I’ve enjoyed some dishes at Barrel & Ashes, Chef Tim Hollingsworth’s first L.A. restaurant. But the newly opened Otium in Downtown L.A. is supposed to be the flagship; the main restaurant he’s wanted to open. Formerly of The French Laundry, and seeing some hits at Barrel & Ashes, I was mildly curious what Otium might be like.
Then thanks to @J_L’s first report, my expectations were tempered. How I should’ve listened more carefully…
Sitting in front of the new Broad Museum with a gorgeous courtyard, walking to Otium inherently builds expectations.
Once inside, there’s a sleek, modern design and nice open kitchen.
The menu reads simply and intriguingly. Dry Aged Beef Tartare, Lavash, Bulgur, Yogurt, Mint:
It sounds pretty awesome. Then we eat it: All you taste is a heavy blast of Middle Eastern spices, tart Yogurt. The Dry Aged Beef might as well have been omitted from the dish, you couldn’t taste ANY of it. Disappointing.
Foie Gras Funnel Cake, Strawberry, Fennel, Balsamic:
This dish sounded ridiculous and interesting, so we had to try it, LOL. Surprisingly it worked! The Foie Gras was woven into the cream and added just a touch of the buttery, savory aspect to a sweet Funnel Cake. This could’ve been dessert, but either way, it started to grow on you.
Cauliflower, Grapes, Almond, Cilantro, Sultana:
The Cauliflower had a nice char. Seemed fine, but nothing to get excited over.
Donabe Smoked Hiramasa Pastrami, Beet, Potato, Rye, Thousand Island:
The presentation is gorgeous: A large earthen pot is brought to the table, and the waiter removes the lid, revealing a waft of smoke as you see the Yellowtail Amberjack “Pastrami” slices. Everyone at the table got excited.
Unfortunately, the Hiramasa was just… OK. There’s a light smokiness, the fish is sliced competently, but it never elevates beyond the individual ingredients. It tasted like you were eating a bit of fish, a bit of potato, a bit of beet.
At this point, the kitchen completely forgot about our Oysters (and other orders). We waited 45 MINUTES before our next dish came out. With no apologies given either.
Oyster, Shallot Mignonette, Horseradish “Snow”:
It was only after it arrived that I remembered @J_L’s massively disappointing experience with this. Why, oh why, didn’t I remember that when ordering?
The oysters were just like what JL mentioned: Super overpowered by the Mignonette, and the Horseradish Snow made each oyster feel sub-zero, iced up. Awful!
Anson Mills Polenta, Marscarpone, Black Truffle:
This showed up 45 minutes later, but thankfully it was pretty delish! It was a creamy Polenta, and the fresh-shaved Black Truffles really elevated the dish. Even with all of that, I thought it was a bit too salty, but solid.
Spaghetti, Cauliflower, Curry, Sea Urchin:
I’m always glad to try a new incarnation of the famous Japanese pasta dish “Uni Pasta,” so I couldn’t wait. Sadly, this was just oddly tart, the Curry overpowering what should be the star of the dish (Uni (Sea Urchin)). Compared to Raku’s Live Uni Udon - one of the BEST dishes I’ve had in 2015 - and it wasn’t even close. Raku’s Uni pasta dish elevated the Uni and was sublime. Otium’s version was just no bueno.
50 Day Dry Aged Beef Ribeye, Bone Marrow, Bordelaise:
Fancy presentation with homemade Mashed Potatoes, topped with Oven Roasted Fingerling Potatoes (those were spot on, creamy, excellent), and Bone Marrow, which was great as well.
But the real surprise was the 50 Day Dry Aged Ribeye: Just AWESOME! THIS is the type of execution I was expecting when visiting Otium, and seeing Chef Hollingsworth’s experience at Barrel & Ashes. There was a gorgeous sear on the Dry Aged Ribeye.
Juicy, tender, beefy. Seriously better than most Steak Houses I’ve tried in L.A.
The service was non-existent for most of the night. We seriously didn’t see our server for extended periods of time, nor even busboys. They forgot 2 dishes completely, took 45 minutes between dishes, and offered no apologies.
And yet we were charged 18% “Service Charge” on our bill, with no recourse. THIS is why I hate this new trend with restaurants forcing automatic “tipping” on the bill. We clearly had bad service, bad mistakes throughout our meal and a sub par meal overall (most of the dishes), yet we’re forced to pay 18% tip (Service Charge) for that experience.
In the end this meal was almost $450! The place was packed, and everyone seemed to be laughing and smiling. But all we thought was, “What a waste of money and an evening.” For us this was like The Emperor’s New Clothes.
Lastly, Google Maps will get you lost (check the address note below):
(Do NOT use this address to GPS / Google Map it. It’ll take you someplace else.)
222 South Hope Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Enter in this Address instead and it’ll take you up to the proper Entrance and Valet:
225 S. Grand Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90012