Volt is one of my favorite restaurants in the area. It is a little bit out of the way, but it is a cute part of Frederick, and there really is nowhere else that you can get that a three-course meal with that quality of food for only $25. So, I finally decided that it was time that I introduce my boyfriend, E., to Bryan Voltaggio's cooking. We made a reservation for lunch before the holidays, and took the only opening they had, which was at 2pm on a Thursday. (Side note: I was actually very excited by the fact that Bryan Voltaggio was in the kitchen that day, and came out to the dining room to check how things were going)
We arrived a little bit late for our reservation because of traffic; I tried to call the restaurant to warn them, but Volt now has an answering service and it is no longer possible to speak with a human being. To our surprise, when we came in, we were told that our table wasn’t ready, so we waited in the lounge. After about five minutes, the hostess came and got us.
We were seated and given menus and our choice of sparkling or still house-purified water. As we made our selections, I was a little disappointed by the fact that they neglected to serve us their house-made bread sticks. At first I thought it was because we were a late lunch seating and perhaps they had run out. But then a table close to us had bread sticks on the table and a table of six that was seated long after us also got bread sticks. So we were simply passed over. I am not saying that this was a deliberate, but I will remark again on it later.
While we waited for our first course, we were offered bread, along with Vermont butter with big flakes of sea salt. As usual, there was a selection of three different things to pick from. I got a buttermilk chive biscuit and E. got an olive and rosemary roll. My biscuit was beautifully flaky, but a little bit salty. E.’s roll was on the sweeter side, light, and airy.
For our first course I ordered the shiitake velouté with pinenut sabayon, chili oil, and opal basil. I’ve had this before, and it didn’t blow me away the last time, but I liked the earthiness of the velouté and I thought it worked well with the creamy sabayon. This time, however, the dish was unbearably salty. Even with my biscuit and large sips of water, I couldn’t eat all of it, and so I left over half of it untouched. It was incredibly disappointing. When our server came by, he asked if everything was okay, and I did mention the saltiness; he apologized for the kitchen and offered to bring me another dish, which was very kind, but I felt it was unnecessary since we still had two more courses to go, and I couldn’t really imagine that what they would bring out would be that much more improved.
E.’s first course was the cherry glen farm goat cheese ravioli with butternut squash, maitake mushrooms, and sage air. E. had felt slightly unsure about the goat cheese, since it can be a very strong flavor, but he ended up enjoying the dish. It had a lot of character, but the goat cheese wasn’t overwhelming, and the mushrooms provided an earthiness and a light sweetness to the dish which complemented the ravioli beautifully. The dish was very rich, without being heavy, and felt rather perfect for the season.
For my main course, I had scallops with beluga lentils, chive pudding, and variations of cauliflower. The scallops were amazing. They were perfectly cooked, and the kitchen played off the natural sweetness of the scallops with the chive pudding, cauliflower purée, and roasted cauliflower. I especially enjoyed the texture of the beluga lentils, which had a bit of a bite to them, and the crunchy dehydrated cauliflower. It was hard to find anything wrong with this dish, and I would give it a very solid 9.5 out of 10. It was fun to eat—E. called it whimsical—and I loved that there were plays on both texture and taste.
E. ordered rockfish with black forbidden rice, pureed maroon carrot, and soy air for his main course. This dish was perfect. I normally consider rockfish a very meaty, solid fish, and yet somehow the kitchen turned out something that was almost delicate, and absolutely mouthwatering. The fish was moist and the skin was beautifully crisp, providing a nice textural difference. The black forbidden rice was fragrant and the carrot puree packed a surprising flavor punch. The entire dish was solid and filling, and we gave it a 9.5 out of 10.
I was a little sad when we finished both of our main courses, as they were both so wonderful and I didn't want the experience to end. But dessert did not disappoint.
For my dessert, I had the textures of chocolate with dark chocolate ganache, chocolate caramel, and raw organic cocoa. E. was shocked by the size of my dessert, and by the amount of the sugar I was thus consuming, but we both enjoyed it. The combination of the caramel, ganache, ice cream, and cocoa provided different tastes and textures that melded together to create a symphony of flavors. While I have this dessert so many times that it no longer wows me, it is consistently and beautifully executed, and provided a nice finish to a lovely meal. It is always a 9 out of 10.
For his dessert, E. ordered the goat cheese cake with d’anjou pear, spiced vanilla ice cream, and citrus tuille. The cheese cake was light and the scent and flavor of the goat cheese wasn’t at all overwhelming. The tangy-ness was well balanced with sweetness. If it hadn't been called a goat cheese cheesecake, you wouldn't have known it at all. The pear was cooked so that it retained a slight bite to it (instead of being soft and mushy) and the ice cream was beautifully flecked with vanilla seeds. This dessert was lovely, sophisticated, and E. much enjoyed it. A solid 9 out of 10.
After our table was cleared, the check came with two little paper packages, one for each person. Each package had two big chocolate chip cookies. They were soft baked, but with crispy edges, and fragrant with butter. The takeaway gift was, as always, a nice touch, which we enjoyed later as a post-lunch, pre-dinner snack.
As for the service? Service at Volt has always been consistent and good. No matter what day of the week or how crowded the restaurant is, our servers have always been polite, friendly, and knowledgeable. They are good at refilling glasses and paying attention to the little needs of diners, and they can always answer any questions about the dishes on the menu.
Our service this time was polite, but also a little spotty. While our glasses were refilled at a good rate, I was disappointed by the fact that they neglected to bring us the bread sticks (mentioned above) and that we were never offered bread after our first tasting. These may seem like small things, but the servers at Volt are never this negligent. I was surprised that bread was only offered at the beginning of the meal, and that though we both finished our servings, we were not offered bread again with the main course. This is an anomaly, not just for Volt, but for any restaurant. Bread should be served with the main course, if you’re serving bread. And in all my visits to Volt, the servers had never failed before to offer bread during the main course (in the past, we’d had multiple offerings for bread during the course of our meal).
I couldn't help but wonder if it was the age factor. I know I look young for my age; I have a very young face. E. looks just as young as I do. When we go out, I sometimes joke with my friends that we look like two sixteen year olds. This wouldn’t be a problem, except that most young people will tell you that service given to the young differs drastically compared to service given to those who are older.
I am always wary when I go out to eat, because I know I look many years younger than I actually am, and my perceived age, I've noticed, sometimes affects my quality of service. This aggravates me beyond words. I am older than I look, and I have dined at restaurants from CityZen to Inn at Little Washington to Le Grand Vefour. I know what service I should be getting and what quality of food I should be served, and when I am paying the same price as other customers, I expect to be treated just as they are treated. I hate getting poorer service simply because people think they can get away with it. Volt, I cannot say that your service was slightly sub-par because of the youth factor, but I will be on my guard in the future. Remember, service makes up half the experience of dining out, and I dine out because I want to have good experiences.
228 North Market Street
Frederick, MD 21701
Overall rating for the price: 8.5 out of 10