Claim to fame: An ex-French Laundry chef de cuisine blends posh and picnic
Reason to go: A globetrotting menu that’s sure to please everyone
To look out for: Service tends to be brisk, tell the waiters to slow things down or they’ll turn your table quicker than you can say “Where’s the sommelier?”
Open kitchens? They’re about as newsworthy as yesterday’s cold coffee. Why not completely eradicate the boundaries between cooking- and dining areas and have the guests file through the heart of the action on their way to their seats? Let your cooks be the entertainment, put the wine cellar on display, and make the party spill out onto the garden mezzanine for special events. And why paint yourself into a corner by offering a particular cuisine when you can build a menu that reflects a United Nations of flavors and culinary traditions? Otium is an amusement park for the five senses, there’s even funnel cake!
Timothy Hollingsworth is the grand master of this funfair housed on the grounds of futuristic art museum The Broad, just past an olive grove that appears extra quaint in this Downtown high-rise landscape. The former French Laundry chef de cuisine has managed to summon some of that Napa Valley vibe at Otium, a suave stand-alone building of wood, steel and glass. It’s showy in a laid-back way, rustic-high brow. Just like that funnel cake which is topped with generous amounts of foie gras. It’s an over the top huge dish, dressed with dainty sorrel, strawberries and a balsamic reduction, it’s savory-sweet fun for the whole family.
Hollingsworth’s dry aged beef tartar is a musty pleasure that brings to mind Lebanese kibbeh with its lavash, toasted bulghur and dollops of yoghurt. His scallops, accompanied by five spice-fragrant mushroom dumplings, XO sauce and wilted bok choy send you wandering off to China, they’re seared to a delightful crisp while retaining their perfect translucence. There’s enough creative pasta on the menu to make you think you stumbled into a fancy Italian trattoria, Mexican-ringing agnolotti with corn, chili and cotija cheese are touted as a TV-celebrity by the oh-so-LA waitress who claims they made it onto the network news that morning. A smattering of raw fish dishes seem inspired by Peru, Hawaii and further afield. Sea urchin with tofu sorbet, chilled dashi and yuzu freshness is a fine wink to Japan, and a childishly amusing brain-freeze too.
The cocktail list includes a saffron lemonade with tequila, grapefruit, bird’s eye chili and chamomile, better in theory than in practice. The negroni, however, made with mezcal, coffee, Cynar and grapefruit oil is a fascinating liquid kaleidoscope. The wine program is high, wide and handsome, composed by Spago alum Elizabeth Huettinger. She’s put together an extensive list of Old and New World labels, catering to connoisseurs and thirsty revelers alike.