The Grove is LA’s number one tourist destination, which is your number one reason to completely avoid it. But like the 405 anytime after 3pm, it’s also a place you’re going to have to deal with at some point. You end up here because you smashed your iPhone screen and the Beverly Center store has no appointments until next week, or your little cousin is having an American Girl Place tea party, or the last pair of work pants in your size that exists in the city is at that Nordstrom. You’re certainly not planning on coming here for dinner at a restaurant owned by the guy who invented the cronut. Or are you?
189 By Dominique Ansel is the LA home of that famous croissant-donut hybrid, and it’s split into two parts: a downstairs bakery, and an upstairs restaurant that serves dinner and weekend brunch. The place looks like the penthouse of a 1930′s movie star, and despite the four sets of escalators you took to get here from the parking lot, you might forget you’re actually inside a mall where it “snows” during LA’s 65 degree winters.
Whether or not you’ll enjoy your meal at 189 depends on whether you can actually forget (or just look past) the fact that you’re eating inside The Grove. Unlike most of the restaurants in the mall, it isn’t aimed at tourists who’ve just exhausted themselves riding the trolley five times. It’s aimed at people who care about eating good - and interesting - food. The menu might look pretty standard at first glance, but it’s the opposite. Almost everything involves some kind of cronut-like magic trick, while managing not to feel like a science experiment. Milk bread comes out stuffed with corn pudding, clam chowder involves chowder-filled tortellini, and as you’d expect, the desserts are a little bit weird and very delicious. And yes, you should order the cocktail that involves bourbon-injected grapefruit halves that get set on fire in front of you without an ounce of irony.
All of which is to say, 189 is not a casual restaurant, so you’re probably not popping in for a quick meal after securing some overpriced workout clothes you don’t really need. If your group is larger than three people, you’re going to need multiples of each dish and will probably end up spending $100+ each on dinner. On the other hand, 189 is certainly a great spot for a date - as long as you're confident you’ll actually make it inside once your date realizes you’re taking them to dinner at The Grove.
If 189 By Dominique Ansel was almost anywhere else in LA, we’d be telling you to get there now. But if you hate the idea of eating in a mall, then not much we can say about this great, interesting restaurant is going to change that. If you can get past that part of this place, though, you suddenly have a new reason to be at The Grove - other than getting your phone fixed.
If Mexican street corn and white sandwich bread had a baby it wouldn’t be nearly as good as this. We fully support you ordering one of these and not letting anyone else at the table touch it.
We will order anything involving the outrageously-named hen of the woods mushroom, but there are plenty of other reasons this dish is a winner. First and foremost being the cacio e pepe sauce. Hoard some bread from another dish to dip in the leftover sauce throughout the meal.
A perfect example of when 189’s trickery works perfectly. This dish tastes exactly like a banh mi, but instead of a giant crusty baguette stuffed with meat and pickled vegetables, you get a thin piece of bread topped with rich pork rillette. Order it.
This little bowl of rice noodles, chorizo, mussels, and what the menu calls “a ton of garlic” may lead to a relationship-ending fight over who gets the last bite. It’s a fight worth having.
Speaking of garlic, this dish involves instructions to squeeze an entire head of roasted garlic over extremely crispy roasted potatoes. This is much more satisfying than the usual lemon squeeze.
This inside-out clam chowder is one of the few things that doesn’t work. Chowder works better as a soup, not a tortellini filling.
Extremely crispy, as advertised. And extremely delicious.
Technically only available at the bar (although we’ve found they’ll give it to you in the dining room if you ask very nicely), this is a good burger. Probably not a reason to come here, but if you’re in the mood, it will fill that particular need.
Unsurprisingly, the desserts at 189 are a highlight. Meant to mimic the cast-offs of cakes that happen in bakeries, you get to paint these with rum and sprinkle with cocoa before eating.
While there aren’t quite two-hour lines for cronuts here, the bakery still gets extremely busy. Also, the kouign amann are far superior to the cronuts. Sorry, internet.
The dim sum format they do at brunch is more casual, but is also better in theory than practice. You probably prefer to eat lamb sausage with eggs, not on its own before anything else arrives.