Michael Voltaggio's INK will open Wednesday.
I've checked a few different times in the morning for reservations, and sometimes they pop up. It's a little complicated by the fact that they're closed 2 days a week. Yesterday I got lucky and found a reservation for the same night for a party of 2, there must've been a late cancellation.
The night started off strangely as my friend and I got there, and several other groups of 2 or 4, who either got there at around the same time or even after us, were seated first. We ended up waiting almost 20 minutes, and while one of the managers apologized a couple times during the wait, it was frustrating. After the meal, she found us as we were leaving, thanked us for our patience, and even promised it wouldn't happen again. Maybe it's to be chalked up to the restaurant having just opened.
Onto the food! We ordered 7 savory and 1 dessert, in order of their arrival:
- young turnips and radishes coffee-cardamom soil, nasturtium, vadouvan, frozen yogurt
I liked this dish a lot, light and balanced. The flavor of the turnips came through but was also complemented by the different textures and flavors of the "soil" and frozen yogurt. It was fun to eat, and I'd order it again.
- dungeness crab smoked mayo, bok choy “kimchi”
The crab was very fresh, but the dish didn't quite work. I didn't mind it but would probably skip it. However, my friend liked it, especially their take on kimchi using bok choy.
- seaweed mashed potatoes sea grass, sea beans
This was a mistake for us because we had a few other rich dishes coming, and this dish's richness (powered by butter!) was overwhelming by itself. It also kind of killed the other dishes that came around the same time.
- bay scallops cream of dehydrated potato, potato skins, buttermilk-shellfish broth
One of my favorites of the night, especially the tangy and briny buttermilk-shellfish broth which went well with the scallops and the rich potato. There were some small dollops of parsley sauce that helped balance the dish out too. I'd get it again.
- halibut cheeks red pepper dashi, shishito peppers, kelp pasta
Maybe my overall favorite of the night, this was a flavorful and creative dish. The kelp pasta had a strong kelp flavor and was also shaped like a layer of kelp over the fish. The dashi broth with the fish worked really well too, with a slight spicy finish from the pepper.
- quail banana polenta, beet juice, sorrel salad
I liked this dish a lot, and it was also very rich from the banana polenta, conjured up in the chef's Top Chef days (although he admits to taking the idea from an old mentor). The quail was nicely cooked, chewy but not tough, and the polenta, while very rich and buttery, worked well with the quail and the beets. I'd also get this again.
- spaghetti giant squid, squash, hazelnut-ink pesto, piment d’espilette
This was an interesting and dish, but unfortunately, this dish came last because they'd forgotten we ordered it. It would have worked much better if it had been served with the first couple dishes because it's lighter. The textures from the squid noodles and calamari chip was nice.
- grapefruit curd avocado, cilantro sorbet, charred maple-lime
This was the best dessert to get, given my friend and I had several rich dishes. The cilantro sorbet especially was a good palate cleanser. The overall dish worked, though, because the different components and textures tasted good together, and it was fun to eat.
Overall, a good start, and I'll try to be back in a couple months when things have settled and hopefully it'll be easier to get a reservation, maybe even for their omakase? From the website, you can see their current menu and prices - my meal was around $55 before tip, which I thought was reasonable for the quality of the food. I'd order several of the dishes again if they're still on the menu, but I'm also excited to try the rest of the menu.