LOS ANGELES
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.

hamachi, asparagus fried in ink batter, buttermilk curds, tangerine ($18)

Hamachi, asparagus fried in ink batter, buttermilk curds, tangerine ($18)

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.

Favorite Dishes
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.

Rating: 3 out of 4 camera snaps
3-snaps

 

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

ink. on Urbanspoon

Spring peas, surf clams, Dungeness crab, almonds ($15) was a perfect spring dish

Spring peas, surf clams, Dungeness crab, almonds ($15) was a perfect spring dish

Simple little gems, burrata, anchovy cracker, lemon dressing ($13) was a nice way to start the dinner

Simple little gems, burrata, anchovy cracker, lemon dressing ($13) was a nice way to start the dinner

The vibe of the restaurant is simple and welcoming

The vibe of the restaurant is simple and welcoming

Corn, miso, housemade Doritos, nori ($12) tasted interesting but the chips didn't really seem like Doritos

Corn, miso, housemade Doritos, nori ($12) tasted interesting and I’m a fan of corn, but the chips didn’t really remind me of Doritos (it had a subtle taste)

Lollipop kale, lardo, crispy pig ears, togarashi ($14)

Lollipop kale, lardo, crispy pig ears, togarashi ($14)

Suckling pig, bbq, glazed and crispy parsnips ($26) was tender and nicely cooked, but the bbq sauce may have been a tad too sweet

Suckling pig, bbq, glazed and crispy parsnips ($26) was tender and nicely cooked, but the bbq sauce may have been a tad too sweet

Beef cheeks, turnips, onion caramel, beef threads ($25)

Beef cheeks, turnips, onion caramel, beef threads ($25)

I'm big on chocolate right now so loved Voltaggio's dessert of chocolate, cajeta, spiced tofu, and nutella sponge cake ($11). Looking like a moonscape, the different textures were interesting to eat

I’m big on chocolate right now so loved Voltaggio’s dessert of chocolate, cajeta, spiced tofu, and nutella sponge cake ($11). Looking like a moonscape, the different textures were interesting to eat

Shaved ice with hibiscus, nasturtium, elderflower, and chocolate mint moss ($11)

Shaved ice with hibiscus, nasturtium, elderflower, and chocolate mint moss ($11)

We were also celebrating my sister's birthday. This candle came with the apple dessert, which was like a deconstructed apple pie with caramel, walnut, and burnt wood semifreddo ($10). It turned out to be our least favorite dessert.

We were also celebrating my sister’s birthday. This candle came with the apple dessert, which was like a deconstructed apple pie with caramel, walnut, and burnt wood semifreddo ($10). It turned out to be our least favorite dessert because there were way too much graham crackers and disc had a pate texture.

An open view of the kitchen. Chef Voltaggio wasn't working that night, but most of his kitchen crew sports ink on their arms (although you can't see this chef's tattoos).

An open view of the kitchen. Chef Voltaggio wasn’t working that night, but most of his kitchen crew sports ink on their arms (although you can’t see this chef’s tattoos).

5 Responses to Dining at Top Chef Michael Voltaggio’s West Hollywood Restaurant Ink

  1. Row says:

    Wow, it’s pretty cool that you dined at Ink! I really like the look of these dishes, especially the chocolate dessert. It’s good when a restaurant is able to maintain a high level of quality, regardless of whether the head chef is there or not.

  2. Sandy says:

    Love your pictures! I saw that you were celebrating a birthday-does Ink do anything special for birthdays? Thinking about going there for when I visit LA :)

    • Ben Ben says:

      Thanks Sandy! Ink, unfortunately, don’t go out of the way for birthdays. When I made the reservations, I said it was for my sister’s birthday. But when we arrived, no one mentioned it or wished my sister happy birthday. And when we ordered dessert, I whispered to my waitress about putting a candle and writing happy birthday on the plate, and she said they don’t do that, but at the least can put the candle on. So at the most you’ll get is a candle. I’ve found Bay Area restaurants a lot more accommodating for special occasions.

  3. Carolyn Jung says:

    House-made Doritos! Love it. I still think his season of “Top Chef” was the best one ever.

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