222 S Hope St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Dining date: 12/12/15
Otium is one of the most anticipated restaurants of the year. Part of the new Broad Museum development, the restaurant is a collaboration between Bill Chait’s Sprout Group and Tim Hollingsworth (ex-chef de cuisine of The French Laundry, Barrel & Ashes).
I’ve been following Hollingsworth since he departed TFL and came to LA. From his first dinner at The Strand House, to opening BBQ restaurant Barrel & Ashes, and to making tacos at the Petty Cash Taqueria soft opening, Hollingsworth has made a number of appearances around town. However, Otium promises to be his flagship restaurant. The restaurant has been open for about a month for lunch service, recently debuting brunch and then dinner service.
The evening started a little rocky; the restaurant seemed overwhelmed and a good size queue formed for people waiting for their reservation. We ended up waiting close to an hour past our reservation for a seat. To the restaurant’s credit, they did gift us a glass of prosecco after about 40 minutes.
Hamachi Nori, Avocado, Sweet & Sour Tomatoes
This was a nice dish. Hamachi was delicately flavored, with nori accents and a slight acidity. A purée of avocado added some richness to each bite.
Sea Urchin Brioche, Lardo, Pistachio, Truffle Butter
I felt like the uni got a little lost in these bites. The toast was very crunchy and rather oily, and the sea urchin couldn’t stand up to the oil and lardo.
Donabe Smoked Hiramasa Pastrami Beet, Potato, Rye, Thousand Island
Hiramasa came to the table in impressive fashion. The donabe pot was opened upon arrival, letting the smoke escape right at the table. The smoke flavor itself was pretty subtle in the food and I didn’t quite get the ‘pastrami’ part of the fish. I’m sure this was a nice donabe pot, but $34 was way too much for a few slices of fish and a handful of fingerlings and beets.
We ordered an Italian red to have with dinner.
Spinach Bucatini Egg, Bacon, Clam, Crème Fraîche
The pasta was a beautiful green with great flavor from the bacon, clam and oozing egg. Unfortunately the pasta was overcooked – way too soft. When queried, the server acknowledged that it was supposed to be this way and that they make their pasta in-house daily. So be it.
Cod Burnt Onion, Clams, Purslane
Black cod was cooked well with nice accompanying flavors from sweet clams, sweet onion and fresh purslane.
Duck Pear, Chocolate, Turnip, Onions
The duck was cooked okay, maybe a little overdone, but with a limp skin. The flavors were good with a deep mole-like sauce and fresh pear flavor.
Chocolate Torte Persimmon, Olive Sable, EVO Jam
We ended with a rich chocolate dessert brightened by sweet persimmon.
Unfortunately, this was a disappointing meal – both food and service had some low points. I’m curious to see how the restaurant evolves; I fully expect the kitchen execution and service to iron out its kinks. However, I found the pricing to be high for the food we got. The restaurant seems to be targeting a trendy, youthful clientele that I’m not sure is willing to consistently pay for this. On the other hand, it may be a bit loud and scene-y for the downtown expense account clientele. We’ll see; I will probably return at some point given my appreciation for Hollingsworth, but it will be a while.