Birthday or any occasion is often an excuse to go to fancy places for food. In celebration of a friend's birthday, we went to a restaurant called "ink" that is on both of our to-try lists. Happy Birthday!! <3 This restaurant is on Melrose, and on the way there, we found that they also have a sandwich place called "ink.sack" next to the ink restaurant, and the sandwich is around $6-$8, very reasonable! (Let you know next time after I try it) Ink is owned by a celebrity chef Michael Voltaggio who is known on the TV show "Top Chef". Although this is a relatively high-end restaurant, the ambience is very modern, casual, and relaxing, perfect for a date of 4-5 people group gathering. The food is mostly tapas size, with a couple more filling dishes at the end of the menu. What I like about this place is that this is no traditional restaurant, the menu is very creative with the ingredients and spices, and the dishes are full of surprises for your taste buds.
Note* Sorry for the quality of the pictures, it was really dark inside and my friends were hungry.
Japanese Scallop - soy cured papaya, fermented chilli, basil
Basically, like scallop sashimi. The scallop was very fresh, and the texture of the scallop was very different, um.... it's almost like pudding. Papaya gave the dish a little sweetness, and basil gave it a refreshing after taste. It was very impressive that those ingredients go together so well.
Salt and Charcoal Potato - housemade sour cream, black vinegar
To put it in a simple way, it is potato balls with some sauces. It was good, but not particularly impressive.
Oyster - half dozen, mignonette ice
The most important thing when it comes to oysters is the oyster itself. It has to be fresh, no way around it. Doesn't matter what kind of seasoning you put on it, if it is not fresh, it will not taste good. That's why I don't usually order or like oysters, because I can be very picky. But the oyster I had last night was very good. Especially with the mignonette ice, it is a very mild taste, but it complimented the oyster so well, and with a little scent from the flower they put on top, it was just perfect.
Egg Yolk Gnocchi - mushroom brown butter, hen of the woods
I like it a lot, the sauce is slightly saltier for my taste, but it was good. The sauce has a very strong mushroom taste that I almost feel like they probably have used a mushroom stock. Apparently, this is one of the dishes they keep on the menu while the rest of them change according to seasonal ingredients.
Octopus - ink, shells, young fennel, pimenton
The octopus was perfectly charred with pimenton, and very chewy. I am a big fan of this eight-legged creature. The black shells were cooked to perfection. Delicious.
Pasta Paella - local squid, aioli, thai flavors
Definitely the highlight of the meal (Everybody on the table agreed)! Absolutely my favorite dish of the night, and we almost wanted to order another one. It is like a combination of Arròs negre and Fideuá. It comes with a side of fresh lime and crushed peanuts, and that definitely added the thai flavors to the dish with the basil on the side. The aioli added a little creamy texture when mixed with the pasta noodle. The squid was perfectly cooked. I would go back to the restaurant just for this dish.
Branzino - roasted cauliflower, caper, fermented grape
Very interesting. Cripsy cauliflower with perfectly seared branzino, and a tad sweet and sour from the grapes. I love the added texture from the cauliflower and the added sweetness from the grapes.
Lamill Coffee - Chemex two cup pot
We weren't planning on getting coffee, but the smell of coffee from the other table inspired the coffee craving. They use a Chemex pot and make the coffee right in front of you. The coffee was perfect with the dessert.
Peanut butter, coconut, whipped strawberry, basil
The dessert menu was a little hard to understand as they just listed all the individual ingredients without telling us anything about the actual product made from the ingredients. Well, I guess you just have to ask. Anyways, the skillful combination of ingredients continues to surprise me.
Apple, caramel, shortbread, burnt wood semifreddo
The burntwood semifreddo perfectly balanced out the sweetness of the caramel flan/puree at the bottom. The shortbread added a little texture to the dessert, and the apple added a little sourness to the caramel. I was very amazed with this dining experience, if you are looking for something different, creative and fun, this is the perfect place! I did not go in with particularly high expectations, but I left with awe and excitement. Highly recommended.