DOWNSIZING IN MONTECITO

Scratch restaurants appear to be scaling back their plans at the Montecito Inn.

First, a press release from Scratch restaurants:

Scratch Restaurants, founded by husband and wife chef duo, Phillip Frankland Lee and Margarita Kallas-Lee, will begin swiftly expanding in 2020 by opening additional outposts of Sushi|Bar, their omakase speakeasy that serves up a whimsy of its namesake fare in 17 courses. Lee’s playful reverie on new wave nigiri and other delicacies from land and sea first opened in Encino in 2017, with a second location opening at the Montecito Inn earlier this year. A second room, where a chef’s counter places patrons right in front of the action, recently opened in Encino due to popularity following a positive Los Angeles Times review, and is currently ranked the #3 best sushi spot in Los Angeles by Time Out Los Angeles and repeatedly included on Eater LA’s “21 Essential Los Angeles Sushi Restaurants.” With the additional room in Encino, there are currently five seatings a night offered every Friday – Sunday, and three seatings every Monday – Thursday.

With the immediate focus shifting to opening new Sushi|Bar locations, Scratch Restaurants has sold the spaces currently housing The Monarch and The Silver Bough located in Montecito Inn, both of which are now closed. Sushi|Bar in Montecito will continue to be led by head sushi chef Lennon Lee and open every Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday with seatings available at 6pm, and 8pm; Friday and Saturday evenings with seatings available at 5pm, 7pm, and 9pm; and closed on Monday and Tuesday.

Over the next year, Scratch Restaurants plans to open additional locations throughout California, focusing on Los Angeles, Orange County and San Francisco. Conceived as Lee’s love letter to sushi, he will remain in charge of Sushi|Bar’s menu creation, with pastry chef Margarita Kallas-Lee overseeing the dessert program, and food and beverage director Gavin Humes curating the selection of drink pairings and Japanese beverages, including sake, beer and Japanese whiskey.

Second, a story from eater.com, courtesy of reader Dugan:

Top Chef’s Phillip Frankland Lee Lets Go of His Santa Barbara Empire – Only Sushi Bar remains up at the Montecito Inn

Former Top Chef contestant Phillip Frankland Lee is stepping away (mostly) from his Santa Barbara restaurant dreams, pulling out from all but one space at the Montecito Inn. After a protracted build-out and plans for an ultra-luxury tasting menu restaurant eager for a Michelin star, Lee is now heading back to Encino to regroup.

The new plan for Lee’s Scratch Bar restaurant group, reps tell Eater, is to center around his busy 17-course omakase Sushi Bar concept, expanding it up and down the California coast. There are no firm plans for new addresses just yet, but they are targeting “Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Francisco.” An existing Sushi Bar will remain on property at the Montecito Inn in Santa Barbara County, to be run by on-site chef Lennon Lee.

Meanwhile, both the Monarch and Silver Bough have been sold off up at the Montecito Inn. The latter was formed as a $500 per-person tasting menu that pulled luxury ingredients from the vast Central Coast, with hopes to pull in three Michelin stars and make Santa Barbara a culinary destination all its own. Ultimately the restaurant lasted well under a year, having first closed “temporarily” back in September. Lee and co-owner and wife Margarita Kallas-Lee still have their Encino restaurant empire, including the busy Sushi Bar and Scratch Bar.

And third, your comments…

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27 Responses to DOWNSIZING IN MONTECITO

  1. Richard says:

    Why doesn’t any of this surprise me given the background of this “Former Top Chef contestant?

  2. Christine says:

    I thought the couple were the new hosts on the local TV show, The Inn Crowd? Are they giving that up, too?

  3. Art says:

    The writing was on the wall from the get go. Mark and Margret Huston walked after 30 years of their Montecito Cafe. The rent offered by landlord just didn’t pencil out. The large investment of a remodel and then prices that competed with Luckys, the Biltmore, the Ranch, and the Miramar. They come up from LA and don’t realize that the size of the customer base is not millions of people.

  4. Kim says:

    HahahahahahaHAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!! Called it right after reading about the “grandness” of the opening of Silver Bough here! But did I get it 100% correct? What was the opening date? I said it would be gone in 6 months…

  5. Peter says:

    Back to Encino…

  6. Art says:

    Does anyone have any idea how many $500 dinners were actually served?

  7. TheQoe says:

    Would every one please that PF Chang’s might find a home at The Montecito Inn

  8. s w oliver says:

    how about Panda Express?

  9. Long-time local says:

    I loved my experiences at Scratch in Encino, as well as at The Monarch and Sushi|Bar in Montecito and was delighted by the food in every way. It is expensive to be sure, but worth it for a rare, special treat. I’m so sorry that we are losing options here on our doorstep, and I sincerely hope the sushi place will stay! By the way, I believe Sushi|Bar Montecito has the best selection of Japanese whiskies anywhere in the area – and they’ll put together flights based on your preferences and price point. Highly recommend!

  10. Sara says:

    Bring BACK the Montecito Cafe…the Brothers need to get on their needs and beg, if they have not already!

  11. Dugan says:

    Sushi bar will be gone in another 6 months.
    The format misses the essential :
    Portions are minuscule
    They baste everything with the same “yuzu based” sauce so it all tastes the same (and hides the true taste of the fish)
    Prices are high for what you get.
    You walk out hungry ! Which is not the idea after spending around $ 200 (per person) for dinner ..

  12. Colleen Smith says:

    Ruth’s Chris couldn’t make it here in SB. Most of the community will not support a higher priced restaurant. Unfortunately it makes our options for a lovely meal very limited.

    • Richard says:

      I never went to the Ruth’s Chris here because I really never go out to steakhouses anywhere, although for a business meal I once went to the RC in Beverly Hills.

      A friend who was a wine purveyor at our location told me they actually were doing quite well, but the egregious rent and Triple Net the owners of La Cumbre Plaza began charging them forced them to make the decision to close. I can speak from experience regarding rent at LCP, so that doesn’t surprise me.

      However, most of our very high priced local restaurants, which I won’t name, probably don’t get much resident support because, frankly, they really don’t offer a first class dining experience or even service for the prices they charge.

      I am happy to support the “overachievers” here such as Black Sheep, Petit Valentien, Jane (on State) and even places like the Nook, or the somewhat pricey Arrigato, because they at least offer consistency and quality without the false pretension that equates to high prices without the rewards.

      It’s disturbing that a friend and I who celebrate our annual Christmas December lunch get-together in L.A., a geographical halfway meeting area for us, are having a hard time even finding a decent place there. Just seems like almost the whole of southern California really doesn’t offer much in the way of fine dining – maybe I’m just too fussy, but like my father used to say “If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right” – and we just don’t have that in dining here for the most part.

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