Curtain goes up on Garces pay-in-advance restaurant

Wait for it: Jose Garces outside his pay-in-advance restaurant at the Kimmel Center.
Wait for it: Jose Garces outside his pay-in-advance restaurant at the Kimmel Center. (ED HILLE / Staff Photographer)
Posted: April 18, 2014

Volvér, the first prepaid, ticketed restaurant in the city, debuted Wednesday night at the Kimmel Center with Jose Garces at the stove serving his guests Siberian sturgeon caviar and Wagyu beef cooked on embers, as part of the priciest tasting menu in town.

The concept of paying big bucks in advance before diners even know what's for dinner is a novel experiment, not only here, but across the country. Volvér's menu was announced just on Wednesday morning.

About 40 percent of the available seats have been sold through mid-June, said Scott Steenrod, vice president of restaurant operations for the Garces Group.

"That's pretty good traction, really, just on the promise of what it will be," he said.

Garces, who will cook with a kitchen team under chef de cuisine Natalie Maronski, offers two ticketed-only tasting-menu experiences: "pretheater" ($75 a head, plus wine, tax, and tip, served at 5 and 5:30 p.m.) and "performance" ($175 a head, plus wine, tax and tip, at 7:30, 8 and 8:30 p.m.).

"We are very pleased with Volvér's ticket sales so far and appreciate that our guests have placed such trust in us," Garces said.

There were still seats available Wednesday for both the pretheater tables as well as the later seatings. All tickets will be sold in advance and no walk-ins will be accommodated.

Steenrod did not have exact seat numbers available, but he said about 65 percent of the sales so far have been for the full-length $175 menu vs. the $75 pretheater option.

The bar has seen about 100 guests an evening, with a check average of $30 to $35. The next one-month batch of tickets is expected to be released about mid-May.

Inside the Kimmel Center, diners will pass through the lounge to enter the atelier, whose seats have good views of the open kitchen. Bar Volvér, which opened last week and doesn't require reservations, specializes in sparkling wine, caviar, and small plates.

The pretheater starts with caviar, plus carnitas popcorn and "deviled egg" duck liver mousse, and segues into Tsukiji market fish; a dish called Milk & Cereal (rice flakes, quail egg, bacon, chicken oyster, truffle, thyme marshmallows, white asparagus milk); a salad built on "live lettuce" from Garces' Luna Farm; a Spanish-inspired fish dish called Veta la Palma; Wagyu beef; and panna cotta, chocolate and petits fours for dessert.

The performance menu adds ham selections; bacalao; sardines; live sea scallops; fried squab; petit pois; Monterey Bay squid; and an additional dessert, carrot cake.


Michael Klein of Philly.com contributed to this article.

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