I love all the surprise nooks and crannies in Los Angeles like this little alley off of Abbot Kinney that leads to a chocolate den and breakfast counter. Then there's tiny store fronts that serve sandwiches by day, and something rather extraordinary at night, like Fundamental LA.
You could walk right past Fundamental. It's wedged in between two shops on Westwood Boulevard with a simple glass door revealing some stark Ikea-esque pine furniture. The atmosphere is cool and stark, but an open kitchen adds a little energy with food cooked just feet from you.
Fundamental has actually been around for a little while now. It first opened as a lunch spot four years ago, and then dinner was added the following year. The current chef has spent time in well known kitchens around LA like Providence, Joe's and Axe. You'll find the good ol' local seasonal ingredients on the menu, but the pairings and presentations are what differentiates Fundamental.
You're going to want to take advantage of the $45 four course tasting menu. It's a good value and not too much food since the plates are on the smaller side. It also allows you to sample something from each section of the menu. You can even do a wine pairing of three 2.5 oz pours with your dinner for $21, which is a good way to sample the interesting wine list that focuses on unique, smaller producers. There's also local draft beer and wine cocktails like a refreshing cucumber fizz with prosecco, cucumber, fresh lime and mint.
Small plates could include roasted beets tucked in "Nasturtium goodness, shallot soil and rhubarb vin." Just picture a fresh and clean salad presented like you've never done before at home, but might think about trying soon.
Blue crab is dotted throughout a plate of thinly sliced apple, grape and creme fraiche for a dish that I want to have every day of the summer.
I can't not order octopus. I order it everywhere and never think it can really go beyond certain techniques, but then there was this presentation of large chunks, well-cooked, amidst bits of stone fruit, pistachio and pomegranate relish. Yes I said pomegranate relish. I don't think I'll try this at home, but it worked really well here with a good range of flavors and textures.
More words that have never come out of my mouth before - escargot tortellini. They managed to put escargot into soft pillowy tortellini for this amazing savory, slightly sweet bite, accompanied by fava bean, garlic and breadcrumbs. Wow.
Sable fish was delicately prepared under a roasted carrots and a giant salt and vinegar chip.
Striped bass went bolder with a meaty brisket and artichoke parmesan puree.
A simple, but decadent olive oil cake was more like a rich French toast, further brightened by a yuzu sherbet. The churros were the only slightly disappointing item as it was a little too soft and bready in the middle, but that may have been due to a shortened cooking time since we had to depart to catch a show at the Geffen, and this is where you want to eat before going to the Geffen.
I'm impressed that these amazing creations, presentations and this level of creativity are all coming out of this tiny slip of a place that you may have walked by for years. Fundamental LA is definitely worth stopping in for a meal.
1303 Westwood Boulevard, Los Angeles