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High Voltage

The bset dish I tried at Volt
Photos by Vadim Kagan

The Volt restauarant, Frederick, MD


The unique thing was, we got there by accident. Of course, as any self-respecting foodie in the DC area, we meant to visit the Volt, Brian Voltaggio's (of the Top chef fame) Frederick restaurant, for several years, but somehow The Right Occasion never came by. You know, a job promotion, or a book deal, or a birthday ending in a meaningful zero.

No, of course birthdays did happen. But somehow there were always other plans, other venues, other vendors (I highly recommend trying to get Rita's Crepes catering for your next significant occasion.) We almost got to view the Volt as "sometime in the next life" kind of place. And then, as they say, circumstances conspired.

We actually planned to have a low-key Uzbek dinner at the Silk Road Choihona in Gaithersburg, but could not find anyone to go there with us. Since half the fun in an ethnic restaurant is to order different thing and share, we turned to the OpenTable to see what else was available that Friday evening.

Surprisingly, Volt was one of the suggestions. Who are we to say no to the wisdom of the Web, we decided, and so three hours later we were sitting at the table at the main dining room, close to the window overlooking the Market street.

At a place with the Volt's reputation, many things come under the "of course" category. Of course, the service was polite and attentive (although not without its quirks). Of course, the tables were spaced so that the waiters (and the patrons) could move around without bumping into them. Of course, the bread service was interesting (I absolutely loved the sourdough buns? rolls? whatever those little muffin-shaped things are, they were crusty and delicious.) And, of course, the food was good.

A word of warning. Volt's staff recommends, when ordering from the a la carte menu, to get 5 to six dishes per person. Yes, the portions are small, but we were stuffed - after four dishes each and a shared desert. Your mileage may vary, but I suggest either being careful with the bread or stopping at no more than four selections. Of course, if you chose the tasting menu, moderation is not an option.

As mentioned above, all dishes were good. But when paying upwards of $200 for dinner with two glasses of wine, one expects excellent, rather than good. Only three (out of eight) plates we got at the volt qualified:

  • Beets. It seems every restaurant offers some version of the beet salad these days, but more often than not, very little goes into making chinks of beets presentable. Volt does a great job here with a mound of shredded beets held together with just the right amount of dressing. Beets and cocoa? Who knew this combination is so good.
  • Salt cod gnocchi. Expecting some version of bacalao, we were pleasantly surprised by a dish combining very delicate flakes of fish and airy rutabaga-flavored puffs floating in a little lake of tangy white sauce. Delicious.
  • Miso-marinated black cod. Definitely the highlight of the evening. An amazing dish, where all the ingredients worked together. The fish, if tasted by itself, was very smoky - perhaps too much so, but when combined with just a dab of the orange-flavored, the combination became divine. This is one dish I'd come back for anytime.

Everything else, while good, was just that - good. My wife noted that the lobster tail was a bit on a rubbery side, and my beef short ribs were too salty. Or, perhaps, we were getting too full? We shared a dessert (which our server strongly suggested we order at the beginning of the meal), but the petit fours that came with the check were clearly something we did not need. Still, if you are curious, try the chili chocolate truffle - amazingly, you don't feel the heat until it is too late :)

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