The Cronut king has unleashed his pastry fury on the City of Angels, making an 8,000-square-foot imprint over two floors at The Grove. Dominque Ansel’s eponymous bakery is officially open for business on the ground floor of the space, while his first-ever full service restaurant on the second floor—189 by Dominique Ansel—delighted guests with their first dinner service on Saturday night. The location came to Ansel as if it were a sign—both the Grove location, as well as his first shop in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood, have the same numbered street address. This is the chef’s West Coast debut, opting for Los Angeles over San Francisco.
“There are a lot of cities all around the world that are really exciting, but of course it takes a combination of many factors to create a great restaurant—from skilled and passionate talent, to an eclectic city that provides endless inspirations, to guests who are adventurous and willing to explore new things,” says Ansel. “Los Angelees is just that for us. We really took our time to develop the concept and the menu, and making sure that we’re growing conservatively and taking care in creating something meaningful and worthwhile for our team and for our guests.”
Ansel and executive chef Hyun Lee (most recently at Jean-Georges’ Culinary Concepts in New York) have created a modern American menu offering inventive techniques on comforting classics, while making use of California’s bounty.
“When we first announced we’d be opening a restaurant, people assumed it would be a French restaurant, something formal and fine dining,” says Ansel. “But we decided against that. I wanted to create something approachable, and while our cooking is rooted in French technique, the menu itself incorporates flavors and inspirations from all over the world.”
Some of the globally-inspired dishes include seared hen of the woods mushrooms with fresh egg cacio e pepe sauce and shaved Parmesan, and sweet Pacific shrimp with mentaiko (fish roe) butter and house-made shrimp crackers.
“Having worked in a bakery for so many years, it shows us that creativity doesn’t have to be extravagant, but instead, can be thoughtful, simple twists that make all the difference,” he adds.
Dessert at 189 by Dominique Ansel also gets a new twist, paying homage to lessons learned as a young chef. “Each dessert has a story that illustrates a kitchen technique,” states Ansel. “I’ve always believed you can have a profound effect with just flour, butter, sugar and eggs, and with the right foundations—and with creativity and technique—you can do anything. So this was our little nod to that simple idea.”
Like his bakeries around the world, desserts are whimsical: “The Well” features milk granita, wildflower honey, passion fruit gelée and fennel, and resembles the beginning stages of creating a dough. “Roast”—inspired by the holiday tradition of roasting chestnuts by an open fire—involves coffee, caramel, Whiskey, nutmeg, chestnuts, cedar wood and activated charcoal.
Brunch is offered on the weekends via an interactive communal feast where dishes are served family-style on cutting boards. Guests are treated to “crunchy over crispy fried chicken,” Ansel’s version of the Southern staple, and a DIY lobster roll station with fresh tail and claw meat, lemon confit aïoli, espelette, Old Bay, chives and housemade split-top potato buns.
Ansel has hopes to launch lunch in the coming months.
So what took the pastry pro so long to open a savory concept? “For us, it’s not about savory versus sweet,” he says. “It’s about how much of the dining experience we can create and control, and we decided to develop a full-service restaurant where we’re able to provide a comfortable, approachable experience and even more hospitality.”
“When you have a bakery, your face time with guests is quite short, often just a few short minutes,” he adds. “But with a restaurant, you’re able to take care of them for an hour or two and really create something special and memorable for them from start to finish.”