*Post by Mark.
Anyone who owns a TV and holds even the slightest affection for food is likely to know who Michael Voltaggio is. Michael edged out some stiff competition, including his brother Bryan, to win Season Six of Top Chef. He's worked as Chef de Cuisine at both The Dining Room and The Bazaar, but not until his highly-anticipated restaurant Ink opens in the coming weeks will Voltaggio finally have a kitchen that is all his own. Fueled by the 32-year old chef's progressive cooking and rising celebrity status, Ink may very well be LA's most anticipated restaurant opening of the year.
Luckily, those eager to check out the young, tattooed chef's food no longer have to wait for the red tape to be cut at Ink. That's because yesterday Voltaggio opened ink.sack - a casual sister restaurant slinging sandwiches just a few doors down from his pending flagship on Melrose.
When we arrived a few minutes before 11 a.m., there was already a small line forming outside. And we were lucky to have arrived when we did. By the time we finished our meals, the line was already snaking down the street and less then 2 hours after opening, ink.sack was turning guests away. They'd already sold out for the day. Going forward, ink.sack plans to serve lunch Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., or - if yesterday was any indicator - until they sell out.
There's a lot to love about the menu (below). Most of the sanwiches are just $5 (two are $6, and one is $4). Throw in a side item and a drink and you've got a sack lunch with your name scribbled on the side for about $12. It's kind of like when mom used to pack your lunch - except if your mom was a dude with lots of tattoos and maybe instead of Carl Buddig ham or PB & J, if she had spiced up your lunches with corned beef tongue and curried chicken skin. Okay, so maybe no one here's going to tear the crusts off your bread for you, but looking over the menu you get the sense that Voltaggio wants to serve the classics - just with a unique twist.
The sandwiches, while cheap, are also relatively small. If you're hungry, I'd recommend two. The way I see it, if you're willing to pay $10 for a big, gourmet sandwich you might as well pay the same and try two. One of our favorites was the spicy tuna (below) which comes with miso-cured albacore, wild rice, and sriracha mayo.
Then there was the Jose Andres, aka 'The Spanish Godfather' (below), named for Voltaggio's mentor at The Bazaar and perhaps the greatest ambassador of Spanish cuisine to America. Playing off of what is traditionally an assortment of Italian meats and cheeses, Voltaggio's version is filled instead with Spanish ingredients like serrano ham, chorizo, lomo, and manchego.
The cold fried chicken (below) comes with house-made ranch cheese and Gindo's spice of life, a local pepper sauce. There's no denying that there's just something comforting about fried chicken on a sandwich.
One that really surprised me was the maple-pepper turkey melt (below), a hearty concoction made with Camembert, mustarda and arugula. Few words could excite me less then 'turkey melt', but the flavors that come together in this one bring it up to a whole new level.
The C.L.T. (below, left) is loaded up with chicken liver mousse, curried chicken skins, lettuce and tomato. Between the creamy mousse and crispy skin, it's a textural treat, but after a few bites of the rich chicken liver I was glad to be sharing it. For me, the Banh Mi (below, right) really steals the show, made with pork cheek, pickled vegetables and crunchy chicharrones.
There's also a nice selection of sodas to wash down your lunch (below, left), and a collection of snacks to help round out your meal. You can go healthy with sides like watermelon with sriracha and lime, or stray for the potato chips. We finished the meal off with a Mexican chocolate chip cookie (below, right) - still warm from the oven and dotted with a hint of sea salt.
The one sandwich I wasn't able to try on this trip was the "rueben" made with corned beef tongue, appenzeller cheese, kraut and Russian dressing. I figure it gives me a good reason to go back. And I'll do just that... maybe once the crowds die down a bit.