Michael Voltaggio’s signature restaurant Ink doesn’t look like something one would think came from a previous Top Chef winner, and thus, a celebrity chef (I expected a lot of glamour and celebrity friends). But if you’re familiar with Voltaggio from his time on the Bravo reality show, Ink is exactly the kind of restaurant you’d think he would open.
Voltaggio opened his contemporary and eclectic neighborhood restaurant on the chi chi end of Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood. But walking inside, it feels comfortable and unpretentious, with its graphic black-and-white artwork and warm wood furnishings.
No Ink Sighting
When I visited for Sunday dinner recently, Voltaggio, unfortunately, wasn’t in the kitchen. The restaurant gets its name from Voltaggio’s love of tattoos, and there are a few people in his kitchen that shares his love for ink.
But despite Voltaggio’s absence, his crew expertly carried out his mission of producing modern American food using unusual ingredients and presented creatively and beautifully on the plate.
Two things I learned about Voltaggio’s vision of food:
- He loves frying his vegetables. My sister reminded me of Voltaggio’s comment in the show when he said the only way he would eat his vegetables growing up was if they were fried. So several of his plates are topped with fried items, such as the crispy cauliflower in a branzino entrée and a whole bunch of crispy pig ears on top of our kale dish.
- Voltaggio is not afraid to put unusual ingredients on his menu, including beef cheeks and lamb neck.
My sister, niece and I tried several dishes, ranging from a simple corn dish with miso ($12) to our favorite dish of hamachi ($18) – thick slices of the raw fish served with asparagus spears fried (of course) with squid ink batter to perfection.
My niece also liked a dessert dish shaved ice blended and served with hibiscus juice, nasturtium flowers, elderflower, and chocolate mint moss ($11). She thought it was refreshing and would be perfect if the day was warmer (we were in LA during an unusually cool few days).
The Last Bite
Ink’s seasonal menu is supported by a talented kitchen and professional and friendly front room staff, including a general manager who checked in with us regularly to gauge how we were enjoying our dinner. Some components of a dish don’t always come through, but other parts of the beautifully plated dishes will often make up for that, leaving a permanent impression.
Ink, 8360 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles. PH: 323.651.5866. Open Sundays through Thursdays, 6 to 11 p.m.; Fridays through Saturdays, 6 p.m. to midnight. Reservations, major credit cards accepted. mvink.com