We all like to change things up. Like when you completely altered your handwriting in middle school because you decided cursive wasn’t cool. Or when you cut off your hair after a break-up. Or when you came back for junior year having forgotten you ever liked Lord of the Rings, and suddenly discovered skinny jeans and indie rock. But as that undercut proved: change for change’s sake isn’t a great idea. Ink.well, the new version of Ink, seems to have changed things up just because they wanted to - with pretty mixed results.
Ink was the Melrose restaurant that stuck to its molecular gastronomy guns even as the rest of the world got bored with foams and powders. Despite that, we really liked it as a special occasion spot. But without much warning, Ink closed its doors, and a few weeks later, Ink.well appeared on La Cienega, with a slightly more casual feel.
The biggest change is the space. There are three separate areas: a front dining room, a bar, and a side dining room they call the library that’s the nicest place to eat, even if the bookshelves are half empty. The bar is a welcome addition that the original Ink lacked, but if you get seated in the awkward front area, we’re sorry. There’s a corporate feel now that’s just not nearly as fun.
A lot of the old menu did come over to La Cienega intact, and the food is what keeps this place from being another boring West Hollywood restaurant. The street corn with “foritos,” the egg yolk gnocchi, and the apple dessert are still around, and they’ve added new things like a gem lettuce salad with frozen green goddess dressing, and a beef bacon-filled burger. In this pasta and beet salad-obsessed town, the food here actually feels different, and most of the time the experimenting works. Even when it doesn’t, at least they’re trying something interesting.
If you never made it to the original restaurant, you’ll probably have a perfectly good meal at Ink.well. But, aside from the food, the rest of the place doesn’t feel as special as Ink did. Instead of feeling like an improvement, the new version just seems like unnecessary change. Like that haircut that took way too long to grow out.
With frozen green goddess dressing and corn nuts, this is a perfect example of what Ink.well does right - a familiar dish presented in an unfamiliar way.
The combination of curry and olives, plus the not crispy enough cauliflower just doesn’t work.
On the menu this is described as “dressed up like a tomato” which we guess is true, seeing as the mozzarella is inside a tomato shell thing. We’d like more things dressed up as a tomato because this is very delicious.
These are an old Ink classic, and here they’re just as good as ever. Black potatoes, served with sour cream and a dropper of balsamic vinegar - the best version of salt and vinegar chips that isn’t salt and vinegar chips.
If you’re ordering this, be warned: it is very rich. Inside each gnocchi is runny egg yolk, and it comes in a buttery mushroom broth with crispy croutons. It’s very good, but also will instantly make you want a nap.
This dish hasn’t changed a lot since the Ink days. It still doesn’t look pretty, comes with a homemade cool ranch Dorito, and tastes like high-end creamed corn. It tastes better than it looks.
The best thing we’ve had here. The shrimp is salty and tangy and comes with a leek vinaigrette and a giant mound of shrimp crackers to make a shrimp on shrimp open sandwich.
The “brandade” is in quotation marks because it’s not really the classic French dip-like potato and cod dish. It’s a big piece of fish, covered with potato foam that they’ll encourage you to spread on toast. We prefer regular brandade, no quotation marks.
Also very rich, and involves a french onion dip that we would happily substitute for the chocolate in a chocolate fountain.
This thing is a monster, with something called beef bacon, as well as “whipped” cheese and fermented cucumber. It’s fine, but there are better burgers your doctor wouldn’t advise you to eat around town.
Another Ink carryover, this is a deconstructed apple pie. It’s so good that you won’t even care that they use the word deconstructed to describe it.
A Mexican hot chocolate in dessert form. Our only issue is the chocolate itself comes out super-frozen, so you have to let it sit for a while before you eat. You’ll live.