Fundamental LA, the dual-purpose restaurant in Westwood from Woogene Lee and Jeff Faust, features sandwiches on house-baked bread at lunch and more ambitious fare at dinner. They duo recently brought in SoCal native Philip Pretty to head the kitchen, coming off stints at Gordon Ramsay and Joe’s Restaurant. He’s now turning out a thoughtful menu that includes Steak Tartare with tonnato sauce, capers, cress and brioche toast embedded with quail egg; and Fennel prepared three ways – roasted, pureed, raw – served with Satsuma oranges and almonds. Fundamental LA also serves a high-value tasting menu at dinner, which includes three savory courses and dessert for $39. I always enjoy trying new dishes, and certainly enjoyed the aforementioned steak tartare and fennel, but my favorite bites came from what’s become a signature Fundamental LA dish: Carrot Risotto.
Carrot Risotto ($12) captures the best of Fundamental LA: presenting ingredients in layers while retaining clarity of flavor. Firm risotto comes folded with chunky carrot butter and bright mint. Up top, chefs shave sharp Manchego and crunchy baby carrots that provide colorful and textural contrast. Only a Fundamental vanilla cream soda could have improved matters.