Flores and the Machine

Hands-on dining at Sawtelle's newest culinary star

Want to prompt a tableful of diners to whip out their smartphone cameras?

Order the softshell crab sandwich ($15) at the Sawtelle strip's newest dining addition, Flores.

With its cornmeal-battered legs jutting out at sharp angles, the fried whole crustacean, smushed between a sesame-speckled brioche bun and decorated with a squiggle of avocado purée and green-tomato relish, is both enticing and intimidating.

The sandwich is indicative of the soulful cooking by husband-and-wife team Rob Lawson and Angela Hernandez. Although they boast impressive fine-dining experience–including stints at The Bazaar and NYC's L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon–the food is more casual than their résumés suggest.

Handheld eating is heartily encouraged, both on the open-air patio and in the more reclusive, white-brick-lined dining room. A platter of Cajun-spiced grilled prawns ($16) with lemon aioli arrives with a package of wet towelettes to clean up after sucking the briny juice from their heads; dunk chewy baguette into an egg-topped riff on "Texas caviar" ($13), made with long-stewed beans and smoked ham hock.

When a bowl of ripe, unblemished strawberries ($12) garnished with tart vinegar caramel and shaving-cream-thick yogurt foam lands for dessert, forgo the fork and dive in fingers-first.

Try to not smudge your cell-phone screen afterward.