8360 Melrose Avenue, Ste 107
Los Angeles, CA 90069
Michael Voltaggio's ink was arguably the most hotly anticipated restaurant that I've ever been to. After getting off to a strong opening, consensus seemed to turn against the restaurant somewhat. I ran into Michael at a book signing and he invited me back. Originally I expected my return visit to be for the Kaiseki, but with that on hold for the moment, the tasting menu was the next best thing.
charcoal grilled monterey squid - salt cod-potato cream, almond milk
urki, getariako txakolina, spain 2010
The meal started off strong with a deliciously salty and spicy squid wrapped around a dense moderating core of salt cod and potato. As good as the squid was it was the almond milk that was truly captivating. The cold potage caries a profound depth of salinity tinged with floral notes from the sea beans and succulents.
fluke - caesar tempura, tiny romaine, fennel pollen, togarashi
Fluke is such a light fish that it is completely overshadowed by the intensity of the caesar tempura , but taken without the tempura the rest of the dish feels bland and washed out. Michael's raw fish preparations have consistently been some of the strongest dishes at his restaurants. Unfortunately, while I appreciated the modern interpretation of a caesar salad at play; as a whole this one misses the mark.
foie gras - waffle, smoked maple, hot sauce
kerpen, wehlener sonnenuhr, mosel, germany 2009
This dish was every bit as impressive as I had expected. The immaculately smooth and rich liver is a joy to eat on its own and the accompaniments create the sense of whimsy that I would expect from Michael's food. The smoked maple was especially impressive, texturally akin to a marshmallow, the flavor masterfully combines the caramelized sweetness of maple with a bitter woody char. The waffle ended up being a touch savory and the perfect vessel for spreading gobs of creamy foie goodness.
brussels sprouts - pigs ears, lardo, apple
My companion was quite the fan of brussels sprouts, though for my part, I was simply hoping the lardo and pigs ears would help mask the vegetable's bitterness. The sprouts were actually relatively approachable, an overarching tang from the apple to softened the flavor of the sprouts. The pigs ear added a pleasing savory crunch and the lardo's gamy funk was deftly countered by the bitterness.
poutine - chickpea fries, yogurt curds, lamb neck gravy
Poutine is pretty much the pinacle of junk food, stupidly delicious, utterly inimical to good health and now fancy enough to be served at a restaurant. Crisp savory fries served in a darkly rich gravy with a sharp tang from the curds, Voltaggio's version captures everything that makes the original so tasty despite using none of the traditional ingredients. Along with the foie gras this was my favorite course of the night. The skate wing that followed was equally delicious but lacked the creativity that made the poutine and foie stand out.
skate wing - mushroom oatmeal, mushroom hay
alberto tedeschi, "spungola bellaria", emilia-romagna, italy 2009
Though I haven't had many preparations of skate wing, this might be the strongest yet. The wing itself is delicious, beautifully golden on top with a stringy yet tender mouth feel. The mushroom oatmeal adds an earthy weight reminiscent of a risotto while the "hay" add a contrasting fibrous bite.
beef cheek - carrots, tofu mustard, nasturtium
domaine du vieux tèlègraphe, "la crau", châteauneuf-du-pape, france 2006, from magnum
The final savory was a massive slab of utterly tender beef cheek that reminded me of the otherworldly short rib at Citronelle. The meaty richness of the cheek is underscored with a subtle horseradish bite from the "tofu" while the carrots added a nuanced sweetness to compliment the savor.
apple - caramel, burnt wood ice cream
This was the one course that remained largely unchanged from my previous visit and if anything it was even better this time around without the walnuts. The apple caramel duet is wonderfully sweet and sugary, but the burnt wood ice cream gives the dish a savory edge that is absolute magic.
I quite enjoyed my first trip to ink (though not quite as much as Michael's work at the Dining Room) and true to form the restaurant was stronger this time around. Each and every course on the tasting menu was superb and the food as a whole feels more polished. Thank you for inviting me back Michael, but next time I expect nothing less than 21 courses!
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
8360 Melrose Avenue, Ste 107