A sandwich shop by day and a pseudo-gastropub by night, Fickle is somewhat of a newcomer to downtown’s Little Tokyo district and a restaurant with an identity crisis.
“I haven’t worked here very long, but everything I’ve tried has been good,” our waitress offers as her recommendation, with a hand on her hip and a smile between gum chews.
That’s a pretty accurate representation of what you’ll experience at Fickle: a no-frills, industrial atmosphere that still manages to be warm, and a vague, constantly-changing menu that offers little direction and an unusual assortment of dishes.
Is it bar food? Between the avocado fries, crispy yukon golds, and fish and chips, you’d think so. But then as you watch plates being shuffled out to the table next to you you’ll notice the black cod, served in a light dashi broth and topped with a delicately-arranged salad of miso cous cous and pearl onion. Then there’s the jerk shrimp, marinated in a house-made Jamaican-style butter and pan-fried in a wine reduction. Suddenly you’re aware of all the various geographical influences in the multi-cultural cuisine, from the Asian-inspired molasses pork belly served with Spanish pepitas to a grilled flat iron prepared as the French might: with a demi glace and served with an Italian creamed farro.
The highlight of the menu’s current iteration is doubtlessly the stuffed quail, which is perfectly roasted with a creamy mushroom risotto filling. It’s just flavorful enough to give the scanty bird additional juiciness but not so strong that the earthy truffle aroma overpowers its delicate gaminess. The accompanying cranberry reduction may not seem necessary to a diner who has already taken a naked bite of the fowl, but the demi jus adds a tarty sweetness that hits all the right notes and brings the dish over the top. If you put this entree and the sub-par fried chicken sandwich in front of the most seasoned food critic, he would never have guessed they came from the same restaurant.
This chicken sandwich, while available for dinner, is billed as the most popular item for Fickle’s alter ego, The Sandwich Smith, which operates out of the same space with the same management during lunch hours. Featuring an under-marinated, over-fried large breast and dripping with an intensely garlicky aioli and coleslaw, the half-constructed sandwich is the antithesis of Los Angeles’ more popular versions like at Son of a Gun and Plan Check.
Also to be skipped are the desserts, which seem to be a nightly afterthought of cookies, Fosselman’s ice cream, and the occasional dry cake.
While there are highs and lows to the varied cuisine at Fickle, the menu seems to change so often that choosing a dish will feel like a gamble. My recommendation for beating the odds: if it sounds like an item that would be served at a higher-end restaurant, it will probably be treated with an appropriate amount of respect in the Fickle kitchen.