The two napkins that arrive with the chicken torta at Fundamental LA are largely a symbolic gesture. Two, possibly three bites are all that's needed for the miraculously juicy mess of a sandwich to cover every square inch of your hand. That's not to say that sandwiches here arrive in disarray. Chef David Morgan, who previously worked at Thomas Keller's Per Se and the Michelin two-star Cyrus in Sonoma County, applies a measured, haute touch to the sandwich-heavy menu. The brioche bun for the porchetta sandwich is a recipe from Per Se and requires the team to knead and bake until 3 a.m.
The torta itself arrives on bolillo bread — one of the few breads not baked in the small open kitchen, though Morgan promises it'll happen soon — with succulent braised chicken, pickled jalapeno, guacamole, melted cotija and mozzarella cheeses, iceberg lettuce and heirloom tomato. While it may arrived carefully composed, sheer enthusiasm is bound to tear it apart.
The $9 price tag is higher than the $5 or $6 we'd spend for a larger torta at a taco truck. But this offers a wholly different experience. Its depth comes not from adding fat to the cooking process but from removing it, reducing the clear braising liquid until it reaches a syrupy glacé, keeping the shredded meat unbelievably moist as it crisps on the flattop. Morgan gives chicken producer Premier Meat Co. all the credit for the meat's quality.
To finish, there are brownies sprinkled with sea salt, refreshed by an old-fashioned vanilla cream soda. Or snickerdoodles, far denser than their cousins a couple blocks away at cookie institution Diddy Riese. Don't tell our fellow UCLA alumni, but these might just be better.