ink., Los Angeles (December 2011)

Having been deprived of even moderately creative restaurants for four months, I was most excited to try ink. After parrying the hostess’ attempt to cram us into the corner section of a banquette, we were eventually seated at a commodious four-top and met by Jessica, our gregarious server for the evening.

A number of menu items piqued our interest, so we went ahead and ordered fourteen of the sixteen savory dishes and three of the four desserts. To start, the kitchen sent out elegantly plated carrots with coffee-cardamon soil, a hint of curry and coconut milk ice quickly followed by Dungeness crab encased in charred avocado garlanded with whipped fish sauce studded with mushroom crackers and a diaphanous fluke crudo with romaine, lemon oil, radish and cubes of fried Caesar dressing.

The next set of plates included, (1) a satisfying salad of kale, Asian pear, burrata, pumpkin seeds and imperceptible yuzu, (2) fried pig ears atop house-cured lardo, which was draped over Brussels sprouts and apple, and (3) pleasantly elastic giant squid spaghetti with hazelnut-ink pesto, basil and piment d’espelette.

With one delicious plate after another up to that point, I suppose the kitchen was due for a dud, and they delivered: under-seasoned beef tartare with hearts of palm, sea beans and sea bean chimichurri, all of which was overwhelmed by the outwardly scene-from-Scarface snow of horseradish.

And then, swinging the pendulum entirely in the other direction, out came the two tastiest dishes of the dinner: (1) compressed Jidori chicken with crispy waffles, hot sauce and smoked maple syrup redolent of campfire marshmallows and (2) poutine of braised lamb neck, chickpea, yogurt curds and chive purée.

The next three plates, alas, were middling: (1) octopus sitting on cream of chive-studded dehydrated potato, black olive oil and lemon purée, (2) a nicely cooked sea bass in a saffron-mussel broth marred by plastic-y shishito peppers and kelp pasta and (3) an overbearing charcoal oil-laden plate of pork cheeks, leeks and a cannelloni of macaroni and cheese.

 

For the final two savory courses, we enjoyed sweetbreads with purple cauliflower, capers and smoked raisins and a robustly flavored, Maillard-succored skirt steak with tamarind BBQ sauce, turnips, turnip purée and crispy potato cylinders.

 

Transitioning to dessert, all three–(1) “peanut butter, milk chocolate, coconut,” (2)”apple, créme caramel, burnt wood sabayon, walnut,” and (3) “grapefruit curd, avocado, cilantro sorbet, charred, maple-lime”–were delivered at once; if I were to summarize my feelings about the desserts with a monepic, it would simply be “Yum.”


Eating at ink. almost invariably begs for comparisons with Red Medicine. Regarding the food, both restaurants challenge patrons’ reference points but also suffer from the occasional pratfall. On the ambiance and service fronts, though, advantage ink; it’s manifestly quieter, while also retaining a sense of humor (e.g. see the picture of Tony Hawk relieving himself above the toilet) and isn’t nearly as beset by hipster insouciance.

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