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Dominique Ansel’s First LA Restaurant Has Incredible Desserts but Some Misses

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Weighing in the critical response to 189 by Dominique Ansel

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Dominique Ansel Bakery
189 by Dominique Ansel
Wonho Frank Lee

Welcome to Good News/Bad News on 189 by Dominique Ansel, the first full-service restaurant by the famed New York-based pastry chef and restaurateur. With both a massive baking operation downstairs and whimsical dinner and brunch menu upstairs, it is certainly an ambitious project that has been on the receiving end of mixed reviews from critics and bloggers alike. So what’s the overall word? Eater looks at the critical response from critics and online reviewers.

The chicken steals the show

“A roasted game hen is served with garlic-infused sticky rice and a bowl of marinated scallion slivers, as if it were a rotisserie-cooked take on the Korean soup samgye tang — right on cue, the waiter shows up with shot glasses of strong chicken broth to sip along with the bird.” [LAT]

“I had the wonderful quarter baby chicken with black garlic rice stuffing and a spicy scallion salad with a shot of chicken jus. First of all, the roasted white meat chicken was tender and moist. The nutty garlic stuffing and the spicy and savory chilled salad had tons of flavor and just a hint of heat. The jus was warm and comforting. It was a perfect dish - perfect size (alas the full only has a half and a whole chicken option) that was perfectly prepared. I loved those spicy alliums - the brightened the entire dish and tied the nutty stuffing with the clean tasting meat”. [Stephanie B./Yelp]

Unfortunately for the inventor of the Cronut, not everything’s a hit

“Some of Ansel’s dishes read better than they sound. Salt and pepper spare ribs, crisp on the outside and sous-vide soft within, are both too bland and over-rich, although the squeeze of fresh pineapple juice at the end does make them resemble something you may have eaten at Trader Vic’s after a cousin’s bar mitzvah. A Chinese New Year special of split and fried Dungeness crab was acrid and overcooked.” [LAT]

“‘Clam Chowder’ with Little Neck Clam Tortellini, Bacon, Lovage, and Ajo Blanco (Although not terrible, this was the only sort of dud of the bunch. Underseasoned and no briny flavor at all. And might have been served better by using real cream rather than almond milk)” [djquinnc/Food Talk Central]

“I wasn’t too impressed with my dinner here. The mussels were shriveled and overcooked and the tortellini wrappers were thick and under-cooked in the middle.” [PorkyBelly/Food Talk Central]

And there are some service issues

“And the timing of service was way off. It took at least 15 minutes to get our starter... each course dragged like that. The restaurant wasn’t busy so I wonder how it handles things when it IS bustling? Our server was very professional and helpful with the menu, but the kitchen was agonizingly slow.” [Crystal L./Yelp]

But, unsurprisingly, dessert is a success

“As you might expect from a pastry chef expanding his range, the least sybaritic course at 189 may be his desserts, which are all abstracted takes on aspects of chefly technique: an apple dessert demonstrating knife skills; sliced cake made to resemble the snacks banquet chefs often make for themselves by stuffing cake trimmings into a jar; and a composition of ice cream-stuffed charcoal briquettes and little cakes stuffed into exploded chestnut shells.” [LAT]

“For dessert, we had “Trimmings” which is a mini sheet pan with a layered cake with a caramel feuilletine wafer crust, peanut butter mouse and moist dark chocolate cake with cocoa powder and a sugar rum sauce. The crunchy base with the velvety peanut mousse and the rich and deeply flavored moist chocolate cake were a winning combination on their own. After being brushed with the strong rum sauce and lots of the bitter chocolate powder, it was the perfect dessert for any true chocolate flavor. The rum punched up the chocolate flavor, the cocoa powder evened out the mousse and the wafer crust was the most unique textural element.” [Stephanie B./Yelp]

If nothing else, skip the restaurant and go for the bakery

“I might consider trying this place one more time for brunch. But otherwise, I’m just stopping by to nab some cookies and cakes from the bakery.” [Chuck S/Trip Advisor]

189 by Dominique Ansel

189 The Grove Drive, , CA 90036 Visit Website

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