Michael Voltaggio announces new restaurant: Ink. It's set to open on Melrose early next year
The anticipation surrounding chef Michael Voltaggio's next move has been near palpable since early summer, when he announced plans to open his own restaurant -- his first. The chef who helped José Andrés bring foie gras cotton candy and liquid nitrogen-dipped popcorn to L.A. at the Bazaar and then launched into culinary stardom as a tough-and-telegenic "Top Chef" winner is opening Ink. (with a period). And he has the tattoo to prove it.
"It's part of the name of my company, MV Ink., and it's [tattooed] on my arm," Voltaggio said. "I went to my friend's tattoo shop in Venice ... and when he was finished, I said, 'You just designed the logo for my restaurant.' "
Ink., which Voltaggio hopes to open by the end of February, will be located in the former Hamasaku space on Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood. Its lease is owned by Michael Ovitz, who closed Hamasaku a year and a half ago and let the restaurant site sit empty, until now.
"It was fate," said the 32-year-old Voltaggio, who until July was the executive chef at the Dining Room at the Langham Huntington Hotel in Pasadena, where he spent a year sidestepping the limelight so he could "focus on cooking."
"I drove by it one day and asked, 'Whose space is that?' Then I got a phone call ... asking if I'd be interested in looking at it.
"Now this is it. This is everything I've worked up to my whole life. But it's backward for me because I did get a name, I got famous or whatever but skipped a lot of steps along the way, the most important one being having my own restaurant. This is a bigger test for me" than it would be for other chefs.
About the menu and the design ...
That Voltaggio ended up at a former sushi restaurant was a stroke of fate too. "I've been interested in Japanese restaurants," conceptually, he said, "how they work, with the sushi chef at the counter and then the rest of the dining room that gets a somewhat different experience." Voltaggio said he would keep Hamasaku's sushi counter at Ink., where he will serve an omakase menu -- not Japanese, but several courses of the kind of food that best reflects his style of cooking -- dishes that might be considered "fine-dining."
But Voltaggio said he envisions a more casual main dining room, where he will serve dishes that are "sharable but well-composed. I want it to be accessible -- the kind of food that I like to eat when I go out."
Ink., which will seat about 80, will be designed by Cliff Fong. Voltaggio says he's encouraged him to use as much locally sourced materials and furniture as possible.
"I love L.A. and I want this place to be about L.A. The space should feel like it has history," Voltaggio said. "It should be authentic and intimate. I want a place where even the servers are running in to work every day excited to be here."
-- Betty Hallock
Photo: Courtesy of Michael Voltaggio