Dominique Ansel Thinks You’re Doing Brunch Wrong
If you show up for the Weekend Table brunch service at Dominique Ansel’s new Los Angeles restaurant 189, you won’t get a menu listing eggs Benedict and bottomless mimosas. In fact, you won’t get a menu at all. It’s not surprising that the pastry chef who was madcap enough to cross-pollinate a doughnut and a croissant to create a national phenomenon has decided to do something a little different at his first true sit-down restaurant.
Located above his equally new bakery in the tony shopping center The Grove, 189 takes an approach similar to dim sum for its weekend brunches. As for that first-floor bakery: Yes, folks are already lining up for the Cronut, but he’s also created some only-in-LA concoctions like a play on avocado toast that involves avocado and ricotta ice cream, a butter cookie, olive oil and sea salt.
I recently chatted with Ansel to get the lowdown on his newfangled brunch service, why he’s excited about LA, and why scrambles are better than omelets.
Extra Crispy: Congratulations on 189. Why Los Angeles and why now?
Dominique Ansel: I’ve been super excited about the food scene in L.A. for a while. There’s a lot of talent there, and people visiting there from all over the world. It’s the perfect place to start something new. Plus, there are amazing ingredients. In New York we have to import a lot, but there’s so much in California to work with.
So how have we been doing brunch wrong our whole lives?
Well, what I really didn’t want at the new restaurant was a menu full of eggs. Chefs tend to hate doing brunch, because it’s not fun. I wanted to make the service a little more like I would eat at home, and to encourage more sharing at the table.
Tell me how the brunch service at 189 works.
It’s based off of dim sum: At your table, you have a ceramic platter in the center that you can fill up with dishes as they come out of the kitchen. And you have a card with emojis on it that’s stamped as you order different items. It’s broken down into Breads & Starches, Meats, Fish, Veggies, Premiums like DIY lobster rolls, and Sweets like pancakes.
Hold up. Did you say DIY lobster rolls?
Yes, you get lobster meat dressed with lemon confit aioli, Old Bay and a little espelette served in the shell, then you make your own lobster rolls with house-made potato rolls.
What are some of the other items you’re serving right now?
A very crunchy Southern-style fried chicken made with a paprika, garlic, onion and black pepper batter; twice-baked cinnamon rolls with a Champagne glaze; and butternut squash pancakes. The dishes will change seasonally.
What about drinks?
We have a really fun bloody mary cart. The base is a tomato juice that we make in-house, then you get your choice of different alcohol and vegetables and garnishes. You can make it any way you like it.
Time for a little brunch this vs. that. Are you a pancake or a French toast guy?
That’s a tough one. I love pancakes.
Omelet or scramble?
A scramble. It’s a texture thing for me.
Bagel or English muffin?
I love bagels.
And lastly, with the holidays right around the corner, what’s your go-to holiday brunch at home
Soft scrambled eggs. I start with sweated shallots, then scramble the eggs very slowly, keeping them runny. I add a tiny bit of creme fraiche at the end to stop the cooking, then finish with very thin chives and a little fleur de sel. We serve it at the 189 brunch as well. It comes in a small pot. We call it the Starter Kit: eggs orange juice and coffee.