The last time my husband and I explored The Broad, we strolled over to the contemporary urban Otium restaurant designed by architect Osvaldo Maiozzi. With its striking box-like design, we peeked inside and admired the soaring ceiling and handmade glass pieces that resembled falling raindrops. The open elegant kitchen is near a long bar with floor-to-ceiling shelves stocked with bottles lined up like soldiers. Bartenders were climbing and pushing the tall, rolling ladder from side to side to grab bottles up near the top. It was lively and fun, so we made a note to come back another time for dinner.
With tickets in hand to the opening night of “Jersey Boys” at the Ahmanson Theatre, we decided to make an impromptu visit to Otium for a pre-theater dinner. Without reservations, we were seated at a long communal table next to another couple from Manhattan Beach. It was their first time dining at Otium too, before seeing a show at the nearby Walt Disney Concert Hall.
We told our server we had theatre tickets for the 8 p.m. show and needed to leave by 7:45 p.m. He assured us that he would do his best, and recommended a few dishes that could be prepared quickly.
The chef of Otium, Timothy Hollingsworth, was once the chef de cuisine at Thomas Keller’s French Laundry, earning the distinctive James Beard Rising Star Chef award in 2010, so we were expecting a great meal.
Even though we were dining indoors, it was near the outdoor patio, offering views of the 100-year-old olive trees gracing The Broad’s park-like plaza. Looking up, we gazed in wonder at the restaurant’s open mezzanine with a private dining area and vertical garden created by LA Urban Farms. Hollingsworth utilizes its herbs, vegetables and edible flowers to enhance each menu item.
The wine list offers more than 20 wines by the glass – some as much as $22 per glass – and an extensive offering of bottled wine. If you prefer to bring your own bottle, a $35 corkage fee applies.
Freshly baked bread arranged in a cloverleaf pattern arrived in a mini cast-iron skillet glistening with butter, chopped chives, herbs and a sprinkling of sea salt.
A plate of wood-fired octopus arrived next with a long tentacle sticking straight up saluting us. Hollingsworth combines octopus with a variety of spices, maybe a bay leaf, a pinch of thyme, garlic, salt and pepper. I’m sure he squeezed fresh lemon before and after grilling. The octopus was served on tzatziki spread with thinly sliced cucumber medallions and pickled red onion ribbons with a few arugula leaves offering a peppery enhancement.
Another dish from the sea was the ceviche made with a combination of kanpachi (Amberjack or Japanese yellowfish), sliced squid, chopped green tomatoes, shrimp and avocado. A few squeezes of lime juice, chopped parsley, salt and thinly sliced aji peppers dazzled the fresh and chunky ceviche served in an artistic blue Irving Place Studios hand-thrown ceramic bowl.
Our waiter recommended the falafel plate, with four deep-fried, ground chickpea balls placed on a puree of chickpea and eggplant with cucumber, Meyer lemon, parsley and micro greens. There wasn’t anything spectacular about this small mezze plate for $17. I’m unsure why our server singled it out, however his suggestion aboutthe grapefruit avocado salad was a winner, with ancient amaranth grains, thinly sliced radish, a sprinkling of sesame seeds and glaze of miso dressing.
Even though the service was friendly, our dishes took longer coming out of the kitchen than we had hoped. While apologizing repeatedly, our server inquired in the kitchen about my husband’s poached halibut several times, before finally bringing it out. At almost $40, it was a disappointing piece of bland fish, with an unmemorable Green Goddess glaze on top of a jardiniere of mixed vegetables and caramelized onions.
We paid our bill and ran to the theater as the lights were dimming. Fortunately, the show was better than our experience at Otium and the evening ended on a high note.
The restaurant is open for weekend brunch from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., lunch from Tuesday to Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., snacks Tuesday through Sunday from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., and dinner nightly starting at 5:30 p.m. Closed on Mondays. $$$ 222 S. Hope St. (213)935-8500.
This review was also featured in the June 1, 2017 Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News.