Sandwich shop by day and casual Asian-inflected gastropub by night, newbie Fickle (and the Sandwich Smith) is serving a creative plates in Little Tokyo. While there's nothing especially novel about the restaurant's no-frills aesthetic—an open kitchen looks out onto the dining room filled with a long communal dining table, Edison bulbs and industrial-style metal chairs and stools—chef James Ta’s menu doesn’t conform to the masses. Small and medium-sized plates offer unexpected flavor pairings such as an ethereally unctuous bone marrow ($11) topped with a basil gremolata and a ginger-soy reduction and an equally addicting skinny slice of pork belly served over a pumpkin puree, savoy cabbage and toasted pepitas ($16). All unlikely components result in a masterpiece of a dish.
However, other plates are not so successful. So-called "crispy" Brussels sprouts and cauliflower ($8) were undercooked and soggy, pumpkin patties ($12) were bland, and pan-roasted chicken ($21) tossed in an Israeli couscous salad with arugula, grapes, honeydew melon didn’t pair so well. More times than not, dishes come out of the kitchen looking sloppy and with too many components on the plate.
When chef Ta gets it right, he succeeds in harmonized, inspired plates. If he can streamline his menu and focus on the flavors that work, the affordably-priced Fickle will become a force to be reckoned with among some of the city's top sushi and noodle destinations nearby.
What to eat: Order pork belly served over a velvety pumpkin puree and toasted pumpkin seeds, and the incredible bone marrow, topped with a basil breadcrumb gremolata and served with toasted bread and pickled daikon. For dessert, Baked Alaska ($10), which resembles a mini igloo, is filled with passion fruit ice cream and meringue and highlighted with strawberry-prickly pear sauce.
What to drink: In addition to three red wines and three white wines by glass or bottle, there's a rotating selection of craft beers on tap and a few by bottle. Adventurous beer-heads should go with Liefmans Cuvee Brut ($26), a sour beer from Belgium.
Where to sit: During warmer months, opt for one of the sidewalk tables; otherwise, go for a banquette table inside.
Conversation Piece: Instead of bread and butter, your meal starts with a small bowl of housemade popcorn topped with chai spice.