Chef Dominique Ansel debuts in L.A. with his first full restaurant
How much of an impact will Dominique Ansel have on the L.A. dining scene?
When the endlessly inventive New York pastry chef was in town recently to check on the progress of 189 by Dominique Ansel—his first full restaurant and the largest project in his growing global empire—he stopped by local diner stalwart Du-par’s for a breakfast interview and Instagrammed my basic stack of pancakes. “Likely where our team will end up when we are looking for 24hr joints during the #LA opening,” he posted. That pancake shot now has more than 3,500 likes.
There is a reason Ansel has such an ardent following. His creations—a chiffon cake so light it arrives inside a balloon; a “cookie shot” holding a swig of milk; the famous Cronut, which still draws long lines four years after he invented it—are individually astonishing, yet share a similar, baked-in creative genius. Earlier this year, he was named 2017’s best pastry chef at The World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. Now the globe will be watching what the master of confections can do with a full kitchen.
Ansel has been working on 189 for three years (it is set to open in November), and as he did with branches of his bakery in Tokyo and London, he started by studying the city. “The food, the people, the culture,” he says. “Los Angeles is very different from New York.” His new restaurant, complete with a downstairs bakery, will be at the Grove, the manicured Fairfax shopping center. The site—at the address 189—is a light-filled space with an open kitchen and outdoor terrace. A cloud-like art installation made with fresh baby’s breath flowers will hover in the main dining room; it was inspired by daydreaming, and Ansel hopes it makes his guests feel “light” and “comfortable.”
Similarly, when he creates a dish, he often begins with a feeling rather than a flavor. “It’s a different way of thinking when it comes to cooking food,” he explains. “I want to create an emotional connection.” His menu will be specific to L.A. and include an ode to California citrus in the form of a cocktail: A whole grapefruit is injected with spirits for a few days, superchilled and then squeezed to order tableside. His version of French onion soup is made with silken cabbage topped with rye croutons. The rotisserie chicken receives an L.A. twist with black garlic rice stuffing and a shot of chicken jus on the side. “It’s going to be fun,” he says, with obvious excitement. “I love cooking as much as I love baking. It’s all one thing. It’s my life.”
And those Du-par’s pancakes? He swipes a bite off my plate and beams. “Tender!” he declares. “They are good!” 189 The Grove Drive, L.A.; dominiqueansella.com.
Written by MICHALENE BUSICO.