Following the opening of the fast seafood shack Frankland’s Crab & Co. this spring, Scratch|Restaurants chef-owners Phillip Frankland Lee and Margarita Kallas-Lee unveil their second concept, The Monarch, within the historic Montecito Inn on Wednesday, August 1. The Monarch pays tribute to the treasures of the Central Coast with local cooking built around a rustic, wood-burning hearth in an elegant, all-day dining room and bar. Offering a collection of vegetables, fruits, herbs, seafood, and meats – paired with the regional wines – Lee helms the kitchen’s arcadian approach to living off the land. The Monarch at the Montecito Inn draws inspiration from restaurants dotting Europe’s countryside.
Directed by chef de cuisine John Butler (Mélisse, Foreign Cinema), the menu at The Monarch sources ingredients locally from Central Coast with the majority coming from within the borders of Santa Barbara County, from land to sea. Upon opening, this includes beef, pork and duck from Watkins Ranch; abalone from Cultured Abalone Farm; pastured eggs and avocados from Sage Hill Farms; lamb from Jimenez Family Farm; micro greens and wild flowers from Flora Vista Farms; herbs, greens and wild plants from Earthtrine Farms; honey from Wylde Honey Wines; new potatoes from Weiser Family Farms; red butter Salanova lettuce from Roots Organic Farm; papayas and tomatoes from Golden State Papayas; sunflower seeds and sprouts from Ojai Sprouts; and sea urchin and seaweeds from Stephanie Mutz Diving. In using ingredients that do well in the Santa Barbara climate akin to the Mediterranean, The Monarch emphasizes why the region is commonly promoted as the “American Riviera”.
Local oysters, fine spreads, and an array of flatbreads start the meal, with options such as an ocean-imbued Sea Urchin Spread with uni oil and salted cheese on sourdough bread, or a Goat’s Milk Flatbread with lemon black pepper chevre, gaunciale, pea tendrils, and smoked local honey. Carefully composed appetizers include Abalone à la Flambadou with bone marrow, lemon suprème, and capers; Yellowtail Crudo with papaya salad, passionfruit vinaigrette, and fingerlimes; or Grilled Peaches with corn pudding and housemade burrata. Entrees are served family-style, with the chef’s selection of shareable sides to accompany each main dish – each showcasing the myriad cooking methods of the wood-fired hearth – with a Pork Tenderloin brined in brown sugar and caramelized with fresh herbs in the hearth’s brick oven; Mussels from Hope Ranch buried in the coals to steam with sea beans, orange, white cardamom, and herbs de provence; an entire Shortrib slathered with a mixture of red wine and mustard before being hung fireside to slow roast for several hours; and Duck Breast lacquered with honey, jasmine, and coriander hung in the charcoal oven and finished on the wood-fired grill. For dessert, Kallas-Lee whips up sweets inspired by the pastoral environs, such as Strawberry Mousse with creme fraiche and berries, and fresh Donuts with lavender and maple.
Celebrating the region’s vintners, the wine program at The Monarch, curated by Gavin Humes, spans affordable and rare finds along the Central Coast. Standout selections include Los Olivos’ Solminer Wines, a source for Austrian wines by way of California; Santa Barbara’s popular vineyard Jonata; and Liquid Farm, with its examples of chardonnay and pinot noir. A robust cocktail and spirit selection from beverage director Rui Silva also features area ingredients, squeezed juices, and custom-made mixers, like the Mr. McGregors Revenge with Ventura Spirits’ Wilder Gin, carrot gastrique, lime, and carrot sprigs, or the Day Break with Cutwater Spirits’ Three Sheets Barrel Aged Rum, coffee liqueur, local pistachio orgeat, coconut milk, and pistachio. Beers known to the area meet a rotating draft with specialty release beers from neighborhood brewers.
The Monarch, designed in collaboration with Montecito Inn co-owner and designer Danny Copus, includes original columns anchoring the space date back nearly 100 years. Spanning the length of the dining room, a deep oak hardwood bar encapsulates the glowing flames of the hearth. Oversized arched windows framing the dining tables, created by local woodworker Albert Apodaca, provide natural light in daytime, and the glittering charm of Montecito at night. Gold accents, comfortable chairs, artisan-crafted tables, and a string of tufted dining sofas round out the decor. Custom ceramics by locals Gill Isaac Kaufman (Happy Green Merchant) and Wyn Matthews, range from plates and platters to the kitchen’s supply of clay ‘flameware’ for hearth cooking. Overseeing the operation and serving as daily ringmaster is general manager David Rosner (Wine Cask, Bar Boulud).
The Monarch is open Wednesday – Sunday for dinner from 5pm to 10pm and bar service continuing until midnight, with a daily brunch and happy hour launching soon. For more information visit themonarchmontecito.com.
Photos by Jakob N. Layman