Fundamental Los Angeles
1303 Westwood Blvd (cross street Wellworth)
Los Angeles, CA 90024
Bike Access: decent
Bike Parking: parking meters out front
I make weekly forays to Westwood, usually by bike, occasionally by bus. I don’t enjoy the trip. As soon as I leave the safety of the bike lane on Broadway, I feel tinges of fear for my life. And, can I just say, Ohio is NOT ideal for bike access, no matter what the signs insist; that stretch between Federal and Sawtelle is, frankly, harrowing.
Alas, I should save that story for another post. When I heard about the opening of Fundamental Los Angeles, the new salad and sandwich cafe on Westwood Blvd, I was relieved I would have a reason to stay in Westwood after taking care of my chores and not have to turn right back around to face Ohio AGAIN. Fundamental LA serves “artisan sandwiches and salads made from the freshest ingredients from farmers markets”. Sounds just like the kind of yuppie chichi place I would love (I’m being entirely serious: I’m known to fall for shiny glossy cafes like Huckleberry, where the food is quite good but just a little bit more expensive than it needs to be).
On my first visit, the place was so freshly opened it did not yet have any signs save for a chalkboard on the sidewalk that said “Open for lunch!” The interior is a long, narrow, gallery-style room with bare white walls, minimalist furniture, and naked light bulbs hanging from the tall ceiling – quite chic and modern (not that I should pretend to be an authority on such adjectives). I loved it.
The menu sports equally spartan designs and everything on it looked good. I must commend Fundamental for such brave offering as the “buffalo sweetbreads sandwich“. As someone who grew up eating pig’s blood rice cake and tripe as afternoon snacks in Asia, I was frankly reminded of home. On this day, because I once had an excellent porchetta sandwich at a market in Florence, I immediately wanted that. Unfortunately, it was sold out, as was my second choice, the grilled cheese (grilled balsamic-honey glazed-nectarines-burrata-and-arugula-OH-MY!) with soup. So I (quite without complaint) settled for the short rib sandwich and their house-made lemonade. One is given a modified mini-chalkboard with a number after ordering at the counter. Service is prompt, professional, and cheerful. Everyone, whether at the counter or bringing out the food, smiles and makes you feel like they are REALLY HAPPY TO SERVE YOU!
As usual, I digress. The short rib is quite good. It’s juicy, flavorful, and breaks off without effort. The whole sandwich achieves that holy grail of paninis: warm soft bread melded into a savory, satisfying whole with the meat and condiments. It’s the kind of food best consumed, I imagine, on a chilly day when the sky threatens of rain. On a second visit (they were still out of the grilled cheese!!), I tried the vegetable cobb (carrot, fava,
cauliflower, peas on a bed of mixed greens with burrata and “RED WINE VIN” dressing (um…why not stick “rouge” at the end of that phrase for ultimate redundancy?). Language issues aside, this salad is beautiful. It’s almost like a picture out of a children’s book: all the colors are ultra-vivid and the veggies look magnified, somehow. I especially enjoy the giant carrots and fava beans, and the dressing is delicious. The burrata, however, is the star, so stringy (in a good way) and milky one cannot get enough. If not for the burrata, the salad would be too healthy for my taste. My oink partner had the egg salad sandwich (nothing too spectacular) and we shared the caramelized figs, which were, to quote myself, “crazy good!” The house-made lemonade is tangy and pleasantly not too sweet, very refreshing after a hot day of biking.
TAKE-HOME MESSAGE: Good food. Fresh, high-quality ingredients. Cheery service. And prices just high enough to attract a yuppie crowd but not too high to alienate young people. My kind of place.