3 of us saturday night had the pleasure of dining at L.A.'s most anticipated new restaurant of the year... Michael Voltaggio's restaurant INK.
From the moment we arrived, the service was spot on, courteous and welcoming.
We were lucky to have been seated just in front of the "line"and have front row seats to the action.
From our table we could see how Chef Voltaggio prepped our dishes and gave instructions along side his team. He was cool and focused and ran the kitchen as a master... I have to say, I love his cool, rock n' roll attitude along with the fact that he's full of tattoo's (very sexy) and can rock out dishes which were spectacular. That, was my favorite combination of the night.
Someone in our party, however, had a slight "crush" on the sous chef... :) ... I'll stay with the main guy of the night.
Here are some observation from the night:
* Service: Spot on - the waitress was very well informed of all the dishes and cocktails, and explained each dish as it came out, answered all our questions, always very courteous and with a smile... I'm not sure why there are reviews that say the service was pretentious ... I never, ever felt that way, on the contrary, We felt welcomed and the service made our night that much more spectacular.
* Food: My best way to describe the food in a few words would be very focused, the place is "food" driven... as opposed to Bazaar, for example, that sells you a place for ambiance and to see and be seen... here at INK. Food is the #1 reason these people live for... Bitchn' dishes!
One other thing I loved, was that every on the place had a reason to be there... take the Steak Tar-Tar... with powdered horseradish... it was superb, very well done... but add to that bite of steak tar-tar the heart of palm and you understand "why" the heart of palm is there... it brought the dish to a whole new dimension.
*Drinks: We had a few cocktails, and they were well balanced in terms of booze and flavor... I was later chatting with the head mixologist, and exchanging "tasting" notes on his drinks... I loved the scotch with the clover honey & ginger... perfect amount of alcohol... you could really make out the honey and the ginger, which left a slight tingle & spiciness as it goes down. I loved it.
* Dress code: its dressy casual, don't go dressed to the nines, but do dress well. ladies could wear dark skinny jeans, bitchn heals and a nice top... guys button down shirt is fine... no tie is needed... the vibe is very cool and non pretentious.
* Meeting Michael Voltaggio: I'll tell you, he has not let all this fame go to his head, he was amazing and personable, very nice. We had the chance to exchange a few words about the dishes we had ordered and he immediately pulled out his phone and started showing us pictures of the prep work they do every day before service starts... he said he brings the charcoal for the CHARRED AVOCADO from Japan... and said he spends hundreds of dollars every night on burning that charcoal... which by the way if you are wondering, they char them whole with the peal on (I saw it on his cell phone!) He was kind to sign our menu's, and of course, I couldn't leave without buying the Voltaggio's bros. new book... which is amazing! you should get it... and he signed it for me, even got a little drawing from Mr. Chef! :) ... the whole experience was amazing, making us not care 1 bit that we spend $290 (with the book) among 3 people... (with drinks, not including tip)... and wishing more bites of the dishes... (I guess that's Voltaggio's goal...after all) leaving you wanting more...
On to the food - Here's what we ordered:
1. Charred Avocado, hen of the woods, whipped fish sauce and mushroom chicharron
Amazing: My sister & mom don't like avocado... lets start there... but this dish made them believers!... the creamy charred avocado with the earthy hen of the woods whipped fish sauce (foam) and those crispy mushroom chicharrones (OMG... I'll take a bag of those to go!)... well done MV.
2. Kale, Burrata, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin preserve and Yuzu: The slight bitterness of the young tender kale parred beautifully with the sweetness of the pumpkin... the Burrata was delightful, although a bit too soft for my taste, I couldn't distinguish the creamy center from the fresh mozzarella. the pumpkin seeds added a nice crunch to the whole dish.
3. Brussels Sprouts, Pig Ears, house cured Lardo, Apple: This was one of my favorite... The Brussels Sprouts were caramelized to perfection outside, with a nice tender center, topped with julienned crunchy pig ears and a nice tartness and sweetness from the apple.
4. Beef tar tare, horseradish, heart of palm, sea bean chimichurri: Me and my sister loved this dish (mom however, does not eat raw meat, so more for us! ) the horseradish was ash'd (as opposed to the usual suspect on your plate) and I though it was much more mild & pleasant this way than the traditional. make sure you add a little piece of the heart of palm to each bite, it adds a nice balance to the dish.
5. Butternut Squash risotto, Chicken wings, Egg yolk, toasted wild rice, aromatic broth: very nice dish, risotto cooked perfectly along with the sweetness of the squash and the richness of the egg yolk.
6. Sea bass, cream of dehydrated potato, black olive oil, lemon, caper: This was a hit!... the skin was so crispy, and the fish so tender & flaky pared very nice with the creamy potato & a nice punch from black olives and lemon. Next time though, I'll over one just for me, as it was sooo good, and too small for 3 people.
7. Berkshire Pork, charcoal crust, macaroni and cheese, leaks: OMG!... this pork was absolutely amazing... it was cooked sous vied... no knife needed... super tender and the charcoal crust added a nice smokiness. The macaroni and cheese was actually, as mentioned in other reviews, long pasta logs, delightfully aldente stuffed with what tasted like Italian ricotta & parmesano reggiano ... I wish there was more Mac n Cheese in the world like these!.
8. Veal Cheeks, red curry, nante Carrots baked in salt, fried & sticky Rice: I had never before tried Veal cheeks so I though I'd give it a go... the consistency was of a super soft (almost slimy) texture... I didn't like the texture. However, the taste was really good, the carrots were a nice sweet n' salty addition as the crunchy rice and red curry.
9. Wagyu Hanger Steak, Turnips, Coffee Cardamom Soil, Mustard, Vadouvan: Ok, at this point, I (and the rest of my gang) were in a food coma, so much of this dish is a mystery still in my mind...
10. Dessert: I really wish I could have tried all the desserts, honestly, they all sounded so amazing from the Goat Cheese Ash to grapefruit curd & avocado... we went a little dish happy with our savory orders... and barely left any room for the most important part of a dinner... the ending!
So, we went for the Apple, Creme Caramel, burnt wood sabayon and walnuts: OMG! this was amazing... I would honestly never order anything that starts with apples... it seems so boring & safe... this was a reminder: don't judge a book by its cover, or in this case: don't judge the dish by its name: It was nutty, sweet, creamy, crunchy, tart (apple) wow!
M.V. also said he was working on side dishes for the menu repertoire... and eventually many side dishes will make a come back (as in the seaweed mash potatoes & hopefully banana polenta)
Drinks: Vodka, Lime, ginger, soda (so refreshing!)
Scotch, lemon, ginger, clover honey, angostura bitters (omg! sooo good)
Bourbon, pineapple, anise (very good, although I'm not much of a fan of anise)
Mescal, lemon, apple cider, egg white, cinnamon (good, but still a much more a fan of the scotch)
My favorite was the scotch... not too sweet, perfect booze levels, nice sweetness from the honey and a spiciness from the Ginger.
it was an amazing night!... I can't wait to come back!
8360 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90069