SOME CHEFS GROW and evolve in one location for years and years—morphing the menu as tastes and trends come and go—but still retaining a place in the local culinary songbook. Others simply close one door and open another, using the clean slate to fuse a new direction with an already well-honed philosophy. Michael Voltaggio falls into the latter camp, having shuttered his original ink. restaurant, which he opened fresh off of his Top Chef win in 2011, to debut ink.well a few blocks away. Although things are still very much Voltaggio—this is still cutting-edge California cuisine—the two concepts are wildly different.
Where the original ink. was dark and brooding, the name alluding to the charcoal walls as much as the tattoos down the kitchen crew’s arms, the new ink.well is a bright new beginning. Ask the chef why, and he’ll simply say it was time for a change.
The entire place is a stark contrast to the original. The dining rooms and bar are awash in white with the only pops of color coming from art on the walls—a series of Robert Rauschenberg prints titled L.A. Uncovered—and the dark leather banquettes have warm, woodsy accents. While it’s a nice room, I think I miss the open kitchen from the original and the energy it added to the space. Sometimes it seemed that’s why some fans went, just to spy the chef working away under the bright lights at the pass. Now, they’ll have to ask if he’s in that night.
Anyone who’s been in L.A. long enough might remember this building as the second iteration of the famed Spanish Kitchen, a hot spot that pulled in celebrities and bar-hoppers from the La Cienega scene for a good 10 years. Now, ink.well has that same draw with its sunken bar (the “well” part of the new name) lined with big booths. There’s plenty of room for cocktailers, scenesters and anyone popping in for a quick bite. Off to the side is the “library,” a private dining area with its own entrance. With CAA co-founder Michael Ovitz still a business partner, surely that room will get some play.
Photography Courtesy Of: