A Look at Otium's Beautiful Yayoi Kusama-Inspired Menu
It's got a boba cocktail and two different kinds of tentacles.
The Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors exhibit at The Broad in Los Angeles doesn't start until October 21, but it's already created a frenzy. After 50,000 tickets sold out in less than two hours on September 1 (leaving more than 100,000 people in an online queue without tickets), the museum announced this week that it would release nearly 40,000 more tickets on October 2. The museum is also offering extended hours and daily standby tickets for the exhibit, which runs through January 1. So, good luck!
In the meantime, here's some fun news for fans of Kusama and fans of creative food:
Otium, chef Timothy Hollingsworth's grand restaurant adjacent to The Broad, is getting ready to unveil a special menu inspired by Kusama.
Hollingsworth, who was previously chef de cuisine at The French Laundry and the U.S. representative at the 2009 Bocuse d'Or, has no shortage of experience in elegant cooking and plating. For the Kusama menu, he's created dishes that are tributes to some of the Japanese artist's most revered works.
"I think it could be perceived as a very arrogant thing to take somebody's iconic piece of art and translate it into ingredients on a plate," says Hollingsworth, who thought deeply about respecting Kusama's work as he put together this menu.
Hollingsworth made many dishes that never ended up on the menu as he looked for the right balance of elements like colors, dots and tentacles. The process was about celebrating the essence of Kusama while taking creative liberties. Hollingsworth likens it to reading cookbooks from great chefs and coming up with related ideas instead of replicating a dish.
And Hollingsworth adds that he might continue to tweak things: "We might do some different dishes, based on the reaction we're getting and other inspiration," he says.
For now, these are the Kusama-inspired dishes you can expect to start seeing at Otium next month. Hollingsworth plans to offer one of these dishes as a special for the duration of the exhibit, rotating dishes every two weeks.
Inspired by: Infinity Mirrored Room—All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins
Roasted butternut squash, mole amarillo, chile negro plum jam
This dish is made with honeynut squash, a gorgeous butternut squash variation developed by Dan Barber and Weiser Family Farms. Hollingsworth cuts the squash in a way that simulates the bands of a pumpkin. Complexity and more color come from a yellow mole that involves stewing ingredients like corn, aji amarillo and squash for hours.
"The mole is the star of the dish," Hollingsworth says.
Inspired by: Life (Repetitive Vision)
Wood-oven-roasted octopus, madras curry, black garlic, burnt allium
Octopus has tentacles, so it was an obvious choice for this dish.
"To me, it was a very natural thing to do," Hollingsworth says. "That's what I see when I look at that piece of art."
The octopus is braised for six or seven hours before being roasted. The nicely charred octopus is then basted in honey and orange, and the dish gets bursts of yellow curry and black garlic. There's also ash made from leeks and onions that are burnt in a wood oven.
Inspired by: Dots Obsession—Love Transformed into Dots
Shaved beets, avocado, miso yogurt, shiso
"We were inspired by the color in the artwork," says Hollingsworth, who reimagined an existing Otium dish where avocado is the centerpiece and beets are hidden at the bottom. Bright-red beets "in the form of poke" are now the star of the show.
"We kind of did the exact opposite of what we were going for before," Hollingsworth says.
Inspired by: Infinity Mirror Room—Phalli's Field
Crème fraîche mousse, strawberry, pomegranate, olive oil, shortbread soil, sweet tentacles
"A lot of the inspiration behind this one came from our pastry chef Allison Osorio," Hollingsworth says.
Osorio played around with the idea of sweet tentacles (made of marzipan), and the result is a color-splashed dessert that almost looks like it's alive. The spiral-patterned dessert is served in the lid of a donabe pot, which helps create the effect of a growing organism.
Inspired by: The Obliteration Room
Frozen passionfruit colada, Martinique rum, white-tea coconut boba
You want colorful dots in a cocktail? Use boba, of course.
"We wanted to build a cocktail off the idea of everybody going into the [Kusama] room and seeing dots all over the place," Hollingsworth says. "It's a very interactive thing. We've been wanting to do a boba cocktail for a while. Boba is a huge and social thing. It's fun to put these two things together."