Otium focuses on exceptional quality of food

“In restaurants, there’s always a barrier between the dining room and kitchen — even when you have an open kitchen layout. My goal was to create a kitchen where you could really feel like you were a part of it. I wanted to take away the boundaries and have the kitchen as a centerpiece of where guests would dine, like in my home kitchen,” said Timothy Hollingsworth, chef and founder of Otium.

According to the restaurant’s website, “Otium is a contemporary restaurant that aims to strip away the formalities of dining while focusing on the quality of food, warm service and relaxed casual ambiance.” The restaurant itself was designed by Hollingsworth, who has 13 years of culinary experience in Napa Valley. Also according to Hollingsworth, the restaurant’s name, Otium, “has its roots in Latin, a word that is meant to emphasize a place where time can be spent on leisurely social activities.”

Located next to the contemporary museum, The Broad, Hollingsworth states that “Otium perfectly complements the element of modernization through its boxy geometry and sophisticated rusticity composed by a strong but limited palette of natural materials including steel, glass, wood, copper, stone and ceramics.” Walking past the copper heat lamps and fire pits outlined by a mixture of cabbages, rosemary and violets on the outside patio, one is soon immersed in the relaxed  yet modular ambience upon entering the restaurant. Set with dimmed lights, the interior is framed with hanging glass teardrops, a giant leafy wall mural and cozy tables that extend past the open kitchen.

The restaurant appeals as both a casual and formal dining place for customers varying from working-class women and men to romantic couples. Its interior design directly complements the style of Hollingsworth’s cuisine, characterized by both simplicity and approachable elegance.

As one enters, customers are cordially greeted by the waiter and arranged to sit at the lower bar to closely observe each and every step of composing a sashimi. The one-sheet menu conveys minimalism through its usage of simple text and structure. Instead of items titled with sophisticated names, the offerings are directly described with its ingredients on the menu. The offerings are listed in the order of appetizers, main entrèes and desserts. By flipping the menu, one can find a list of cocktails offered by Julian Cox, one of Los Angeles’ most accomplished mixologists.

The hamachi, avocado and sweet & sour tomatoes  was composed of three rolls of tender hamachi and vividly marinated tomatoes, complemented by a thin spread of avocado puree sprinkled with spices and topped with a few hints of green sprout and two delicate nori. The hamachi had a smooth and refined texture, with a  neutral taste accentuated by the acidic flavor of the marinated tomatoes and buttery taste of the avocado spread. The avocado puree was very artistic, providing both aesthetic and sensory pleasures.

Next came the second appetizer, which was a freshly baked funnel cake, buttered with melting foie gras and strawberry jam, garnished creatively with a mixture of green fennel leaves and white fennel strands. The texture of this appetizer was perfectly balanced, as the soft texture of the foie gras contrasted with the crunchy texture of the funnel cake; both complement one another, as the buttery texture of the foie gras melts within the funnel cake in one’s mouth. The strawberry jam added a hint of sweetness to the taste, neutralizing the overall rich taste of the appetizer. The raw fennel strands provided a balance to the fully cooked funnel cake. This appetizer neutralized the acidic taste of the previous appetizer and served as a teaser for the upcoming main entrèe.

The main entrèe then arrived: spinach bucatini with an egg, bacon, clams and crème fraiche, topped with a delicate, soft boiled egg yolk. The overall creaminess was slightly overwhelming at first but quickly established its savoriness. The little pops of crunchiness from the bacon provided random elements of surprise throughout the meal.

Overall, the best dish was the funnel cake as it provided several distinct tastes altogether in one dish. The only negative aspect about this place would be the pricing. The total came out to $75 for only two appetizers and one main entree (after adding an 18 percent service fee and tax). Although it is not an ideal restaurant for casual dining, it may be a perfect place for a romantic date or celebratory event. For those who plan on dining here, make sure to make a reservation ahead of time as they are very busy and are usually booked until closing time.