High off my dining experiences in NOLA, I made my way down Interstate 70 to the renowned Volt restaurant. In an effort to get the premier dining experience, I made a reservation for Table 21 at Volt located at 228 North Market Street in Frederick, Maryland. This exclusive table has to be reserved a month to the day in order to secure your spot and includes a tasting menu of 21 courses. You are not provided to the menu before your arrival and basically are to expect the best the restaurant has to offer. I booked for Saturday at 5:30pm because of the 50 minute drive back home and not wanting to be out on the road too late. I have been to the area many times and I knew that parking can be scarce. But Volt had a parking lot directly next door that I definitely appreciated. Already off to a great start there.
I arrived for my reservation early to give myself time for unexpected traffic, difficulty parking, and a line. All of which did not happen on this beautiful Saturday afternoon. The building from the outside does not stand out and blends in with the other structures along the street. But when you step inside, you are placed in an ultra-modern space that looks more like a NYC club, than it does a restaurant in Frederick. I checked-in, for one unfortunately, and was told to sit in the bar area until the table was ready. Everything was very chic from the décor down to the furniture. One of the staff came over and discussed the table experience with me and discussed the additional wine pairing add-on for an additional $90. I was hesitant but I decided to go for it.
When the table was ready, I walked past a private room and a dining room before entering the room that included the kitchen and the Table 21. Table 21 is actually a low-standing bar that seats 8. It faces the kitchen and is directly in front of the cold plates and salads station. The chefs were working together diligently working on orders as they were received. It truly reminded me of an episode of Hell’s Kitchen but without the yelling and insults.
Service was bar none one of the best. There were at least 4 servers that served each dish simultaneously and announced each course as they were presented. I requested to take a picture of each bottle of wine as it was served and they made sure that I got a shot of each bottle. After a few courses, one of the cold station chefs began asking us about our experience and engaging us in conversation about the restaurant and food in general. They were responsive to questions and made you feel welcome even in a busy kitchen environment. But what about the food?
The first three courses came out rather quickly and were paired with Vueve Clicquot Champagne of France. The first course (1) was an opened egg with warm uni hollandaise, osetra caviar, truffle, and a cooler custard at the bottom. This was a hit or miss with some of the patrons but I loved it! I could have taken more of that. The hollandaise sauce on top was unexpectantly warm and the caviar added a burst of salt into the dish. The custard at the bottom was thicker but just as flavorful. Next course was the Oyster (2) with chive, lemon, and radish/cucumbers. I am not a fan of cucumbers so they gave me a plate with radishes. The big thing here was the dish was presentation was pretty with the vibrant colors but small. Only one oyster sat in a spicy and citrusy tart sauce. The next dish (3) was a gougère, a baked French pastry that resembles a biscuit, with arctic char (fish), and everything cream cheese. This was a play on bagels and lox. This dish was flavorful but since I have been eating a similar version of this dish for breakfast for the last few weeks, I was not all that impressed. Plus, it did not wow me like the course opener. But there are 18 more courses to go so, no big deal.
Once all the plates were cleared, we were presented with a buffalo blowfish tail (4) served with a whipped blue cheese dipping sauce. Like a hot wings dish it was served with pieces of celery. The dish itself was delicious but the tail included a huge bone down the middle and since I, like many of other guest, lack experience eating blow fish or its tail, that first bite filled with fish bones was not all that pleasant. I am not a huge fan of blue cheese dressing but the lightness of the dressing was refreshing and made it easy to enjoy. Overall, I enjoyed this dish and the creative play on an classic dish.
After a quick wine change to Nikolaihof, Riesling, Vom Stein, Federspell from Wachau, Austria, 2006. The next dish (5) was the grilled shishito pepper served with cojita cheese and a delicious green sauce that had flavors of cilantro, honey, and vinegar. It very much resembled the sauce served with the soft shelled crab dish at Chinois. I enjoyed this dish and it again was presented well. Next (6) was the scallop in a yuzu sauce, a citrus fruit originating in East Asia that resembles a lemon, pickled kohirabi, and Calabrian chili. The scallop was sliced very thin and served cold. The dish was flavorful but a hint of heat would definitely take this dish to the next level. The ingredients were definitely impressive and creative.
This wine change was one of my favorites, the Planeta, Fiano, Cometa, from Sicily, Italy 2014. This wine had a hint of passion fruit that I just loved. It could have been a special grape I’ve never had before but this wine was delicious. The next dish (7) was beets with a dots of avocado sauce, yellow fin tuna tartar, pickled roses, and kaffir lime. The fish was fresh and light and the beets were good to the others but I am not a fan. I plate was off centered which was strange and I was expecting a bit more to the dish to pair with the fish. I as left rather confused with the composition but still the flavors were delightful. Next (8) was a soup served in a grand fashion. First was a bowl of what I guess could have been the salsify, perigord truffle, and oyster. Then the servers came behind and poured a delicious cream broth on top of the bowl contents. The soup was very tasty and I would have enjoyed a full serving of this dish on its own.
Next (9) was a warm asparagus salad served with a sea urchin puree sprinkled with their version of Old Bay seasoning and vin blanc. An interesting flavor composition that was very innovative but more to be desired. As the servers cleared the plates and silverware after each dish, they would replace the silverware with whatever was needed to enjoy the upcoming dish. When I was again presented with a soup spoon, I began to get disappointed. By nine courses, we should well out of the soup portion of the meal. The wine was switched to a Van Duzer, Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley, Oregon 2012. We were presented with a butternut squash soup (10) seasoned with Thai basil that was presented with 2 charred pieces of the squash, topped with pepitas. Overall a flavorful dish but very small portion and the pepitas were not my favorite. This has to be my least favorite dish and frustrated me. There was nothing spectacular about this dish to me though it did present well and good flavors.
Next up was the charred octopus (11) that was a small bite presented with tomatillo, charred lime, and a cilantro sauce dotted around the octopus. I am under the impression that I’ve eaten octopus before but it was steamed and very rubbery. This was much better than I remembered but the char was a tad overwhelming. If I was not told it was octopus, I probably would not have known what it was. The Norwegian cod dish (12) was served with bok choy, kimchi, and beech mushroom. The piece of cod was tiny, as expected, by the Asian-inspired flavors thought this dish together nicely. I very much enjoyed this dish and would definitely order this individually.
The next wine was the Casanova Di Neri, Sangiovese from Rosso Di Casanova, Italy 2014. The next dish was the chitarra pasta (13) served with fennel, pepperoni sprinkles, and the sauce included cured egg yolks. I remember one of the servers mentioning mussels but I could not taste them anywhere. I enjoyed the pasta though it was rather thick however, the guest next to me was not impressed in the least. She took one bite and sent it over to her husband. I just felt like there could been more pasta presented. But the presentation again was beautiful.
One of the most innovated dishes served was the poached lobster (14) served with steel cut oats, kimchi, and lemongrass. How cool of a restaurant to take a basic ingredient, steel cut oats, and make it deliciously savory like a risotto and pair oats with lobster. This as a main dish would have been awesome. All of the flavors were there and bought this dish together wonderfully. The most disappointing yet delicious dish served was a roasted duck breast SLICE (15) under a cooked ramp plated with nettle pesto and sunflower seed oil. The duck was delicious. Not too fatty as many duck dishes are and the sauces were a delicious enhancement to the dish. But one duck slice was really disappointing. The people near me were just as disappointed as I was about how small the portion was.
The next pairing was a red Jeff Cohn Cellars, Grenache of El Diablo Vineyard in Russian River Valley, California, 2014. This was an indication that a red meat was coming. The final main course (16) was the prime beef striploin spiced with togarashi served with a cubed turnip, and broccoli rabe. This 1oz slice of meet was flavorful and again the ingredients were presented well but it was such a small amount of it, I just enjoyed the small bites I had.
They started the dessert portion of the meal with a Maytag Blue Cheese (17) plate served with mashed cashew, apple, honey, and a half slice of raisin bread. A bit out of place to me but I have noticed that quite a few restaurants are including cheese in the dessert menu. Not my favorite, I will just leave it at that. I am at this point extremely frustrated because this is supposed to be the best the restaurant had to offer! The radish cake (18) cooked with wasabi, and cultured butter all sprinkled with powdered sugar was a delightful treat. This dish was supposed to resemble that of carrot cake. I enjoyed this dish and I am glad I tried it because that would not be something I was instinctively order as a dessert. But it was a beautiful plate and a great dessert.
The final wine was a Domaine De Bordenave, Petit Mensang from Jurancon, France 2010. This wine was delicious on its own and I could not wait to see how they would pair it with the last 3 dishes. The next dessert (19) was a plate with all white ingredients that I called the White Dessert. It included a ball of coconut milk that had been frozen in liquid nitrogen and served in with an ice flavored yuzu to give a strong citrus flavor and white chocolate strings. This dish was very beautiful to look at, very creative in ingredients, and wonderful to eat. The next dessert (20) chocolate plate with mostly black ingredients that I called the Black Dessert. It included a chocolate pieces that felt and tasted like an Oreo cookie, passion fruit, basil, and a pistachio custard or ice cream. I forget. It was all very flavorful and again a beauty in presentation.
At this point, we are left with one final ingredient (21) and I could not wait to see what it would be and how it would be presented. One of the chefs shared that it was his favorite dish at the restaurant and he could eat it every day for the rest of his life and be happy. It was an Orange Creamsicle dipped in a white chocolate ganache. I was never a fan of the dessert as a child because I do not like adding citrus and cream together. But I ate the dessert anyway and keep my comments to myself. What an anti-climactic ending.
At the conclusion of the meal, the wait staff presented the menu and wine list together is what looked like a diploma and a box with a bow. Presumably candies. I opened the box later and found four candies that were a sweet treat after my meal. One was a chocolate candy that coated a mint center that was not too overpowering. The other was a berry jellied candy that had a similar taste of jelly but was sweeter. The other was butterscotch taffy, and a lavender macaroon.
I struggle with rating this restaurant because overall, I had an incredible dining experience. On the one hand, the food presentation was amazing, customer service was top of the line, the overall experience was wonderful but for the amount paid, I do not feel like I got enough food to feel like it was money well spent. The ingredients were amazing and the wine pairings were consistently impressive, but my $150 could have been spent elsewhere and had larger portions and as beautiful food presentation. So where do we go from here? I would not return to this restaurant on my own dime. This is not a restaurant that I would consider my go-to spot for meal. It is for sure worth the experience and if I did go with another person, I would recommend that they get a seat at a regular table and pick and choose their meal because many of the regular dishes, while still small, were larger portions that what I was given. The total cost of this experience was $257.10 and after tip totaled $305.10.
Finally, while the bathroom was ultra-modern with a sliding door in lieu of a traditional door, a cloudy window separating the men and woman restrooms, and the privacy glass doors in the bathroom stalls, the restroom needed a little attention to keep it fresh. Please see below for my Seven Mac Score of the Restaurant:
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Please look out for my next post as I review another one of Baltimore’s Best! And remember: It’s a BIG world and we are going to eat our way through it!