This Chef Will Make You Never Look at Soup the Same Way Again

Never has a dish been so wildly misnamed.

The Philadelphia Orchestra performs at the Kimmel Center on Broad Street, and the music is majestic, inspiring, thrilling. But frankly, the food coming from the open kitchen at Volver, star chef Jose Garces’ flagship restaurant on the Kimmel Center’s ground floor, rivals it any day of the week.

Garces opened the restaurant in 2014, with a menu inspired by his world travels. His two chef's tasting menus (choose eight or twelve courses) begin with spectacular snack foods like dehydrated morcilla—think ham potato chips—or a pumpernickel cannoli filled with salmon mousse flecked with caraway and mustard flower. Larger plates take classics and run with them: A clever Iberico Wellington made with pata negra (black-footed pigs from Spain), charred eggplant puree and chorizo powder is housed inside a golden dome of puff pastry; Bordelaise sauce glazes the steamed swordfish (pictured below)—a dish that will instantly banish every memory you may have of eating dull, dry swordfish.

But one of the most miraculous courses of the evening is a bowl of what is simply called “Miso Soup” (pictured below). Calling this just a miso soup is sort of like saying David Bowie was just a singer. Made from a pork tonkatsu broth (yes, that would be a broth made from fried pork cutlets), and fortified with shitake mushroom stock, it's a deep, dark, intense brew that’s poured over cubes of homemade hazelnut tofu, shaved black truffle, and duck katsuobushi (dried and smoked duck). It’s intoxicating, warming and surprising in its complexity and richness. It’s like liquid pig.

Several rounds of dessert by consulting chef Michael Laiskonis (of Le Bernardin fame) follow: a palate-cleansing lime sponge cake with plum granita and shiso; a warm parsnip brulee cake with hazelnut cream; and a masterpiece entitled “Origins”—chocolate creamaux (sort of a cross between fudge and pudding) with chocolate sauce, mango pearls and chocolate-covered cashews

The beverage list is the brainchild of general manager Gordana Kostovki, who oversees a 1500-bottle wine list and is the Patricia Field of sommeliers. She’s not afraid to reach for shocking combinations that turn out to be brilliant. You’ll taste Red Flemish Ales, and funky natural wines from Spain, and lots of sherry. 

Still, Volver isn't a restaurant that takes itself too seriously. You will have fun here. Not too many fine-dining restaurants feel like your local neighborhood hangout—but, somehow, this place does. And did we mention the miso soup?

 

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