Jose Garces, who was born and raised in Chicago, is a James Beard award-winning chef and one of the few chefs in the nation to hold the Iron Chef title. Garces has an empire of restaurants in several states, including Chicago's Mercat a la Planxa, which was given the Michelin Bib Gourmand nod this year. I haven't yet experienced Mercat, but when I visited Philly this past Easter weekend, I checked out Garces' newest restaurant Volver. Actually, I checked out the bar/lounge side which is open to walk-ins -- the restaurant is similar to Alinea in that you must buy tickets in advance to dine there. (My sister and her husband were actually the first people to dine in the restaurant on opening day last Wednesday and were personally thanked by Chef Garces and staff.)
Chloe, Jules, and I shared some small plates with our drinks. The tuna tartare was made with fresh tuna from the famed Tsukiji Market in Tokyo, yuzu mayo, edamame, shiso, chile oil, and crunchy garlic. We also ordered one-bite chicken and Tasmanian sea trout brochettes, and Cremont and Good Thunder cheeses, which were very soft, creamy, and perhaps a bit too salty. We couldn't resist the petits fours cart and indulged in pomegranate macarons, chocolate and caramel petits tartes, champagne truffles, dark chocolate caramel truffles, canneles, and a peanut butter Fluff candy.
Afterwards, we were invited by management to take a peek in the restaurant and kitchen side. I saw Chef Garces and was allowed to snap his photo. He smiled just for me!