There's been quite a bit of buzz around the opening of Otium for the two years leading up to the recent launch. You have pedigreed chef Tim Hollingsworth, former Chef de Cuisine at the 3 Michelin Star French Laundy, and 2010 James Beard Rising Star Chef. Add to that the prime location at the new Broad Museum downtown and then there's the backing of Sprout, LA power restaurant group, and that explains why you can't get a reservation.
I managed to get into Otium due to someone's same day cancelation. Walking past the new Broad, Otium is tucked back off Grand Street with a sleek, modern wood and steel, windowed facade that boasts outdoor patios, an expansive bar area and an open kitchen, one of my favorite features as I've mentioned before.
There's a team of nearly a dozen people working the kitchen in full view. A 12 person high-top chef's table is set-up directly in front to watch the dance of dishes unfold, and marvel at the refrigerator of smoked meats. Cool dishes come together quickly from the robust raw menu like amberjack with smoke tangerine, yuzu and chicharron, or Kuroadi with cucumber dashi, green strawberry and yuzu kosho.
Delicate hamachi was folded over itself sitting beside what looked like ordinary cherry tomatoes, but were in fact marinated with both sweet and sour flavors, making them anything but ordinary. A swish of spiced avocado outlined the side of the bowl and crispy nori topped it off. Seemingly simple, but clean and fresh flavors and a slightly new take on hamachi.
Roasted carrots were a little less interesting with an almost al dente char and a spicy pipian (pumpkin) sauce that failed to breathe life into this mundane dish.
The entrees are mostly priced over $30 and include things like grilled fish with tamarind, tomato and fennel and duck served alongside leeks, tangerine, black sesame and cashews. You can also go for broke with the $55 dry aged beef with bone marrow. We ended up with the dry aged beef tartare that had some bold spices, softened with dollops of yogurt and mint. They did the serving for you with the tartare sitting on a large crisp piece of seasoned lavash. It hit all the right notes and new one's too with its warm and cool notes. I really enjoyed the bold, but well balanced preparation.
The falafel were crisp orbs of chickpeas as expected, with a nice soft interior. Pickled cucumber and lemon elevated the dish, and the quarters of grilled eggplant pieces was also a nice touch.
One of the most talked about dishes at Otium is the foie gras funnel cake. Yes, those are words I've never said together, but I'm glad I did. It's the real deal funnel cake on the bottom with just the right sweet and softness. It's then topped with a foie gras mousse that's rich and decadent and plays with the accompanying preserved strawberries and shaved fennel. This is not listed on the dessert menu, though I think maybe it should be as it wasn't an easy dish to follow. There wasn't a morsel left on the plate and it's quite filling so bring friends to share.
Otium is an interesting place serving some inventive dishes. The outdoor patios will no doubt be filled when summer is in full swing and I can see stopping back for a drink in the bar area that accommodates walk-ins.
Otium will be popular with the pre and post museum and theatre crowd, and with good reason.
222 S. Hope St., Los Angeles