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Is downtown Los Angeles' Otium restaurant a disappointment?




French toast, lardons, maple cream, truffle butter, and jam served on a nabe pot at Otium in Downtown Los Angeles
French toast, lardons, maple cream, truffle butter, and jam served on a nabe pot at Otium in Downtown Los Angeles
T.Tseng/Flickr Creative Commons

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In downtown Los Angeles, there’s the Broad Museum — maybe one of the most anticipated art institutions to open in California in the last decade. Right next to it, you’ll find Otium — a restaurant that opened just last month and has created almost as much buzz in the food world as the Broad did in art.

It’s a gorgeous building - glass, steel, wood, on one wall there’s a giant Damien Hirst mural, even. The L.A. Times’ Jonathan Gold called Otium "L.A.’s most ambitious new restaurant." But not everyone loves Otium. In a review titled The Excitement and Arrogance of Downtown’s Otium L.A. Weekly restaurant critic Besha Rodell took issue with the restaurant’s sometimes aloof service, its prices, and — maybe worst of all — its ordinary falafel:

There's a certain arrogance to the uncaring service, to the unacknowledged cooking mistakes and to the falafel dish, which consists of three modest balls over a smear of chickpea with pretty pickled condiments and costs $16 and tastes like ... falafel. Not stunningly good falafel, not bad falafel, just falafel. Walking through the kitchen is nice, it's fun, but it has the downside of allowing you to see that those falafel balls are cooked far ahead of time rather than to order and are sitting out beside the fryer. 

We talked with Besha about her review, Otium's place in Los Angeles' culinary landscape, and the restaurant's wine program—which apparently includes two separate wine lists, one she's never seen.