The challenge, however, is finding time in one’s schedule to make your way across town to try the latest place, and that is IF you actually can get a reservation for a day/time that fits your schedule. If I had a nickel for every time OpenTable told me, “No tables are available within 2.5 hours of your 7:30 PM request,” I’d be rolling in the Benjamins.
Since it opened in September of 2011, Michael Voltaggio’s “ink.” was one of those places that I wanted to hit; unfortunately, one thing or another would get in the way. I finally made it there earlier this week, and ladies and gentleman, I can tell you with an honest heart and a full stomach that it absolutely did not disappoint.
The entire drink menu looked tantalizing, with a great selection of wine, beer, and spirits. I decided to give their cocktails a shot, and the two concoctions I tried proved to be tasty. Most notable was their Penicillin (though it isn’t named as such on the drink menu), which replaced the traditional lemon juice in the recipe with yuzu. It was a simple yet brilliant move, creating the best Penicillin I’ve ever had — apologies to Milk & Honey in New York, the creators of this modern classic.
The food was uniformly excellent. Chef Voltaggio has a way of taking a seemingly straightforward set of ingredients, some less common than others, and offering it up an a completely unexpected way. I sat at the counter and watched the line chefs prep many different plates beyond the ones I ordered for myself, and I can tell you unequivocally that nothing the they created ended up looking the way my mind’s eye imagined it when I read the menu (click HERE to see the full list of what was offered that evening).
Narrowing down my choices to four plates proved to be difficult, but here’s what I ended up ordering (with my descriptions being closer to how the servers presented them rather than what was printed on the menu):
1. Cottage toast, broccoli, quail eggs, uni: Amazingly flavorful. A little awkward to eat, and a bit more uni would have been nice, too. Still, I’m glad I ordered it.
2. Beef tartare, hearts of palm, sea bean chimichurri, horseradish “snow,” rye: If you made me pick a favorite, this would be it (though the dessert gave it a strong run for the money). Flavors popped with all of the accoutrements adding texture and visual appeal without masking the pure flavors of the beef. Blessedly good. You eat a dish like this and weep for the vegetarians out there.
3. Lollipop kale, kale juice, house-cured lardo, pig ears, creme fraiche w/ togarashi: This dish is variations on a theme of crispy. The lardo and pig ears sold me on this dish, but the kale dominates. The plate comes to the table with the creme fraiche/togarashi on the bottom and the kale juice in a separate vial; the server then pours the kale juice into the bowl and encourages you to mix it all up. I wish I followed the instructions better — the best fork-fulls were the ones towards the bottom where there was a much better balance between the brightness and slight sweetness of the creme fraiche, the interesting notes of togarashi, and the intensity of the kale. The first few bites, the ones I took while still a bit timid about mixing thoroughly, were overwhelmingly kale-flavored — but I blame myself for that ( . . . in school, I was never that good at following instructions properly . . . )
4 (dessert). Mountain yam ice cream, caramelized white chocolate, popcorn, coconut: This one was stunning and absolutely not what I expected. The actual menu describes it simply as “Mountain yam” without saying anything about it being ice cream. Even after it arrives in front of you, nothing is as it seems. If you look on the photo below:
- The “mountain yams” are the whitish globes
- The “caramelized white chocolate” are the darker oblong lobes
- The “popcorn” is most surprisingly the thick biscuit-looking things stuck on top
- The “coconut” ended up being the large, thin sheets
In the end, I am overjoyed that I finally made it to “ink.” I can’t wait to go back.
Photo credits: CK Dexter Haven