Openings

Inside Look: Jose Garces’ Bar Volvér at the Kimmel Center

By Danya Henninger | April 8, 2014 By Danya Henninger  |  April 8, 2014
Photo by: Danya Henninger

Discovery of the week: you don’t need tickets to experience Jose Garces’ newest restaurant. Wednesday, April 9, is opening day for Bar Volvér in the Kimmel Center. The caviar and champagne lounge deserves better than its billing as an anteroom to the main (ticketed) showkitchen - it has an identity all its own, one that’s both elegant and welcoming.

Open Wednesday-Sunday from 4-11 PM (or later if there is demand), the 60-seat space is accessible through from the Kimmel atrium or from Spruce Street, where its windowbox extension projects out over the sidewalk. Everything in the room was custom made, from the deep-sea-fantasy fabric mural to the leather-upholstered marble bar crowned by an ultramod three-ring chandelier.

It’s a luxe atmosphere, no doubt, and you could easily drop the equivalent of theater tickets if you decide to stop in for caviar and digestifs post-show. However, chef de cuisine Natalie Maronski will be preparing plenty of other plates to snack on beside expensive fish eggs. With signature cocktails priced at $12, Bar Volvér is an easy add to any Center City itinerary - especially if you want to show off to guests from out of town.

It’s a downtown bar for a neighborhood that could use more of that “downtown” feel - a street-level drinks destination on the Avenue of the Arts. Flip through the pics below to find out more about the interior, the food and the drinks.

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  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Volvér means “to return,” and Jose Garces isn’t the only one coming back to his roots. Interior designer Marguerite Rodgers had her first woodworking studio just blocks from the Kimmel Center - she studied at the former incarnation of the University of the Arts nearby.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Rodgers’ design plays uses Volvér’s logo - a scatter of concentric circles - throughout, from Conrad Booker’s textile mural “Quiet Rain” to the pattern of graphics laid across the front windows.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Seats are all plush or leather, 48 of them spread across banquettes or tables and 12 in high-backed stools around the bar. Behind the bar is a semi-elevated seating area that could be used for mini performances by musicians or other artists in the future.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Beverage director and sommelier Gordana Kostovski was most recently at Azure in Revel Atlantic City, but she lives in Philly - she happens to be married to chef Townsend Wentz (who will soon be opening Townsend on East Passyunk).

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    The wine cellar is still being built, but Bar Volvér will open with 30 available by the glass: eight sparkling, eight whites, two rosés and 12 reds. Prices start at $10, with most falling in the $14-$18 range. There are also special showcase vintages that will go for $30 per glass. Five dessert wines - ports, madeiras - are also on offer.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Champagne flights - sets of three or four 2-oz. pours - will change throughout the year. Gordana estimates there are around 10 types of stemware available for wine service.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Bartender Scott Rodriguez did much of the cocktail development - he was most recently at The Dandelion but has experience at NYC’s Milk & Honey.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    The Bangkok Gibson brings London Dry gin together with lemongrass shrub, white vermouth and a pickled pearl onion, which is still sharp despite being caramelized. Rodriguez was still tweaking this drink when we tried it - it was slightly too sweet, and he’s considering replacing the shrub with lemongrass “essence,” since the kitchen next door has plenty of high-tech tools to play with.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    He uses those tools to create an extract from sugar snap peas, which show up with Tito’s vodka and lime in a Sugar Snap Gimlet that tastes like a dewy spring garden.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Chef de cuisine Natalie Maronski has worked with Garces since 2006, first at Amada and then Tinto and Chifa, where she led the kitchen. At Volvér, she’ll take over whenever the Iron Chef is not present.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Caviar comes at three different price points - though management refused to tell us exactly what they are - served in stylish metal ice holders with mother of pearl spoons and miniature brioche crackers.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Oysters hail from the West Coast, and you dress your own with miniature tincture bottles of horseradish, lemon juice and hot sauce.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Do-it-yourself is also the style for the beef tartare, which comes with deconstructed dressing (mayonnaise, egg yolk, spices) on the side. Also on the menu are a  tuna tartare and an oyster tartare with preserved lemon and black truffle.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Miniature wagyu beef brochettes pack an impressive flavor punch for their size, thanks to a yakitori glaze and togarashi mayo.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Jose Garces is definitely excited to get back behind the line, and the first night of service in the main dining room at Volvér is set for April 16, one week after the bar opens. How has he been training for getting back on the line? “Lots of yoga and spinning class,” is his answer.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Volvér and its associated bar are a chance for Garces to show off all the skills and culinary knowledge he’s picked up over the past two decades. But they’re also a showcase for the huge team he’s assembled, an impressive raft of people who are dedicated and really believe in their leader. Stop in any time after April 9 to meet them and see for yourself.

Places Mentioned

Amada

SpanishOld City
Food27 Decor24 Service25 Cost$57

Tinto

SpanishRittenhouse Square
Food26 Decor24 Service24 Cost$60

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