If Santa Monica’s The Yard could be sealed in a time capsule as the epitome of Westside dining circa 2010, then Downtown’s O Hotel is a living fossil – a still-breathing vestige of the earthy-versus-ethereal concept of “modern chic” that swept through the boutique hotel industry in the last decade, beginning with Montreal’s St. Paul Hotel in 2001, and reaching its apogee with the O in 2007. Though the style is only a few years old, the earthy ceramic tile floor and elongated glass shard fireplace already appear as dated as your auntie’s orange shag carpet and avocado drapes. I feared that O Bar & Kitchen, integral to the hotel’s lobby, would serve food as tired as the decor – that the menu, like the environment, was an effete gimmick. (The scent of designer cologne pumping through central air ducts only amplified my dread.) But there’s nothing tired, worn out, or gimmicky about good food. And to my surprise, that’s precisely what I found at O Bar & Kitchen.
Perhaps the biggest shock at Chef Vahan Tokmadjian’s O Bar & Kitchen (not to be confused with O-Bar in WeHo) is the Wagyu Burger ($16), which could easily rank among some of the better burgers I described in my last article. The burger comes on a delicious, lightly-toasted bun made fresh at nearby Hygge Bakery, with melted Havarti cheese, hickory-smoked bacon, onion marmalade, and baby arugula. It’s a well-balanced burger, with a thick, juicy, well-prepared slab of ground wagyu beef – the same beef made famous in Kobe, Japan. But the burger waxes saccharine, thanks to the onion marmalade; if you like the burger at Father’s Office, then you’ll love the burger at O Bar & Kitchen.
The truffle-infused sides are also delicious. I recommend the Truffle Parmesan Tots and the Truffle Mac and Cheese. As a child I didn’t much care for the ubiquitous tater tot, but Chef Tokmadjian’s parmesan-dusted golden nuggets will please just about any palate. The mac and cheese – made with farfalle pasta (they should call it “Bowtie and Cheese”!), Havarti, minced black truffle, and a crust of parmesan cheese – is even better. But the farfalle could be more al dente.