On a recent visit to the Viet clan in Virginia, Miguelito and I made a little field trip to Volt Restaurant
in Frederick, Md. The 50-mile drive from my parents' house meandered through woods and farmland. This was my first time visiting a destination restaurant. There would be no other reason for us to visit the quiet colonial town other than to have lunch cooked by Top Chef runner-up Bryan Voltaggio. Even dinner would be out of the question because that means we'd have to find a place to sleep in Frederick or risk driving home with a food coma.
The restaurant was a modern oasis tucked inside a 120-year-old brick mansion. The contemporary decor was quite warm, as you can see by the pick-up-sticks-inspired lighting.
The doorway to the main dining room caught our eye with sage-colored tile that spelled out: EAT.
Miguelito and I ate quite well, without much damage to our wallets. Even though we missed Restaurant Week by a few days, we arrived in time to take advantage of a three-course prix fixe lunch costing only $20.10.
I liked how the white walls and tablecloths contrast with the deep brown ceilings and ebony wood trim of the chairs. The paint on the ceiling matched the color of the Converse kicks that the staff wore. I didn't spot one lick of shiny or brushed steel, which seems to be the fall-back material for decorators who aspire to be modern.
The metal was saved for the dinnerware designed by Hepp.
Once we placed our order, we were served Southern hospitality in the form of chive biscuits.
For my appetizer, I picked goat-cheese ravioli topped with Balsamic vinegar and sudsy foam. I didn't quite remember the flavoring of the foam, which reinforced my belief that foam is the fancy garnish replacement for parsley.
Miguelito sipped a chowder made with dehydrated bacon. The jewel in the crown as a perfectly seared scallop.
The mashed potato base for my striped bass tasted too literally like a foundation: hard, clunky, cold and bland. The fish, however, was delicious. Even better were the plump mussels that tasted as if someone had injected them with a savory broth made of the sea.
Miguelito loves his roast chicken. And he said Volt's chicken was, along with Magnolia's
roast chicken, the best that he's ever had. The generously cut pieces were cooked sous vide
and then roasted for color. The meat was so flavorful. Not that it didn't help that Volt sourced its food from local farms that pay careful attention to what they feed their poultry. The beets and risotto provided a rustic home for the old school-meets-new school chicken.
The servers all donned gray suits with their brown Converse sneakers. Miguelito and I thought they resembled junior talent agents at CAA.
Miguelito got a pick-me-up with the house blend of coffee, which a local shop mixed especially for Volt out of four different coffee beans.
My dessert was called "Textures of Chocolate." It sounded like the title of a lecture at a food university. There was chocolate ice cream, chocolate caramel, cocoa nubs and powder, chocolate brittle and a tube of white chocolate that reminded me of string cheese. I would have licked the plate clean but the caramel stuck quite hard to the square plate.
Miguelito opted for a miniature cheesecake for his dessert. It was a bit too tropical of a dessert for a cold January day. On the other hand, the bread pudding on the menu was a little too heavy to end a flavorful lunch.
Like other fancy restaurants, Volt gave an edible good-bye gift to its guests. We received banana nut muffins for our next day's breakfast. I actually ate my muffin with my afternoon tea after we got back to my parents' house in Virginia. I'm actually not a muffin girl, and the slightly dry, dense texture of Volt's version didn't change my mind. If only Volt took a page of Guy Savoy
and the Mansion at Joel Robuchon
, which respectively offered caramels and big brioches to satisfied departing patrons.
I was glad that Volt went for a modern bathroom, since the original toilet from the 1890s wouldn't have worked so well.
The bathroom was so modern that a frosted glass wall barely separated the women's and men's sides. Here's Miguelito doing a yummy-yummy-food-in-my-tummy dance on the other side.