Thursday, October 27, 2011

ink. (Los Angeles, CA) [2]

Ink Restaurant
8360 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood, CA 90069
Thu 10/27/2011, 07:30p-09:45p

After my first visit to Michael Voltaggio's Ink, the Chef facetiously asked me to "give him at least a week" next time. Well, I gave him much more than that for this latest visit.

Ink Menu Ink Drink Menu
The menu this time around, fortunately, was nearly completely different than that of my previous dinner, and I applaud the Chef for the velocity at which he's changing things up--makes for great replay value. Click for larger versions.

rum [$12.00] | lime, house grenadine, green chartreuse
Devon Espinosa's cocktails, too, have changed, and we started out with his new rum-based one. It was quite fetching, with the herbaceous zing of the Chartreuse playing off the lime nicely, all while the rum added weight and gravity to the drink.

kale [$12.00] | burrata, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin preserves, yuzu
We kicked things off with a non-traditional salad of sorts. There were some really smart flavors going on here, with the creaminess of the burrata deftly balancing out the astringent kale, all under overarching notes of tangy yuzu. My favorite part here though was the smokiness imparted by the pepitas, as well as the pumpkin purée, which served to ground the dish with a restrained sweetness.

octopus and hiramasa
octopus and hiramasa [$16.00] | romaine hearts, fried caesar dressing
Both the octopus and the yellowtail amberjack were delightfully textured, and perked up by some great tart flavors. I loved the crispness imparted by the lettuce here, while the cuboids of caesar imparted a delicious depth and body to things, tying everything together. A standout dish for us.

bigeye tuna
bigeye tuna [$15.00] | parsnip-sesame cream, grapefruit, soy gel
Big eye tuna was mild and clean, with the soy gel providing a touch of umami-soaked flair that recalled the eating of sashimi, though some bites were overly salty. I appreciated the complexity and lusciousness imparted by the parsnip cream here, while the bits of bread helped moderate the dish. The key, though, was the grapefruit, which provided a much needed levity to things.

charred avocado
charred avocado [$11.00] | hen of the woods, whipped fish sauce, mushroom chicharrón
Another highlight of the evening was the avocado, which showed off a fantastic creaminess that went surprisingly well with the earthy relish of the maitakes, while the fish sauce added savory, yet ethereal overtones of pungency to the dish that I really enjoyed. The best part of the course, however, were the mushroom chips--I wanted an entire bag to myself!

beef tartare
beef tartare [$15.00] | horseradish, hearts of palm, sea bean chimichurri
Next up was perhaps the most fascinating beef tartar that I've had. The meat itself here was actually pretty mild, so what was interesting were its various accoutrements. The sea beans contributed a marked salinity to things that amped up the beef nicely, while the horseradish supplied pricks of piquancy to the dish. I also liked the tartness of the red onion gelée, as well as the rye tuiles for texture.

aviation gin
aviation gin [$13.00] | red bell pepper, agave, parfait amour
Our next drink was Espinosa's take on the classic Aviation cocktail, which conveyed a great interplay between the gin and the floral tang of the Parfait d'Amour, while the agave added body and sweetness to things. I didn't get too much from the bell pepper, though.

brussels sprouts
brussels sprouts [$10.00] | pig ears, house-cured lardo, apple
Brussels sprouts and pig ears, two of my favorite things to eat, together at last. The sprouts' innate astringency was adroitly augmented by the bitterness of char, while a veil of lardo served to provide a palpable gravity to the crisp veggies. If that wasn't good enough, strings of fried pig ear showed off a superb mix of crunchy and supple textures, while providing a shot of saltiness to the fray.

bay scallops
bay scallops [$14.00] | lamb neck and chickpea poutine, yogurt curds
Here was Voltaggio's version of poutine, substituting chickpea for fries, lamb for gravy, and yogurt for cheese, while also throwing scallops, fennel, and chive into the mix. The whole thing taken together was actually pretty delicious. Amazingly, the scallops weren't overpowered by all the other ingredients at play, and still were able to convey their inherent sweetness and salinity just fine. The lamb, of course, served up dark, meaty flavors, tempered a bit by the relative austerity of the garbanzo cylinders, and I appreciated the lightening effect of the herbs as well.

berkshire pork
berkshire pork [$22.00] | charcoal crust, macaroni and cheese, leeks
Pork was undeniably tender, with a delectable porcine goodness balanced by a substantial amount of astringency from the meat's charcoal crust. It was a bit overwhelming at first, but I quickly warmed up to the countervailing bitterness at play. What I wasn't as keen on was the onion, which I found a touch sweet.

pinot noir
pinot noir [$18.00] | soliste, "narcisse", sonoma coast 2008
In preparation for our final savory course of the night, we opted for a wine, the 2008 Narcisse Pinot Noir from Soliste in Sonoma County. It was delectable, with a light body and plenty of cherry and berry flavors, laced with a bit of smoky savoriness.

wagyu hanger steak
wagyu hanger steak [$25.00] | turnips, coffee-cardamom soil, mustard, vadouvan
Hanger steak, not surprisingly, was stupendously beefy. It actually paired pretty well with the vadouvan, which imparted an Indian-inspired flair to the dish that was further enhanced by the coffee-cardamom combo. Meanwhile, the turnips, mustard, and greenery worked hard to counteract the strong flavors at play, sometimes succeeding in the effort.

apple [$9.00] | crème caramel, burnt wood sabayon, walnut
Desserts haven't witnessed as much turnover as the rest of the menu, but they have been refined. Take, for example, Voltaggio's apple dessert, which now had burnt wood sabayon in place of burnt wood ice cream. I thoroughly enjoyed the previous iteration, but this was arguably even better. The apple and caramel formed a wonderfully sugary complex together, while the frozen nitro sabayon contributed a restrained savoriness to the mix that filled out the dish perfectly. Very nice.

Ink appears to be still going strong. What's interesting is that Voltaggio seems to have veered toward the more adventurous in terms of taste. Previously, despite the progressive technique and plating utilized, many of the flavor profiles here were relatively familiar, comforting even. Now, it seems like the Chef is trying for the more experimental, more ambitious, and from what I've eaten, it appears that he's pulling it off. I'm very curious to see how the restaurant and its food progresses in the coming months, especially with the implementation of the omakase option in January.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice write-up, Kevin. I finally had a chance to try ink. a few days ago (, and to my surprise, it exceeded my somewhat low expectations; indeed, I actually came away preferring it to Red Medicine.

By the way, any reason why you abstained from their most impressive young carrots dish?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011 6:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

how do you feel about the prices? looking at the size of the dishes, the prices appear to be pretty high. thanks!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011 10:31:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Andrew: Nice job--it was great to see some of the dishes that I didn't get to try. As for the carrots course, I don't believe that it was on offer this particular evening. I also saw that you went to Daniel; it's on the top of my to-eat list over in NY.

Anon: Certainly, the prices aren't as low as I'd like, though the portion size does vary quite a bit from dish to dish (e.g. tuna vs. poutine). This is not budget dining by any stretch!

Thursday, December 29, 2011 12:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad to hear it! What else is on your New York agenda?

Thursday, December 29, 2011 6:21:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

EMP for sure. Marea, Blue Hill probably, Corton? Perhaps a return to Per Se, and finally Peter Luger's just cuz. I see you've been around NYC quite a bit, so any other recommendations?

Friday, December 30, 2011 1:12:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like you've carved out quite a hedonistic jaunt. I'm looking forward to your reviews!

Hmmm, as for recommendations, I've heard the Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare is great, though--as you know--they prohibit photography.

Friday, December 30, 2011 6:52:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Yep, I'd definitely be interested in Brooklyn Fare were it not for that photo policy (hell, they don't even allow you to take notes).

That's the same reason I haven't been to Masa. Also, Corton used to have such a policy, but it was lifted in mid 2010.

Saturday, December 31, 2011 6:21:00 PM  

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