Chef Jose Garces, now the chief culinary officer at his restaurants after a bankruptcy and a buyout, is updating the menus at his Philly eateries one by one. First the chef gave Volver at the Kimmel Center a new a la carte menu, and now he’s revamped the offerings at The Olde Bar, at 125 Walnut Street in the former Bookbinder’s in Old City.
Opened in 2015, The Olde Bar has always paid homage to Bookbinder’s, the Philadelphia institution that starting serving seafood in 1898. The snapper turtle soup with sherry cream and the strawberry shortcake with strawberry-mint sorbet are staying on the menu, as are other classics. But Garces has added several dishes he says are inspired by trips to New Orleans, including a barbecue shrimp po’boy, fried chicken, and seafood rolls — for the latter, that’s lobster rolls and other options, like fried oysters or kippered salmon. Ballard Brands, which now owns Garces’ restaurants, is based in Louisiana.
The chef is also adding a bunch of “fish house platters,” with fish, prepared fried, blackened, or with lemon garlic butter, served with fries or salad and corn.
Last month, Volver, the swank restaurant at the Kimmel that got attention when it opened in 2014 for selling tickets instead of taking reservations, was given a more casual tweak. The restaurant used to be tasting menu only; now there’s an a la carte menu too, plus a shorter tasting menu.
Iron Chef Garces made a splash in the Philly food scene when he opened tapas restaurant Amada in Old City in 2005. He went on to open several more — Tinto, Village Whiskey, Distrito, Amada in Atlantic City and New York, and others — before disputing with investors in court and filing for bankruptcy. Ballard Brands and Philly-based investor David Maser bought Garces’ restaurants over the summer.