99 Essential Restaurants 2014

ink.

photo by Anne Fishbein

It’s hard to tell if ink. chef Michael Voltaggio is staunchly self-serious or if he’s having the time of his life — possibly both? You’ll get the most out of this giddy playhouse of a restaurant if you approach with the latter attitude in mind, no matter how seemingly brooding the lighting or the chef. Most dishes here embody extreme whimsy, backed up by all the tricks modern cookery has to offer. Potatoes are made to look like lumps of black charcoal, served with lightly fluffy, house-made sour cream, and you’re even given a small bottle of Chinese black vinegar to spritz them with (“one at a time,” the waiter earnestly instructs). Accompaniments to various dishes include mushroom hay, parsnip bark and onion caramel, and there’s a dish called “cereal” that is like a slick, warm puddle of essence-of-chicken, complete with soft egg and chewy nubs of chicken skin, with a little amaranth and goat butter thrown in for good measure. Sound ridiculous? Maybe a little. Sound fun? It is, very.

-- Besha Rodell