Hello 189 by Dominique Ansel!

Chef Dominique Ansel is known world-wide as the inventor of the cronut; the delightful sweet treat that is a hybrid of a croissant and donut. His culinary expertise however goes beyond the sweet as he does savory as well as can be seen in his first ever restaurant venture, 189 by Dominique Ansel.

189 by Dominique Ansel is located in  The Grove Los Angeles; a popular shopping and dining destination. The Grove is the perfect location for Chef Ansel’s first savory undertaking as it a beautiful and bustling place located right at the heart of LA. As special as The Grove is, the name of his restaurant is also very special and unique. The number 189 is the bakery address of Chef Ansel’s original bakery address in New York (189 Spring Street) and also happens to be same street address for this restaurant in LA (189 The Grove Drive).

I recently got to dine at 189 by Dominique Ansel and it truly was a beautiful and special evening. The restaurant itself is located on the second floor above Dominique Ansel’s bakery. From tables that overlook The Grove’s famous water fountain to intimate booths with backgrounds that resemble Chef Ansel’s famous croissants; this restaurant is lovely.

The dinner menu consists of “Small”, “Medium” and “Large” and all dishes are meant to be shared family style.

We started off our meal with the Butternut Squash and the Hand-mixed Acorn Squash Gnocchi.

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The Butternut Squash was a beautiful plate with long pieces of butternut squash in Vadouvan coconut curry, treviso and orange fennel salt. The soft butternut squash was full of flavor from the coconut curry. I loved the sweet and slight spice of the curry.

Equal in delight to the tastebuds was the Hand-mixed Acorn Squash Gnocchi. These small and soft dough dumplings simply melted upon first bite. I loved the brown butter taste. Garnishing this dish were young radishes and sage. These little touches added a nice crunch to the gnocchi.

For our next dish, we tried another “Small” plate; Seared Organic Hen of the Woods Mushrooms

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This was a very unique, earthy dish. The hen of woods mushrooms were topped with shaved parmesan and dipped in fresh egg cacio e pepe sauce.  The egg sauce was thick and popped out the flavor of the mushrooms.

For our main dish, we had the Grilled Lamb Chops.

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The lamb chops were phenomenal. They were perfectly grilled with a nice char. Dipped in mustard seeds, they made for a great savory dish. The meat was sweetly offset with pickled farmers market black plum.

No trip to Chef Ansel’s restaurant would be complete without a sweet treat. Each savory dish we tried was excellent but we couldn’t leave without trying one of his special desserts.

To wrap up this special evening, we tried “On the Half Shell.”

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This has to be one of the most beautiful and special desserts I’ve ever had. On top of rocks were dark chocolate molded in oyster shells. These dark chocolate “oysters” were topped with lime sorrel gelée, mango jam, sea salt ice cream, oat crumble and one edible crispy pearl made out of chocolate. This dessert was truly exquisite and a must try!

The evening ended up not being over quite yet because post dessert we were delightfully surprised to an invite to a small room where there is a “granola bar.”  Each guest is invited to fill a bag with the restaurant’s housemate granola. There are toppings such as golden raisins, dried pineapple and sweet meringue. It’s the restaurant’s way of saying thank you the guests as well as giving guests “breakfast on the house” for the next day. This was a wonderful surprise and a lovely souvenir for the evening.

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Visiting 189 by Chef Dominique Ansel made for a fantastic evening out feasting on excellent dishes full of flavor and unique touches. I have been a fan of Chef Dominique Ansel since he created the cronut. Now I am not only a fan of Chef Ansel’s sweet creations but his savory ones as well.

 

For more smiles, please see my Yelp review on 189 by Dominique Ansel.

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Hello Sari-Sari Store LA!

Sari-sari stores are very common in the Philippines. They are small convenience stores that can be found in many neighborhoods. Along the top of the sari-sari stores are displays of various products such as candy, soda and beauty products.

Walking into downtown Los Angeles’ Grand Central Market, I spot Sari-Sari Store. Just like in the Philippines there are several displays of common household products and consumables. Unlike the sari-sari stores in the Philippines, however, these products are not for sale. Instead what is for sale is a variety of rice bowls and that is because Sari-Sari Store at Grand Central Market is not a small market but instead a wonderful restaurant.

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Sari-Sari Store is a Filipino rice bowl stall conceptualized by Chef Margarita Manzke with business partner and husband Walter Manzke. If Chef Margarita Manzke and Walter Manzke sound familiar that is because they are the brains behind two other wonderful Los Angeles based restaurants, Republique and Petty Cash. They also are the owners of Philippines based bakery, Wildflour.

The idea behind Sari-Sari Store mainly came from Chef Margarita Manzke who was born and raised in the Philippines. She was exposed to the restaurant life early as her parents owned White Rock Resort, a hotel and restaurant just outside Manila.  Chef Marge wanted to bring to this Sari-Sari Store restaurant something “small, colorful, and casual” just like the real sari-sari stores. Every thing from the restaurant’s look to the menu is inspired by Chef Marge’s Filipino heritage.

The word “sari-sari” in the Filipino language, Tagalog essentially means “variety” and a variety is indeed found in the menu here. There is a variety of different Silog bowls; with silog meaning “singang” (garlic rice) + “itlog” (egg). The rice bowls offered included Filipino comfort food such as Arroz Caldo (rice porridge) and Filipino favorites like Lechon Kawali (crispy pork belly). They occasionally have specials as well such as Bistek Tagalog; the classic beef steak dish.

The day I went, I was fortunate to find one of my favorite Filipino dishes as one of the specials of the day. This was the Beef Tapa.

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Sari-Sari Store’s Beef Tapa bowl had marinated short ribs, garlic rice and pickled Fresno chiles. Served with the garlicky fried rice and sunny side up eggs, this beef tapa truly made my day. It was tender and full of flavor.  The tapa was marinated, to perfection, with just the right combination of soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, garlic, and pepper.

The other rice bowl that hit our table that day was one of the more traditional dishes folks associate with the Philippines; adobo.

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Sari-Sari Store’s take on adobo is a Adobo Fried Rice bowl. It has Mary’s organic chicken, garlic rice, pickled chiles and fried egg. The chicken at Republique is one of the most popular dishes and it was nice to see it incorporated here Filipino style.

Now speaking of Republique; at that restaurant Chef Marge’s speciality is the pastries. It is therefore not surprising  that Sari-Sari Store’s menu has some amazing desserts. She has not one but two regular sweets on the menu via the halo-halo and buko pie. I could not pass up on trying the buko pie as it is one of Los Angeles’ times top rated desserts.

It is no wonder Jonathan Gold of Los Angeles Times loves this dessert. It is truly one of the best pies I’ve had.  The buko pie consists of coconut, coconut and more coconut. Fittingly so as “Buko” means “young coconut” in Tagalog. All of this meaty coconut is mixed into wonderfully soft custard that is on top of Chef Marge’s famous pie crust. (It’s the same pie crust that is typically only found at Republique!). I’m still drooling as I think about this dessert. My only regret is I only bought one slice! Hehe.
Sari-Sari Store at Grand Central Market is not a convenience store. It is instead a lovely Filipino stall where you can have some hearty and delicious Filipino rice bowls and the best buko pie in town!
For more smiles, please see my Yelp review on Sari-Sari Store