“This is how I like to eat at home with my own friends and family,” chef Dominque Ansel says as he presents a tray heaped with dozens of his signature Cronut pastries to the table. “It’s more fun that way.”
That way of eating he’s referring to is the brunch service at his restaurant, 189 by Dominique Ansel, which opens at The Grove on Saturday, November 4. The meal is offered in a modified “family style,” with servers swirling around the room carrying platters loaded with food, offering to place portions on on each table (the thick, ceramic platters are all Le Creuset, in pleasing shades of grey, chic and trés French, because of course). Think dim sum without the carts, or a buffet without the exertion of walking to get your own food.
Instead of a typical menu, each table gets a ticket listing dishes that will make their way through the room, though only in the simplest of terms: “Fruits” turn out to be softened, honey-baked crab apples, sliced into tiny disks, and served stacked on a long skewer; “acorn squash” is large, bright orange segments of roasted gourd served atop a mound of nutty grain and rice salad, dotted with pomegranate seeds, and tossed with a tarragon dressing.
Everything that goes by will look and smell fantastic. You will want to say yes every time the apron-clad staff appear beside you. And then, before you can even share that morsel with your table-mates, some other alluring bite will start making the rounds. Do you want some lamb merguez sausage? Yes! Do you want fried chicken with biscuits? Of course! Stacks of round little cakes of potato hashbrowns next to your scoop of chocolate mousse? Bring it on.
Just remember, for each thing you accept, your ticket will be stamped, and your bill tallied up at the end—and, perhaps more importantly, you cannot eat everything in one sitting because you are but one human. Choices will have to be made.
While no dish disappoints, some stick out as particularly worthy of saving room. The pancakes might be the new contender for best in L.A.; the pair of thick, saucer-sized pancakes come served in a tiny cast iron pan, adorned with diced butternut squash and sage butter. A piece of bright pink cedar plank-baked salmon is flavorful and perfectly cooked. The crunchy cornmeal crust on the outside of the oyster would be the stuff of fried-food dreams, even if it weren’t wrapped around a silky bivalve and topped with just a touch of horseradish. Soft scrambled eggs are taken to their most creamy, velvety limit, cooked slowly and with a generous hand on the crème fraîche.
Pastries, Ansel’s claim to fame, are consistently fantastic. The warm cinnamon rolls are soft and supple, avoiding the bread-with-icing quality the dish can often have. His Kouign Amann is a perfect execution of the sweetened, laminated-dough classic, and has been a best-seller in his bakeries in New York and Tokyo. And then there are the Cronuts, croissant-doughnut hybrids, stuffed with seasonal fillings, but you’ll have to head downstairs to the bakery to get one of those.
The dining room is situated on an upper floor, separated from the street-level bakery space, which, if the other Dominique Ansel Bakery outposts around the world are any indication, will attract serious crowds as soon as it opens on November 10. Ansel’s first full-service restaurant, 189 by Dominique Ansel will offer brunch and dinner service (dinner launches November 11). Reservations can be booked online.
Stay on top of the latest in L.A. food and culture. Sign up for our newsletters today.