We have been waiting to dine at Ink for as long as it’s been open. Again, we’re so late to the game but the restaurant is still a popular one and the restaurant is packed and bustling on the night of our visit.
Our server was really awesome and I must preface by saying, the service here is exceptional. Even with a packed dining room, the service did not lose a beat with everything running so smoothly and with great attention, leaving us all very impressed by this fact.
The first thing which excited me was the special of the night… Brioche ($28) served with complimentary foie. Awww man, I was ALL over that… there was no doubt we were having this and everything was rather excited. The texture of the foie terrine was so smooth and creamy and while that part of pleasing, I was longing for a stronger more robust flavor. I took several bites hoping to satiate that desire for that livery goodness to make my eyes roll in utter satisfaction, but it never came.
Dungeness Crab ($19) wasn’t one of my favorite dishes. The textural composition was strange and the crab did not leave my mouth longing for more of its umami brininess because there was none. House tofu and leeks were floating in a broth which didn’t help much either. The sea lettuce was the best part of the dish.
Ordinarily, I’m not a fan of ‘salads’ of any kind, but Little Gems ($13) turned out to be very pleasant. The lettuce was sliced lengthwise and served wedge style (half of a whole). The lemon dressing was embedded in all the crevices of every leaf which made every bite perfectly seasoned but not overdressed by any means. The burrata appealed to half the table while the other half found the intense milkiness on the gamey side. The anchovy cracker added a nice crunch but didn’t possess much anchovy flavor at all.
Hamachi ($18) was fresh, subtle in flavor especially when paired with green apple and lime. The fresh wasabi wasn’t overpowering which was nice, but the dish was under-seasoned on the whole and needed a touch more saltiness to bring out the flavor of the fish.
Smoked Trout ($15) with tomato jam, dashi aioli and served with crispy fried yucca was nice but not very memorable.
However, Corn ($12) was just insanely good. We were all fighting for the plate of creamy corn dotted with green onion, breaking off a piece of the housemade doritos to scoop it with. The doritos were topped with a roasted baby corn adding to its smoky flavor.
Then came Cereal ($13) which I didn’t care for at all. The amaranth grain provided the cereal-like texture, but maybe it was the goat butter it was cooked with, maybe not, but I couldn’t place a taste I was getting which I disliked. Another friend said the same thing. Even the runny fried egg couldn’t save this for me. I thought the chicken cracklin’ might save the dish, but they weren’t crispy and a tad stale.
Of course, after that came the heavenly Egg Yolk Gnocchi ($15) which were pillows of nothing I’ve ever tasted. Simple yet so sublime, the gnocchi is tossed in a mushroom brown butter and topped with hen of the woods (maitake mushrooms).
Then, another rather uneventful dish, the Potato Polenta ($16) with bone marrow, sour cream and chive.
Followed by another incredible dish, Lollipop Kale ($14) which were clusters of baby kale crispy along the edges and the crunchiest, tastiest pig ears even the one in our group who normally refuses to eat pig ears ate them. The creme fraiche sprinkled with togarashi is a great dipping sauce for both the kale and ears.
The entrees arrived next … the Branzino ($33) with roasted cauliflower, capers and fermented grapes was good (shame about the messed up plating) …..
followed by another standout, the Lamb Belly ($23) which was so unctuous only a tiny piece was needed. The braised lettuce and yogurt curds accoutrements were lovely and topped with “mushroom hay”, thin shredded slivers of mushrooms fried to crispy perfection.
Of course, that luck ran out again rather quickly when Monkfish ($32) hit the table. Presentation is mind-boggling with winter squash web covering the pieces of bland and slightly over-cooked fish. The saffron-quince added a sweet finish to the entire dish which was very unpleasant for my non-sweet palate.
Potato Charcoal ($10) is a must when you visit Ink. These little potatoes are roasted with charcoal and arrives looking like little black balls in an earthenware vessel along with house-made sour cream and a spray bottle of black vinegar. Even this non potato lover absolutely loved it. I think it was the Chinese Zhenjiang black vinegar, which was so much fun to spray on and added a really unique flavor to the potatoes.
I wasn’t excited about the Short Ribs ($30) on paper purely because it was done “pho style” with radish noodles and puffed tendon. My friend Kim (who is Vietnamese) wanted to try it but the both of us were sadly disappointed by the lack of intensity in the broth. Always stick with your first instincts.
Our last savory dish was a special. The Kuroge ($45) was a gimmicky one which consisted of a large heated stone (700 degrees we were told) with four slices of well-marbled wagyu plus condiments of salt and pickled carrots. The meat is placed on the stone for a mere 10 seconds before it is turned for another 10 (medium rare), but because of its fat content, the meat stays extremely tender. At $11.50 a slice, I’m not sure I would order it again.
There were four desserts on the menu and we ordered them all. Lemon Verbena curd ($10), Mountain Yam ($12) with caramelized white chocolate, popcorn and coconut, Chocolate ($11) ganache cake with cocoa nibs and plantains plus Apple ($11) with caramel shortbread and burnt wood semifreddo. Sadly, none wowed me but if I were to pick, the lemon verbena curd and chocolate cake were the best of the four.
I was glad I can finally cross Ink off my list, but, with 30% of the meal being spectacular, 50% passable, and 30% not hitting the mark, I’m in no rush to return. Service was absolutely outstanding and if anything, that’s something we walked away marveling at especially when the dining room was packed with people waiting outside.
8360 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90069