Location is everything. Tourist traps in Santa Monica can charge $30 for a piece of salmon because they’re surrounded by families too tired to find something better, or farther from the Marriott. Plenty of mediocre Beverly Hills spots have stayed open for decades because they’re close enough to the agencies for managers to stumble back to work after a martini lunch. And that In-N-Out on Sunset knows exactly what it's doing by being close to whatever mistake of a club you just went to.
Then there’s Otium - the restaurant next to the Broad in Downtown LA. It’s always packed with people killing time before their Infinity Room appointments, and consultants wowing clients because it’s the most impressive-looking place by the office. You get the sense that no one is here for the restaurant itself, and the grab-bag menu basically confirms it. This is a place that tries to appease everyone.
There is a lot to like. The space itself is gorgeous, full of art that looks like it could be inside the Broad itself, and the menu is so long you could go on a month’s worth of dates here and never order the same thing twice. And as far as individual dishes, you will be able to find something you like here - maybe even love. There’s a duck pot pie that’s buttery, cooked perfectly, and despite the gravy, somehow not so heavy you immediately want to crawl under the covers. The rigatoni with basil and pistachio makes us think all pesto should be made with pistachios. There’s also a super-crispy rotisserie-style chicken with an aji sauce that strikes a nice balance between savory and spicy. If it sounds like those dishes don’t make any sense together, that’s because they don’t.
The service is similarly disjointed. The wine list is impressive and lengthy, but rather than guide us through it, the sommelier interrupted our questions to run and get a bottle we didn’t ask for. Our water was refilled almost as soon as the glass had left our lips, but our server was nowhere to be found when we wanted to order another round of drinks. When we ordered a couple of things the menu instructed us to put on naan - some salmon roe and some paté - we were given a single piece of flatbread for the table. When we asked for more, we were charged $2 per piece, which almost seemed petty, considering a dinner here can easily cost $100 per person.
Location isn’t the only thing Otium has going for it - but we’re not entirely sure what they’re trying to achieve beyond being “The restaurant next to the Broad.” They have some work to do if they want to stand on their own.
This is fine naan with some good toppings - smoked butter, duck liver, king salmon roe. The problem is, we had to pay for extra pieces of naan. If we order a sandwich, we don’t expect to pay a surcharge for the bread.
This confit duck pot pie is topped with a flaky, buttery crust and filled with a super-rich the madeira gravy. It was probably the best thing we ate.
The servers bring the prawns out in a clay pot grill, and it’s pretty neat when they lift the lid and cover the table in steam. Unfortunately, these pretty much taste like any other shrimp.
This massive bowl is filled with a very good green curry, mussels, and a whole fried snapper. But the fish is just OK, and we found ourselves picking around it to get to the excellent curry-doused mussels and sausage.
This is basically just a pesto dish made with pistachios, which are both things we like. If you feel the same way, get this dish. You won’t be disappointed.
We’re not sure anyone needs a $28 sandwich, but if you feel like you do, this is a pretty good one. It’s basically a crab po’boy, and is on the heavy side, but the crab and slaw taste fresh.