I’ve been wanting to go to ink basically since it opened – for one, I’m a huge Top Chef fan, and winner Michael Voltaggio is the one behind the food at this Los Angeles hot spot. Plus, I can’t resist a Los Angeles hot spot, especially when it promises just enough molecular gastronom-esque stuff to keep things interesting (while not compromising on deliciousness). So, when my parents proposed a trip there with me and the Boy – well, how could I refuse?
We started with cocktails – I had the “Golden Ale,” with vodka, elderflower, lemon lime, honey, hot sauce, salt. That’s how the menu is at ink – everything just laid out in a list – so you’re never entirely sure what you’re getting. Still, I’m of the opinion that cocktails with a little kick are the way to go – it avoids the cloyingly-sweet variety – and those rimmed in salt never fail you. I was right on with this one, which mixed fruit, spice, and salt deliciously.
We shared a variety of dishes, starting with lollipop kale with pig ears. Crunchy kale, crunchy pig ears, a bit of addictive bar-snack saltiness…ok, I thought. So far, so yum.
Next up was duck rillettes, with a charcoal waffle. The waffle was light and paper-thin, covering a pile of meaty, almost greasy rilettes – but not greasy in a bad way. Another win for ink.
Then, cuttlefish, cut like noodles and swirled with more “noodles” of green papaya. A fresh, bright take on a pasta dish, it took us a while to figure out exactly what the green papaya was, even though we’d read about it on the menu. That was one of the things I loved about this restaurant – it kept surprising you.
From there, we had hamachi with charcoal cipollini onions (apparently Voltaggio loves his charcoal, though nothing ever really had an overwhelming burn-y taste) – tender sashimi, which is my weakness…
…followed by potato charcoal with sour cream and black vinegar. The vinegar, with an addictive sweet-tartness, came in a little spray bottle, so you could add as much or little as you liked. I really poured it on – SO good. I think this might have been my favorite dish.
Which is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the branzino with roasted cauliflower and fermented grapes, because I did. The sweet, juicy grapes were the best part.
We had the deceptively simple buckwheat noodles with golden roe – no one can say Voltaggio doesn’t know how to add salt in a million different, amazing ways, here with gorgeous fish eggs…
There was egg yolk gnocchi with mushroom brown butter, and each gnocchi had an egg yolk inside it. Inside it! I’m sorry, that is just so cool.
We also had corn with “housemade doritos” – I mean, this was basically sweet creamed corn. With chips. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t damn good sweet creamed corn with chips.
And then on to the “main courses,” at least, if we were in a more traditional restaurant. Pork belly with petrified parsnips:
And beef cheeks with turnips, onion caramel, and beef threads. By now, we were all pretty full, but regardless I think the beef cheeks were the least favorite dish of the night..they were just surprisingly lacking in flavor. Ah, well. One loss out of a kajillion is not bad.
And indeed, the kajillion hits continued with dessert, beginning with an apple-caramel thing with a burnt wood ice cream circle on top. You got to crack it. That was fun.
There was a “springtime” dessert special, with “snow” and a chocolate branch and bright green ice cream (I know we liked it, I don’t know what it was).
And finally, in a surprising turn of events, we ordered a greek yogurt-coconut-coffee dessert. Now, three of us don’t like coffee, and two of us don’t like coconut, but this was good – the coconut was avoidable for those of us not inclined (it’s that powder) and the dessert was otherwise perfect after such an an enormous meal – light, creamy, and hardly coffee at all.
In the end, ink was one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time – it really knocked my socks off, visually, conceptually, and tastily (tastily?). So what I guess I’m trying to say is thanks, Mom and Dad, for the invite. We loved it.