y4pcT1JaIwGptQJPO6l_mZmgv34 tiffin unboxed: Wildly Creative Dishes at ink.

Wildly Creative Dishes at ink.

In general, I don't do straight restaurant posts. But when during a meal there are a couple of unique and memorable dishes, the dishes scream to have their own post.

I've had the pleasure of eating Chef Michael Voltaggio's food in the past and his creations definitely do not lack the "wow" factor - be it in taste, presentation and overall creativity. It's no wonder he was the Top Chef Season 6 winner.

Here are some of the highlights, in random order, from the family style small plates at his new restaurant, ink.

ink. Oct11_quail beet juice sorrel salad

quail beet juice sorrel salad

This dish contains a lot of my favorite ingredients and perfectly blends the gamey quail, earthy beet and light greens and foam.

One of the plates I stared at for a long time before breaking up the stunning composition. Then marveled at how great it tasted too.

ink. Oct11_quail detailb

The shadows of the beets on the plate added a visually exciting component.

ink. Oct11_dining room

The clean, modern dining room with open kitchen evokes an energetic vibe that makes the modern food feel more accessible.

ink. Oct11_charred avocado hen of the woods whipped fish sauce mushroom chicharron

charred avocado hen of the woods whipped fish sauce mushroom chicharron

This mostly vegetarian dish contained so many "meaty", hearty flavors. I'd never had charred avocado and didn't realize the chicharrons were mushrooms until I read the menu. 

The foamy, white fish sauce struck me as genius level seasoning.

ink. Oct11_octopus and hiramasa romaine hearts fried caesar dressing

octopus and hiramasa romaine hearts fried caesar dressing

And if only the genius stopped there.

The tender octopus glued together into these stained-glass like rectangles formed the base of this dish, topped with a beautiful hiramasa crudo, baby romaine hearts and the inexplicable fried caesar dressing.

The dressing, minus some of the liquidy components came encased in a light batter. Everyone at the table spoke of wanting to eat about a dozen of them.

ink. Oct11_spaghetti giant squid squash hazelnut ink pesto piment d'espelette

spaghetti giant squid squash hazelnut ink pesto piment d'espelette

I wondered how he could possibly top these ideas. Then this dish came. It looks like a bowl of pasta. The spaghetti is half squid noodles and half spaghetti squash noodles, also warmed up with the hazelnut pesto, herbs and chili pepper.


ink. Oct11_sea bass cream of dehydrated potato black olive oil lemon caper

sea bass cream of dehydrated potato black olive oil lemon caper
And just when I thought every item would wow me with its strange creativity, we got this sea bass dish.

I'm sure modern techniques rendered the perfectly cooked sea bass, but it reminded me of the simply grilled fish I had in Italy or France.

The juicy fish with crispy skin and the right amount of creaminess and acidity makes this a superstar.

The hollowed out potatoes tasted great and provided an interesting, modern touch.

ink. Oct11_banana polenta side of quail

banana polenta

Two creamy side dishes, very different, also rounded out the meal. This was my favorite.

The banana polenta I remembered from Top Chef, possibly being a winning dish from one of his challenges. I always wanted to try it after seeing it on the TV show.

The first bite felt a bit sweet and odd, then it got more savory after a couple more bites. Polenta of any flavor is comforting and creamy and really hard to not like. A couple of fellow diners didn't like this one too much so I happily polished it off.

ink. Oct11_berkshire pork tenderloin charcoal crust macaroni and cheese leeks

berkshire pork tenderloin charcoal crust macaroni and cheese leeks

ink. Oct11_macaroni and cheese detail

The meat wrapped in ashy charcoal definitely is original, but for me this dish was all about the mac and cheese.

I normally want my mac and cheese not too gourmet. But an al dente pasta tube stuffed with Fisacalini Farms cheddar cheese that melts in your mouth leaves nothing else to be desired.

ink. Oct11_place setting

ink. Oct11_my plate

The choice of dishes and place setting displayed the food so beautifully and added to the experience.

Looking at my dinner plate of the first round of food, I can't say I've ever had anything that looks or tastes like this. And I'd definitely go back for more.

Taste of the Nation Jun10_Chef Michael Voltaggio Wasima
Meeting Chef Michael Voltaggio at Taste of the Nation in summer 2010

ink. on Urbanspoon

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