ink. (Los Angeles, CA) [2]

ink.
8360 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90069
Dining date: 8/7/13

ink exterior

Michael Voltaggio’s ink. was one of the biggest restaurant openings in 2011; I visited the restaurant twice on its opening weekend but it took almost two years to make my next visit (not counting my visit for the 5×5 collaborative dinner last year). While the restaurant’s popularity has cooled a bit since then, it remains a popular choice for Voltaggio’s modern American cuisine. While Voltaggio’s cooking has a strong fundamental base in classical cuisine, he blends a restrained molecular gastronomy flair which he developed during his time as chef de cuisine of The Bazaar.

interior

A window into the kitchen allows a glimpse into the action; here, Voltaggio and chef de cuisine Cole Dickinson examine a couple of plates on their way out.

chefs

Cocktails are a strength of the bar menu with a good selection of creative drinks.

gin oro blanco, aperol, kaffir lime, ipa foam, salt
bourbon cocchi rouge, campari, chocolate bitters, strawberry lambic

gin & bourbon

tequila sherry, pineapple, orgeat, lime, mole

tequila

We enjoyed all of these, but I particularly liked the gin cocktail made to resemble a tall glass of beer. Slight citrus and bitter notes complemented the alcohol.

lollipop kale, crème fraiche, pig ears, togarashi

lollipop kale, crème fraiche, pig ears, togarashi

Parts of the kale stalks were used with the leaves, giving the lollipop look. The pork ears seemed extra crispy, adding a ton of texture to go along with the crunchy kale. The dish was high in acid from the creme fraiche, and I feel like there was some lime juice or something added.

charred avocado, dungeness crab, almond sponge, smoked oil

charred avocado, dungeness crab, almond sponge, smoked oil

Sweet dungeness crab was paired with the frozen almond sponge, which provided an interesting cold, airy texture. I felt the title ingredient was somewhat lost though, with the charred effect not helping to bring the avocado to the forefront.

egg yolk gnocchi, mushroom brown butter, hen of the woods

egg yolk gnocchi, mushroom brown butter, hen of the woods

The next dish was a very interesting one – definitely not traditional. I don’t believe any flour or potato were used in these ‘gnocchi;’ rather, it’s pretty much the yolk and oil. The centers were filled with a warm liquid yolk, which really went well with the strong earthy flavors of the mushrooms.

cereal, fried egg, amaranth, goat butter, chicken cracklin

cereal, fried egg, amaranth, goat butter, chicken cracklin

Loved this playful, savory take on a bowl of cereal. A hearty chicken stock formed the base (milk?), while crispy chicken cracklings (granola?) provided the bulk of texture and extra chicken flavor. With the fried egg came extra richness, balanced by the colorful amaranth leaves.

halibut, liquid falafel, greek yogurt, sumac onions

halibut, liquid falafel, greek yogurt, sumac onions

Loved the colors and presentation of this dish. The halibut was mostly cooked well – fairly juicy and moist in the middle, though a bit dry at the ends. Cool, crispy cucumber and a yogurt balanced out the halibut. I really liked the liquid falafel, which had an addictingly crispy exterior and a nice, warm liquid falafel filling.

beef short rib, radish noodles, puffed tendon, pho broth

beef short rib, radish noodles, puffed tendon, pho broth

Our last savory dish was a standout, really resembling a bowl of pho. The short rib slices were luscious, tender and delicious on their own with a sweet & savory southeast Asian glaze. Daikon slivers resembled noodles and provided a fresh bite; combined with bok choy, they sat in a rich beefy stock. Finally, addicting crispy pieces of fried tendon came on the side with sriracha, providing extra texture and flavor. This was so good.

With the conclusion of the savory part of the meal, we shared two desserts.

apple, caramel, walnut, burnt wood semifreddo

apple, caramel, walnut, burnt wood semifreddo

There were a number of components here and I’m not sure they really came together.

chocolate, coffee cake, chicory, raw milk, cream cheese frost

chocolate, coffee cake, chicory, raw milk, cream cheese frost

This simpler dessert was more successful, centered around chunks of moist chocolate and coffee cake. Strong chocolate and coffee flavors were complemented by the milk and cream cheese frost, elevating a common flavor combination.

Our meal at ink. was good, but not great…falling a bit short of high expectations. The short rib dish was excellent, and the egg yolk gnocchi, cereal, and chocolate dishes were other highlights. However, there were also a number of dishes that were less memorable with a lingering feeling like they were missing something. Given the creativity involved, I wasn’t surprised to find some dishes that we just didn’t connect with…but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a high level of cooking going on here.


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