Named 189 by Dominique Ansel, it is Ansel’s first full service restaurant. The bakery occupies the first floor and the dining room is upstairs with a marble bar at the center and an open kitchen.
The media did its job in announcing the coming of the Cronut to LA. By the time I arrived, approximately 30 people lined the front of the restaurant. I was directed to a second line located on the bridge near the water fountains. Fortunately the line moved quickly and an employee walked the length of the line serving samples of their freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.
Once inside, I encountered another line. Time was well spent as you were able to see the large poster sized menu on the wall and make decisions before you reached the front of the line. I was unhappy to learn that each customer was limited to two Cronuts.
Because I went solo, there was no way I could eat everything that interested me. I selected a number of pastries to go and opted to eat the Perfect Little Egg Sandwich there. The savory items are made to order and take time to prepare. My guess is that it took about 20 minutes before my egg sandwich was ready. Others before me had a similar wait time.
The Perfect Little Egg Sandwich is a thick fluffy egg omelette topped with melted gruyere and surrounded by toasted mini brioche buns. This sandwich had all of the elements of a perfect little egg sandwich except for one – it would have benefited from having a small amount of smoked applewood bacon.
While I waited, I observed them applying a torch to their Frozen S’more: a custard ice cream center that’s covered with crispy chocolate wafer chips, packed in a modified frozen marshmallow. There was no way that was going to make it home.
Their “to go” items are neatly packed in small carrier boxes with handles on top. Unless you go off roading after your visit, the wide flat bottom design eliminates the possibility of your pastries getting flipped upside down and losing their attractiveness. They even have small cardboard trays to ensure that the tarts and eclairs do not slide into each other during the ride home.
After I got home, I opened up the carrier boxes to share my treasure with my wife. We quickly grabbed small samples of everything, the Cronut, the DKA (Dominique’s Kouign Amann), Nutella Milk Bread, Chocolate Eclair and the Lime Me Up Tart.
The Cronut is a cross between a donut and a croissant. While it is shaped like a donut, it has flakey layers like a French croissant. It is injected with cream and rolled in sugar and glazed like a donut. It is the best of both worlds.
The DKA kouign amann pastry, similar to a round croissant with a caramelized glaze and gooey center. It was light and flakey and we decided that it was our favorite item that day. I later learned that Ansel eats one for breakfast each day.
Milk Bread is actually a Japanese creation, but with Ansel’s creativity, he has turned this into a big pretzel with braids of dough filled with Nutella and topped with a sweet hazelnut spread with sesame seeds. Once you eat one bite of this, you can’t hold back. It’s quite addictive.
The person that took my order came to my table with all of my “to go” items. She explained that one dish needed a final preparation. The small tray with salt, sugar and juniper needed to be poured on top of the lime tart. The wedge of lime is squeezed on top and that begins the caramelization process for the salt, brown sugar and juniper. The dish resembled a light Key Lime tart that exhibited a sweet and salty experience.
Because 189 by Dominique Ansel is making the news, the lines will be long for a bit. That said I waited about 45 minutes in line and I don’t regret the experience. Much of the line was shaded. Furthermore, Ansel worked the line and accepted picture requests.
All in all, it was a fun and delicious experience.
189 by Dominique Ansel
The Grove, 189 The Grove Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90036