a table for two, four, or six guests, sparkling and still water, a 20 percent service charge and tax."

        Assuming the "20 percent service charge" = tip, it sounds like it's inclusive of everything except alcohol, so while still very pricey, perhaps not quite so much as seems at first glance.

        But yeah, at 34 seats and and two seatings a night, doesn't seem horribly "exclusive" and am not feeling much urge to go any time soon.

        18 Replies
        1. re: bsims76

          Not much different than the Zahav special dinner (though less available).

          I am curious whether the pre theatre will do better than the during theatre seatings. Its a lower price point, and clearly is convenient and aimed at their target audience of blue hairs that go to the Kimmel performances.

          1. re: cwdonald

            not much different, except double the price, the chef isn't cooking for you, and it's a worse chef.

            1. re: alex1018

              I predict that only the pre theatre flies. It is at a lower price point.

              1. re: alex1018

                There's really no reason to assume that the person Garces chooses to run his kitchen when he isn't there will be less technically proficient than Garces himself.
                You're really paying for Garces' intellectual efforts in creating a menu, not his physical labor. Chances are once Garces shows him/her want he wants the professional chef will be able to produce those dishes just as well.
                It seems to me the only plus to having Garces cook your food is bragging rights (and it's dinner in Philadelphia, produced by a guy who's famous because of a really lame TV food network, so brag away...)

                1. re: caganer

                  oh i just mean that if a restaurant doesn't have its chef there, it's almost certainly not being creative on a daily basis... it's just recreating.

                  1. re: alex1018

                    And I don't know why you think if the chef isn't there, whoever is there is a mindless automaton cranking out copies of a dish and not putting an ounce of creativity into anything. Certainly Tim Spinner wasn't doing that at Garces' Distrito, or any number of other talented sous chefs and chefs de cuisine at restaurants around the city that have well-known chefs. I think that Jose certainly allows his chefs de cuisine some latitude when it comes to menu items and preparations, he certainly can't be micromanaging every menu at every one of his restaurants all the time.

                    This may not be an exact quote, but a long time ago I read an interview with Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and the interviewer asked him who cooks the food when he's not at his restaurant (Jean Georges). He answered "The same person who's cooking it when I *am* there." If that person is a good chef, the place will be in good hands. And sometimes, like bumble said in the case of Peter Serpico, the chef de cuisine turns out to be better than the chef.

                    Count me out if it's by ticket only, though...

                    1. re: Buckethead

                      I don't think that generally. My evidence is that Garces' menus rarely, if ever, change significantly. Thus, there's isn't a lot of creativity going on. I know how restaurants work.

                      1. re: alex1018

                        It really varies by restaurant alex. JG Domestic and Garces Trading Company changes things seasonally, others less so. But unless you are a small restaurant that changes its menu daily/weekly, most restaurants have a set menu and then specials. Even at Amada, Tinto and Distrito I have been offered specials. Specials really are the only place that creativity is evident on a daily basis in most restaurants (again excluding small chef driven restaurants that change their menus daily/weekly.).

                        1. re: cwdonald

                          i'm simply saying that every restaurant at this price point IN THE COUNTRY, basically, changes their menu every single day. raise your hand if you think Volver will.

                          1. re: alex1018

                            I disagree with your assertion. Vetri doesnt change its menu every day. It adds and substracts some dishes but doesnt overhaul its menu every day.

                            Another example is Morimoto. The omekase menu is pretty set, with a few dishes varying based upon ingredient availability. I think you are over blowing the variation.

                            Also, a restaurant to gain consistency is better off not changing its menu every day. In the case of Volver given that a lot of the people dining there will be either attending a performance or going for a special occasion, you do not have to worry about serving the same dishes to regular diners.

                            1. re: alex1018

                              I disagree. Most chef's tasting menus do not change every day. That's a lot to ask. If one comes a few times in a row, they may switch up one or two courses for you, but the whole menu change I do not see.

                              1. re: dndicicco

                                yeah of course i mean parts of the tasting. not literally the whole thing.

                                like here's the point: if your menu is 12 courses, and 10 of them stay the same, you aren't going to get people going more than 1x for 250/pp. you just aren't. And furthermore it's offensive and lazy. If 10 courses stay the same, you obviously aren't using the best, most seasonal ingredients, and you aren't pushing the envelope. So why would someone ever go there instead of Avance, which is like three blocks away, cheaper, and better?

                                1. re: alex1018

                                  I'm not sure how you can say Avance is better than a restaurant that hasn't opened yet. Maybe we should wait until we actually eat the food before signing Volver's death certificate?

                                2. re: dndicicco

                                  Morimoto's claim is that you will never get the same omakase twice.

                                  1. re: Philly Ray

                                    And they do that by asking if you have had the omikase before and when the last time you had it. They unlike a lot of restaurants do not mind doing a tasting menu where the dishes are different for different diners.

                    2. re: alex1018

                      I don't know why you keep thinking it's going to be a worse chef. It hasn't be announced who the chef de cuisine will be. Perhaps this person may be fantastic but you've already decided it's going to be bad. Thomas Keller isn't always in the kitchen at Per Se and it is difficult to get a booking. Momofuku Ko brought people based on David Chang's reputation but it was Peter Serpico's cooking that kept people coming. And I would say Serpico is a better chef than Chang. I trust that since this is suppose to be his showcase restaurant, that Garces has put a lot of thought into picking a very capable person.

                  2. re: bsims76

                    Only tastings? No menus? What about dietary constraints?
                    This sounds pretty highfalutin' for this kid.
                    As they say on "Shark Tank" -- "I'm out!"

                  3. The problem isn't that it's tastings, the cost, how many seats there are. The problem is that it's all of that for Garces' food executed by a sous chef. What has Garces ever done that convinces you his restaurant could possibly be worth this. At amada--his crown jewel--the menu hasn't changed for six years, and he hasn't been in the kitchen in even longer. It's completely preposterous and will be a massive failure.

                    I put the over/under on three months before they introduce an a la carte menu, and six months before they dumb down the tasting menu and stop selling tickets entirely.

                    10 Replies
                    1. re: alex1018

                      You said it Alex!
                      Philly isn't SF or NY. I doubt it will fly here.

                      1. re: arepo

                        fwiw, i think this could work depending on the chef and the size of the restaurant. if that's not true, then it's an indictment of the philly dining scene.

                        1. re: alex1018

                          I'm thinking it might work because it's the Kimmel Center. If people are willing to pay the ridiculous parking fee there, they might go for it. The monied crowd might make it a success.

                          1. re: JanR

                            Why such a negative undertone to the "monied" crowd? If anything, Philly needs a lot more of that type and less of the broke all-you-can-eat buffet crowd.

                            1. re: JanR

                              I'm surprised the Kimmel agreed to this concept. A year or two ago they kept talking about how they were trying to get more random street traffic into the Kimmel, and wanted it to be a hangout space apart from any concerts. This restaurant seems to foster the very opposite.

                              1. re: JanR

                                The problem the Philadelphia Orchestra is having is an aging membership. They have stated the need to refresh their membership. All concerts I have been to this year have been well attended. While I am not a kid, the house was filled with patrons obvious much older. The greying of the membership is a huge and acknowledged problem. The induction of music student at no or little charge is a good thing but these students will most likely be supporters in the future as it is their focus. They will not fill the seats of all the grey heads currently supporting the orchestra. This move of the high priced restaurant does not help and I know it has offended many of the current supporters.

                                1. re: Bacchus101

                                  Agree that Volver is the wrong tone, if the goal is a younger audience.

                                  The reasonable target audience would be NPR-listeners. How does one lure that set? What is their equivalent of a sports bar? TVs with PBS, MSNBC and C-Span?

                                  1. re: sal_acid

                                    Coffeehouses, I think. I would have set one up with real food, like HIgh Street on Market, or something along those lines... Presumably with a lower price point, though an emphasis on the whole 'farm-to-table' thing might give that crowd an excuse to spend more money than necessary.

                            2. re: arepo

                              Well the ticketing concept already does work in Philly, specifically the Kitchen Counter at Zahav.

                              It might work at Bibou too.

                              It would have to be a place that would be constantly sold out weeks/months in advance. There are not many places in Philly like that.

                              Currently Laurel, I guess (they are taking reservations for June I heard).

                            1. Here's a handy list of prix fixe dinners in Philly and their associated costs...

                              http://www.phillymag.com/foobooz/2014...

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: Philly Ray

                                Wow, that really makes me not want to go there!

                                Although personally, I don't think 4 courses (Sbraga) is a tasting menu. That's what I'd call Prix Fixe. To me, a tasting menu has to be at least 6-7 or more. The idea is to try the all the variety and creativity a chef has to offer. How can you do that with 4 courses?

                                1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                                  Yes, the list is of prix fixe dinners, not just tasting menus.

                                  1. re: lowereastrittenhouse

                                    Apparently I can't read titles.

                                    But then it's comparing apples and oranges. MK is 16 "courses", Sbraga is 4. What's the point of that comparison?

                                    McDonalds: For when you only have $4.

                              2. I'm really scratching my head as to how Garces could justify those prices. Maybe it's super exclusive ingredients, mounds of caviar, ostrich, shaved truffle on everything, gold leaf on wagyu beef.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: dndicicco

                                  Reading Bacchus' (now locked) thread I have to agree. Pricey, unpleasant space to dine. Terrible concept.

                                  I should pay you money to get a reservation? F that. And F you Jose, for the attitude. May Volver fail miserably. Can't wait for the press release saying that Philly "wasn't ready for the concept"

                                2. Looks like I had overlook this previous post in my anger. I am still baffled by the Kimmel management. With the small space and limited seating they may fill the place. But it will do little to change the hair color of the audience, which is need for its survival and may also offend some long time supporters; some of whom I know are quite annoyed.

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: Bacchus101

                                    Imy understanding is that a large part of the restaurant will be a bar with a la carte food options, are ok with that? My issue is that I read that the bar will be focused on champagne and caviar, also not exactly what many younger patrons look for or can afford.

                                    Something on the price level and vibe of Tinto would be idea, appeal to young and old.

                                    1. re: Bacchus101

                                      Is it me or is JG becoming preoccupied with making $ versus offering higher quality food these days? In the old days you would go to Amada and great a truly outstanding meal. More recently you have Rosa Blanca (meh), GTC going through many changes to try to get it's footing, and now this? I mean it's nice to have an Iron Chef in town but he seems to be following Morimoto-think.

                                      1. re: bluehensfan

                                        I think he is also getting more into catering. JG Domestic essentially does not offer dinner anymore and has turned into an elite place for lunch for employees at the Cirra center or for a quick happy hour while praying your Amtrak or Septa train actually shows up.

                                        1. re: cwdonald

                                          Well with SEPTA being so reliable that's a cash cow I am sure...

                                          1. re: cwdonald

                                            Seems to me he is into very low risk projects these days. Most new projects are in casinos or other developments where the constructions costs are covered and maybe rent is based in revenue. I'm sure the kimmel is covering most or all of of the cost of fitting out volver and given that he has the concession contract for the kimmel I wonder if he is paying any rent at all.

                                            1. re: barryg

                                              After reading Philly.com's review
                                              W-A-I-N-S?*

                                              *why am i not surprised?

                                      2. For anyone going to Brewers Table on Sunday and you have the elite tickets, you will be experiencing Garces new kitchen, and Garces will be cooking. (He has done demonstrations at past years Brewers plates and is a big supporter of Fair Food Philadelphia). I am curious to see how the Kimmel will be as a space for Brewers Plate, but I suspect that Garces is using this as a soft "launch" for the Volver space.

                                        1. If you have a second visit to Volver,is it called a re-volver?

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: sal_acid

                                            "It smells of... farts, my mother's farts."
                                            ~Penélope Cruz, playing Raimunda, in Volver (2006)

                                          2. Interesting follow up piece on Volver in the Inky today, including dealing with the trend for ticketed meals, and how frequently Garces is going to be there (3-4 nights per week.. ).
                                            http://tinyurl.com/lclnslu

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: cwdonald

                                              If this contributes to the survival of the Philadelphia Orchestra then even though it disenfranchises the very segment of the population that is needed to increase membership and fill seats then I suppose it is a good thing. And/or if it provides funds to eliminate the plastic Walmart chairs and tables and transform the lobby into a welcoming environment rather than a spotlit aircraft hanger then it is a great addition. BTW I know people on the wall who will not dine there and who think it is at cross purposes to the goal of the orchestra.

                                              1. re: Bacchus101

                                                1. If it benefits anyone, it is the Kimmel Center organization, not the Orchestra.
                                                2. The article states that the "investors" are just the Kimmel, the state, and a Garces. I suspect the Kimmel and we taxpayers ponied up the vast majority. So if thing flops, or just fails to make estimates (perhaps by having to lower prices), the Kimmel will be out a lot of cash. Given some of the decisions that the Kimmel has made over the years, I really hope they havent been swindled by a charismatic Iron Chef who saw an opportunity to take a risk with Other People's Money.

                                                That said, it's crazy that the Kimmel doesnt have a decent bar to get a drink and a snack pre/post-show. I hope at least that aspect succeeds.

                                                1. re: barryg

                                                  If one believes that benefiting the Kimmel Center does not benefit the Orchestra and vice versa then I suspect that the relationship between the two, which to even of a causal observer should be obvious, is not understood. But thats fine if the additional revenues can make improvements in the Kimmel Center, even if those improvements are not seen as benefiting the patrons or the orchestra, it is a good thing. However one wants to define it.

                                                  1. re: Bacchus101

                                                    Please remember that there are other groups that use the Kimmel, such as various chamber music organizations (they dont even use Verizon hall.. ).

                                                    With regard to the statement that there is not a good bar to get a drink at the Kimmel, frankly I do not find any bar in any of the better musical locations to be useful.. be it the Met, other places at Lincoln Center , Chicago, London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Berlin or Hamburg. That said, there are usually enough places close enough to the venues to get a drink that it never bothers me. I understand concessions are really there first to support the music, rather than to be customer friendly. I prefer venues when you can pre order your drinks ahead of time and they are ready at intermission. Other than that I have no expectations of a good bar in a music venue.

                                                    1. re: cwdonald

                                                      I suppose you are right abut the bar situation. I would spend a lot more money there, though, if they had a better selection of booze and food that wasnt crap.

                                            2. Laban has a pretty good piece on this topic today: http://articles.philly.com/2014-03-09...

                                              Garces twice refers to Volver as "luxe". He does say he plans to be there 3-4 nights a week, but with a big part of the draw being his presence in the kitchen, we'll see if a 50% chance of having Jose cook some of your dinner will be enough for people to pre-pay $300/pp or whatever.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: Buckethead

                                                Its the same link I posted above. I thought it was interesting that it was seen as a way to prevent the no show... as if no shows are that consequential at the high end.

                                                1. re: cwdonald

                                                  Oops, my mistake.

                                                  I was a little surprised that the no-show rate for reservations at Garces' places is 4%, I'm not in the restaurant biz but that doesn't seem like such a huge problem to me.

                                              2. I can't see this place working. Way too expensive, and way too many seats. Just because people are willing to pay $150-$200 for a pair of orchestra tickets doesn't mean they're going to pay $700+ for dinner. Vetri's like 2 blocks away, has 10 fewer seats, has a significantly lower price point, and even *they* can't fill the room most nights. Someone upthread suggested that the idea is that a meal would start at $175 and climb to $250 with supplements. I think that's not correct. I suspect the idea is more like "dinner on Saturday night = $250, dinner on Tuesday night = $175". That's how most ticketed restaurants work.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: deprofundis

                                                  They do have variable pricing, based on day of the week, and occasion. I suspect you are correct that the 175-250 range may vary based on both day of the week, and the menu they are planning on serving. I could see a 250 truffle menu.

                                                  They have two seatings a night, pre theatre, and during the performances. During the performances is definitely aiming at a different crowd and I do not think these folks are necessarily the blue haired orchestra subscribers.

                                                  And your comparison with Vetri is really interesting, considering they are actually planning on expanding their restaurant to the apartment above their restaurant as well. I wonder if they might go away from prix fixe but I am just totally speculating.

                                                  1. re: cwdonald

                                                    I think the room above Vetri is just going to be for private events. I'd be surprised if they did away with the prix fixe.

                                                    1. re: cwdonald

                                                      Spoke to Vetri principals a few weeks ago and they feel for the lower price points they have 8 other restaurants so l would also be amazed if the revert back to a la carte after being on prix fixe currently.

                                                  2. Well, here's what Volver will be serving. Looks kinda Eleven-Madison-Parky to me.

                                                    http://www.phillymag.com/foobooz/2014...

                                                    Pity they don't say their squab is "broasted"!

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                                                      Looks great to me! Thanks for sharing. This is right up my alley, although I'm worried my wife will think it's too heavy and not want to go. ;)

                                                      On second thought, the hand plate is freaky in a bad way, and even I think twice on $175 pp (since we're talking at least $500 for two with drinks), and I'm a food snob, so I don't see how this is sustainable every night of the week. How many seats is it?

                                                      1. re: dndicicco

                                                        40 seats, maybe not counting the lounge (or shampane bar or whatever)?

                                                        1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                                                          Interesting. I really hope it works out. I love the location.

                                                          On a slight tangent, I went to Sbraga with my wife for the first time this Monday and really enjoyed it. Apparently Kevin Sbraga himself was not in the house, but I enjoyed the decor, the service (Yuni our waiter, if I'm spelling that correctly, was great and of LBF heritage), and especially the food. Everything was well paced since I had an event to attend afterward, and they did not really bat an eye. I found the price point very attractive to boot. :)

                                                    2. http://www.phillymag.com/foobooz/2014...

                                                      Opening night menu above.
                                                      Doesn't look all that inviting to me.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: sal_acid

                                                        Thanks for sharing. The menu looks outstanding to me.

                                                        I don't know if other places do Tsukiji Market fish, but that's a first I've seen advertised as such in Philadelphia...horseradish cream and mustard seed makes a ton of sense in context. The squid and wagyu beef on embers sound like winners to me, as well.

                                                        1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                                                          Interesting breakdown. I love numbers.

                                                          1. re: dndicicco

                                                            Well it's open now. Who's going to take one for the team? Not me...

                                                            1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                                                              I am at least waiting for LaBan's review before I take the plunge (if I ever decide to do it).

                                                              1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                                                                I'll do The Fountain. Fair price and I know its great.

                                                                1. re: sal_acid

                                                                  I love the Fountain too, but I always get a little weirded out that I'm doing fine dining in a hotel. I know it's not unusual, per se, but doesn't feel right to me.

                                                                  1. re: dndicicco

                                                                    Well, the Four Seasons is moving, right? What's happening with the Fountain in the meantime? I forget if I've seen any articles about it.

                                                                    In any case, I liked it more than Vetri. And only partly because the price was much more reasonable.

                                                                    While I enjoy Garces Trading Company, and to a lesser extent Amada and Tinto, none of his restaurants are my favorites, and I doubt I'll check this one out any time soon.

                                                                    1. re: jhpark

                                                                      Business as usual at the Four Seasons and The Fountain for now. The new building won't be done for three years at least.

                                                                      1. re: barryg

                                                                        I believe it's been announced that the Fountain will *not* be making the move to the new building, but that's all. And it's kind of impossible to know what that means anyway, obviously if you move the restaurant, calling it the "Fountain" doesn't make sense. They could be planning to move the entire staff over and just open a new restaurant with a different name. Time will tell.

                                                                        1. re: Buckethead

                                                                          They will be opening two restaurants at the new Four Seasons. I think this restaurant will remain, in the JW Marriott that will assume the Four Season's space. And JW's traditionally have very good restaurants. I know when I have visited Hong Kong and stayed at the JW, the food was absolutely amazing at the restaurants in the hotel. I am not sure if the Fountain is part of the Four Season's branding, but I guarantee there will be one if not more good restaurants at the JW.

                                                                      1. re: dndicicco

                                                                        Yes, as you noted it is not unusual to find fine dining in a upscale hotel. Actually a frequent occurrence world wide.

                                                              2. If you trust Foobooz, here are some early impressions on the Performance Tasting...

                                                                http://www.phillymag.com/foobooz/2014...

                                                                5 Replies
                                                                1. re: Philly Ray

                                                                  I do not trust Foobooze one bit. One puff piece followed by another...and then some gossip. In the PhillyMag tradition.

                                                                  1. re: sal_acid

                                                                    They seemed to be swooning over the place a bit too much to be credible.

                                                                    1. re: JanR

                                                                      Foobooz is a promotional blog as far as I can see. Lots of logrolling going on. I've never seen a critical post. Its all snark, gossip and disguised press releases.

                                                                      Pretty much SOP at Philly Mag too.

                                                                      1. re: sal_acid

                                                                        Sorry. It was good. What can we say? You want critical? How about this? http://www.phillymag.com/foobooz/2014...

                                                                        1. re: foobooz

                                                                          Yes, that's in the critical zone.

                                                                          Well done FB. Keep it up.

                                                                2. Volver doesn't exist in my book until PhillyBYOB reviews it.