The sister store to well-known molecular gastronomy restaurant Moto (their 10-course dinner is $135), Otom is priced far more reasonably in exchange for less fancy food.

Moto prides itself in creating “unexpected food” out of the expected. They use high tech kitchen gadgets from liquid nitrogen to Class IV lasers (whatever those are) to produce food like edible news paper and cigars. It’s supposedly really cool.

I decided to take Nick to Otom to see what the hype was all about – after all, they’re sister stores, so they should be SOMEWHAT alike. Right?? Uh…You’ll see.

We started off with warm crusty bread and the most delicious Mystery butter spread I have ever had in my life. It was so good we flagged down a server just to ask what was in it! So far so good!

otom bread and butter

Mystery Butter Ingredients: Molasses + a pinch of sea salt + butter = Molasses Butter Extravaganza!!!

For our appetizer, Nick and I shared a dish because nothing else on the menu looked appealing to us.

Octopus

Seared, grilled fennel, confit tomato – 9

otom grilled octopusTasty? I cannot pass up seared octopus or scallops or tuna. Ever. Though this was a really delicious, flavorful dish (thanks to the fennel and tomato broth), the octopus could have used more char and the bread got soggy even though we rescued it from the broth as soon as it arrived on our table. There’s nothing more off-putting than wet and chewy octopus, even if it did taste good. Overall, the best part was definitely the flavors of the confit tomato!

Burger

new york white cheddar, fried egg, bacon mayo, garlic sweet potato fries -12

Nick ordered the burger because the waiter compared it to the Kuma burger from Kuma’s Corner, which is probably the best burger Nick claims to have ever tasted. Unfortunately…

otom burger

Tasty? The highlight of the dish was the awesome, crispy, battered and fried garlic sweet potato fries. According to Nick, the fried egg was NOT runny (Aka: over-cooked), the bun was too fluffy and didn’t compliment the burger fillings, and he couldn’t taste the bacon mayo at all. Nick was hugely disappointed with the burger and would not advise you to get it!

Dorade

lemon-garlic broth, fingerlings & daily green – 27

I had a hard time deciding what to order, but when I asked about the fish of the day and the vetetable plate, our waiter seemed dumbstruck. He stuttered all over the place and managed to describe two dishes that sounded like they wouldn’t be good at all. So I went with the dorade, a white fish! I just didn’t realize it was fried. ;(

otom fish entree

Tasty? Um…yes. Worth it? NO. The fish was fried perfectly so the skin was crispy while the meat was flaky and tender. The lemon garlic broth was buttery but light at the same time, so I ended up sopping my fish in it (practically drinking it like a soup). I also realized I love fingerling potatoes because they’re so soft, tender, and moist. Yummy! Oh, and by “daily green”, they mean a single piece of green Chinese broccoli. My favorite, but seriously…just ONE?

“Mac & Cheese” (Side)

Sweet pea spaetzle & butterkase cheese – 8

According to reviews, Otom is famous for the mac and cheese. Everybody seems to love it, so we got one as one of our sides.

Otom mac and cheese

Tasty? I had a bite but I’m not a fan of cheese, and this certainly didn’t wow me. To me, it was bland in flavor (at least it wasn’t smelly), but the inside of the mac and cheese was MUSH! You couldn’t tell what the heck was in it except it was mushy.Nick’s review was that it was “good, nothing special”, very very rich and filling.

Bourbon acorn squash

Crispy meringue – 7

The side was just calling out my name, so I couldn’t resist ordering!

Otom squash

Tasty? YES. This was a dessert falsely labeled as a “side”. Honestly, I would have preferred ¼ of that super sweet meringue topping and more squash because the sweetness got to be overwhelming toward the end. The bourbon was unnoticeable, so I’m guessing not much alcohol went into this dish, though I suspect someone spilled the maple syrup into it. Nick didn’t have any of this because I gobbled it all down as if it WAS really dessert. So yes, I would say this was tasty!

RATINGS:

Taste: 3/5 (Hit or miss)

Originality: 4/5 (I like contemporary America and may be a little biased, but I like that they switch up their menu. Plus the molasses butter made my night)

Plating: 3.5/5 (The fun presentation of our sides upgraded my rating)

Value: 2/5 (I would never come here full price. Just not the right atmosphere and service to justify the cost)

Service: 2/5 (Unknowledgeable terrible server who was not only impatient and unenthusiastic, but he kept interrupting our conversations to take away dishes/ask us about our food!)

Overall, I gotta say the price tag isn’t worth paying for. Hit or miss flavors of dishes was no fun and made me feel like a guinea pig. Plus, the service was just…one of the worst I’ve experienced in Chicago thus far. Save your money and go eat at Pita Inn. Seriously.

OTOM on Urbanspoon

What has been your most terrible restaurant experience? What made it so bad?

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