Otium - The "Restaurant Guy" Perspective
For our first 360 degree review - where all 5 eat+drink writers dine together and offer their individual takes - Heather selected Otium, located next to the new Broad Museum in Downtown LA. I love food and I love dining of all levels, but I admit that I don't follow the food world, so the name of a chef or an advanced reputation mean little to me when I go to a restaurant. The entirety of my impression is based on the experience. I love being wonderfully naive sometimes!
I arrived about 15 minutes before the rest of my party. After exploring outside, I thought I'd sit at the bar and wait for everyone. Upon opening the restaurant door I was nearly blown back by the cacophony that greeted me! I retreated to the outside patio and sat at a fire pit in peace for my friends. When everyone arrived we were ushered to a great table in the corner of the main dining room where I proceeded to not be able to hear about 80% of the conversation for the next 2 hours. I have started to grudgingly get used to how loud new restaurants are these days, but only one other time have I felt so uncomfortable by it. Luckily, my mood elevated as soon as our waiter arrived.
The service at Otium was first class! All of the wait staff have adopted a perfect sense of casual, friendly competence that suits LA to a tee! Any request, they take care of right away with a joke and a smile. Directions to the restroom? They walk you through the kitchen to make sure you don't get lost. Photographing our food? No member of staff ever put their hand in front of a poised camera (they seriously must be trained in this respect)! Recommendations from the menu? We admittedly let our waiter select our dinner from his list of favorites.
I'll leave the commentary about the cocktail and wine service to our experts and focus on the food. For a party of 5, to say we over-ordered is a massive understatement. At least 15 dishes flew past us over the next two hours. We had a balanced selection of vegetable dishes (cauliflower, butternut squash, and salad with heirloom tomatoes), fish dishes (hamachi and amberjack sashimi, yellowtail tostada, dungenous crab with buckwheat pasta, seared scallops, and roast sea bass), and meat dishes (pork, lamb tort, and the showiest of all - squab).
From the photograph selection above, you can tell that the vegetable dishes (many grown on the roof of the restaurant) and the seafood really hit it out of the park! Wonderfully balanced flavors and just a hint of spice when needed characterized each of my favorites. The meat dishes just missed the mark for me, so on a return visit I will definitely focus on the seafood.
Overall, I left well fed and with happy memories of some of the dishes. A wonderful dessert platter was created for us, which I sadly had no room for after 15 courses! By 9pm, the din of the restaurant had subsided to the point where we could have a 5-way conversation again, allowing us time to swap stories and plan our next 360 degree adventure.
If you are in the neighborhood of the Broad and looking for a high quality meal, I would definitely recommend Otium. On a warm summer, spring, or even winter evening, I would definitely enjoy dining outside on the lovely patio. When you visit, make sure to be escorted to the restroom - just for the sake of getting a close up at the kitchen!