It's easy to get wrapped up in the hype of Timothy Hollingsworth's new restaurant, Otium. It's one of the biggest openings of the season—nationally. Hollingsworth worked with Thomas Keller at The French Laundry for 13 years, and though he opened the barbecue restaurant Barrel & Ashes a year ago, Otium is his first solo high-end venture.
But for Hollingsworth, Otium (a Latin term that describes something done in one's leisure time) isn't about that. It's about the neighborhood and the revitalization of L.A.'s Downtown. "The restaurant needs to serve the community. That's the first and foremost thing," he says. "We want people to be walking around . . . to come see the art and architecture. I want it to have that urban feel. You walk into a New York restaurant and you feel the energy bursting, and it's great. That's something I wanted to bring."
While restaurants typically open for dinner first, Hollingsworth chose to open with lunch service only, hoping to draw Angelinos who work in the area's offices. "Otium needs to appeal to those people, so for lunch and brunch, it's really about serving the community as an everyday restaurant," he says.
Fittingly, the lunch menu includes approachable dishes like kale and quinoa salad and rigatoni with pesto, alongside more complex offerings. "If you're coming for lunch and you understand where I come from, then you may have expectations . . . so I have some stuff on the lunch menu that's progressive," like smoked haddock with beets and sunflower seeds and mussels with curry.
At dinner, which he added later in the week, Hollingsworth's cooking becomes more complex with dishes like foie gras with funnel cake, strawberry, fennel and balsamic; a deconstructed pastrami made with donabe that arrives in a smoking pot; and scallops with bone marrow vinaigrette, celeriac and celery. "It's very much all over the place," the chef says, but his spin and pedigree is seen in the artful plating and creative techniques throughout.
Still, Hollingsworth says the food at Otium is a collaboration. Many of the dishes like a red mole with octopus epazote and charred onions have elements that come from his kitchen crew. "Being at The French Laundry, Thomas Keller is very collaborative," Hollingsworth says. "That's a big part of my philosophy now."