Westwood is one of the bleakest neighborhoods in town for foodies, aside from the classic neighborhood ethnic spots. But if you’re looking for a modern American option, your choices are pretty limited. Until Fundamental. Open for a few months now, Fundamental is still a hidden gem in LA that really only a handful of blogs have uncovered. Serving up a modern twist on simple sandwiches with bold flavors and farm-fresh ingredients, I sat down with the guys to find out what’s inspired them to go back to the fundamentals.
First thing’s first, though – I usually come with an appetite. So I sat down with LAIY Editor Kyle Fitzpatrick and Photographer Justin Sullivan to enjoy a few sammies.
The chicken torta is the talk around town. While the menu changes daily, there is always a torta option (my personal favorite is the pork, but they’re all great). The protein is always tender, the produce is always fresh, and the jalapenos give it a great kick. And the bread – this baked in-house bread is TO. DIE. FOR.
We also tried the pulled pork, which was really sweet and tangy. I grew up on Kansas City style BBQ, so I know all about good pulled pork, and trust me – this pork is legit.
Jeff recommended we also try the Caesar sandwich with porchetta. Holy mother of god, if you love porchetta, you will not be disappointed by this tender piece of pork stuffed with a ton of flavorful herbs and spices.
And to our delight, Woogene surprised us with an order of churros with butterscotch. While we were all pretty full from our sandwiches, we had no problem taking down these ricotta-filled goodies.
If you’re wondering how sandwiches can be so mind-blowing, these guys use a secret ingredient that surprisingly isn’t so common anymore – passion. Woogene and Jeff grew up together, studying finance at Berkeley, and have always shared a passion for food and wine. Woogene considered leaving his budding career in finance to attend culinary school, and learned that one of the admission requirements was six months of kitchen experience. He contacted Melisse and offered to work for free, but the chef and line cooks convinced him that culinary school was a waste of time and to join the team. There he met culinary school drop-out, Dave, and line cook, Brandon, and the rest is history.
After late nights at the restaurant followed by later nights at the bar, the concept for Fundamental was born. The guys wanted to create food that was rich, rustic, and what they call, “super fucking tasty.” After searching for a location from Irvine to Palo Alto, they chose to transform a small space in Westwood (formerly a traditional Indian restaurant) into a modern and minimal dining room. They did all the work themselves, aside from electric and plumbing – but the bar stools you see? Personally designed by the guys.
Customers are guaranteed a unique experience each time they dine, with a menu that changes daily based on what is fresh and in season at local markets, farms, and gardens. Sometimes dishes are planned in advance, but sometimes Dave improvises based on what their produce guys bring that day. In fact, they welcome customers to bring in produce from their own gardens! Striving to use as few ingredients as possible, Dave prides himself on keeping dishes simple, flavorful, and honest. The guys see sandwiches as a platform to introduce new foods to unadventurous eaters, in between two approachable pieces of bread.
And the wine and beer list is solid, as WSET-trained Jeff selects his favorites to share with customers. He chooses wines that won’t overpower the food, and he is happy to give recommendations that will pair well with your meal.
Woogene feels that this is just the beginning for the team. While they’re focusing 100% of their time on making Fundamental successful right now, they’re also dabbling in dishes outside of sandwiches at their “After Hours” private dinners. (Want to go? Sign-up here for invites!) But what’s more important is that each customer at Fundamental enjoys great food and a great experience. They vow to never build a chain of eateries if each one can’t have its own soul. And most of all, they hope that their customers’ expectations are blown away with one bite. Ours were, and we hope you will enjoy Fundamental, too.