I’m a Top Chef and less so a Top Chef Masters fan. I’ve been watching from the beginning.  I’ve experienced some of the contestant’s culinary talent (herehereherehere, and here) , but never have I been able to taste the food from a winner.  Ink has finally changed all that for me.  It’s the new restaurant from Top Chef season 6 winner, Michael Voltaggio.  Season 6 has to be one of the best seasons because the contestants were all REALLY talented, while other seasons has some pretty mediocre talent.  The competitiveness that season was insane.  Anyways, I’m really glad Michael Voltaggio won becausethe man is talented.

Since it’s opening, it’s probably been the hottest ticket in LA.  Reservations are TIGHT.  Seriously, the best we could do for a Friday night was a 9:45pm reservation.  Let’s just say we all had a 2nd or 3rd lunch that day.  Once we got to the restaurant we actually had to wait maybe 15-20 minutes for our table.  There’s not much standing room, and as a group of Asian people crowding the entry way, I can imagine we stood out, at least to Mr. Voltaggio we did, but more about that later.

Fluke caesar tempura, tiny romaine, fennel pollen, togarashi

We kind of wanted to order almost everything, but we were limited because Triple T and Triple F went and got knocked up.  Damn them.  So no raw stuff for them, but luckily that didn’t stop Running Man, Smooth Obturator and myself from getting some goodies.  The fluke was refreshing, but I can’t remember much else.

Shishito Peppers house shaved bonito, tofu mustard

I don’t know why Triple F likes shishito peppers so much.  I see that she orders it a lot when she goes out.  They’re like bell peppers but more concentrated and softer in flavor and texture.  The tofu mustard was interesting, but more creamy and light than pungent and sharp like mustard.  The bonito added some nice saltiness but overall, it’s just shishito peppers.

Crab charred avocado, whipped fish sauce, mushroom chicharron

This was one of my favorite dishes of the night.  It was crab, rolled up in thin avocado slices that were charred.  The white blobs at the end is whipped fish sauce which was soo fishy and pungent yet strangely delicious.  I don’t know where the mushroom came into play, but it was quite a unique bite topping a bit of the crab, avocado, fish sauce on top of the chicharron.  Very good.

Brussel Sprouts pig ears, lardo, apple

Triple T doesn’t like to eat the nether parts of farm animals or globs of fat and this dish had all that.  The pig ears were certainly crispy, and the sprouts had good color on them, but something the dish had a lot of acid that became tiring to eat after a while.  Maybe someone squeezed too much lemon?  Interesting textural combinations going on here.

Spaghetti giant squid, squash, hazelnut pesto

I think Chef Voltaggio or someone on Top Chef has done this before, where they take ribbons of squid and play it off like pasta.  That was the trick here, and it was tasty, but seemed a whole lot more impressive on TV.

Beef Tartare hearts of palm, sea bean chimichurri, horseradish, rye

I rather liked this dish.  It felt like a deconstructed something, but not sure what.

Salmon charred cucumber, cedar leaf, daikon radish

The salmon was meltingly tender, but I thought parts of it were kind of undercooked.  On top of that, I don’t like salmon all that much.  The flavors were nice and there was some textural contrast with the daikon and cucumber.

Octopus ink shells, young fennel, pimenton

Smooth Obturator is pretty finicky when it comes to the texture of his octopus.  I’m a little more forgiving, but he and some others just felt like the octopus was too soft.  The shells were a nice al dente and I liked the overall look of the dish.

Poutine chickpea fries, yogurt curds, lamb neck gravy

This dish was hard to finish, and in fact we could not finish it.  The chickpea fries were a strange heavy almost gummy texture.  The lamb neck gravy was tasty and hearty.  An interesting attempt but those fries gotta go.  I don’t think I’ve ever been to a restaurant of this caliber where I was spending $$$ and we didn’t finish a dish.

Pork Tenderloin charcoal oil, young leeks, macaroni & cheese

A most unattractive dish.  That long snake like monstrosity is actually an extra long tube like macaroni filled with cheese.  It was just ok.  The pork tenderloin was so moist and flavorful though.  Together it tasted nice but just looked creepy.

Steak Frites beef skirt, potato, flavors of bernaise

We were just so full by this point.  I’m not even sure if we finished this one, but nobody seemed impressed.  I thought the meat was perfectly cooked medium rare with a lovely crusty char.  The fries were just eh.  I’m not sure if I know what a bernaise sauce tastes like, so maybe I missed the point of this dish.

Apple caramel, burnt wood ice cream

I actually saw the demon on Jimmy Fallon where the Voltaggio brothers were cooking.  One of them made this burnt wood ice cream I think.  Eat it then, I didn’t know it was burnt wood ice cream, so I can’t remember being struck by the flavor much.  Overall, it was a good dessert.  Lot’s of different textures and apple flavors going on.

Chocolate coffee ice cream, sesame cake

This dessert wasn’t as successful.  Those chocolate logs looked like they’d be sweet, soft, luscious chocolatey-ness but they were stiff, gummy, chocolatey-ness.  I didn’t like the sesame cake.  I thought it was dry.  The ice cream was good!

So it would seem that I did not enjoy my experience at Ink.  I am so very saddened to say that this is true, and I think most of the other members of the H.o.P. would have to agree.  We were all slightly disappointed.  We found many flaws in each of the dishes.  Maybe our standards were too high.  Maybe we don’t understand Chef Voltaggio’s vision.  We would all agree he is talented and is pushing his culinary creativity.  I think I would still go back, but maybe with a smaller group.  Places like this where dishes are meant to be shared is hard to do with a party of 6.  We ended up doubling up on almost all the dishes so maybe that’s why we didn’t finish some of the dishes.

The best part of the night was meeting Chef Voltaggio.  Since we started dinner so late, like 10:30pm, we also finished late and ended up being one of the last parties in the restaurant.  Around that time, Chef Voltaggio was out of the kitchen chit chatting up some patrons.  He was so nice when we asked if he would take a picture with us.  He was profusely and sincerely apologetic that we had to wait for our table.  He said he saw us from the kitchen and told us he just hates hates hates when that happens to people.  If his food didn’t put a smile on our faces, his genuine warmth certainly did.


8360 Melrose Ave, Ste 107
Los Angeles, CA 90069

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