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A Star is Born Among Montecito Restaurants

October 14, 2021

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SUSHI/BAR MONTECITO receives Michelin Star

Attention Montecito foodies: the flourishing culinary scene here just got better with the first Michelin Star Montecito restaurant. In fact, Sushi | Bar Montecito is one of three eateries on the Central Coast to make the list this year: another first. Situated inside the historic Montecito Inn on Coast Village Road, Sushi | Bar Montecito is the creation of chef-owners and husband/wife duo Phillip Frankland Lee (a contestant from TV’s “Top Chef Season 13,” “Chopped” and other shows) and pastry chef Margarita Kallas-Lee. 

About Sushi/Bar Montecito

The team at Sushi/Bar Montecito

Owner Frankland Lee recently told the Montecito Journal, “This is all I’ve wanted for a very, very, very long time.” Lee’s uber popular Pasta Bar in Los Angeles was also awarded a Michelin star. “To be awarded stars at two of my restaurants is something I never thought would be possible,”  Lee added proudly.

READ: The State Street Promenade: Santa Barbara Al Fresco

Sushi | Bar Montecito offers a 10-seat chef’s counter, where patrons can dine on a 17-course omakase or “chef’s choice” menu right in front of the action. The constantly changing surf and turf menu features the delicious, fresh local seafood we have in abundance here, including Santa Barbara sea urchin, spot prawns, and local halibut. Passionate and lively chefs, like head sushi chef Lennon Lee, add to the ambiance. Foodies are sure to be amazed by what the team at Sushi/Bar Montecito can do with their favorite dishes.

READ: 20 Things to Love About Santa Barbara

The Montecito restaurant’s drink pairings are curated by Scratch Restaurants Food and Beverage Director Gavin Humes. Think Japanese beverages: from sake and beer to Japanese whiskey. 

Then there’s the room itself, created to enhance the dining experience. Designed by Frankland Lee and Gabriel Wischmeier the dimly lit Montecito restaurant, enveloped in honeyed oak, seems to glow in amber. The combination invokes the feeling of traditional Japanese sushi bars from the 1930s.

Reservations are required. Call (805) 845-9310.


The Michelin guide is globally renowned for its revered star-system where inspectors of different nationalities assess restaurants around the world each year. Their assessments are made based on five objective criteria:

  • quality of the ingredients used
  • mastery of flavor and cooking techniques
  • the personality of the chef in his cuisine
  • value for money
  • consistency between visits.

In a nutshell, the Michelin star is a sign of quality.

Here’s what the seasoned inspectors had to say about Sushi/Bar Montecito:

“Though it’s nestled next to the tony Montecito Inn, this is no ordinary omakase eatery. Head sushi chef, Lennon Silvers-Lee, hails from Van Nuys, not Japan, and his nigiri are not just supremely finessed but also infused with original touches—like the dab of sweet corn ‘pudding’ and crunchy sourdough breadcrumbs that coat slices of hamachi, or the tart and spicy pool of leche de tigre that is poured around a Peruvian scallop. Even the traditional pairings, like lightly torched otoro with fresh-grated wasabi, become transcendent with a touch of the chef's soy sauce, which ferments on-site for nine months.

The iconoclastic vibe extends to the beverage pairings. They begin with an exquisite cocktail, then cleverly veer from sake to beer to wine back to cocktails, depending on what each of the dish’s demand.

Despite such originality, Sushi | Bar does indeed adhere strictly to one omakase tradition: a tiny counter, with seating for just ten guests. The fewer guests, the more to ensure exquisite, personalized service. The two hours pass in a blissful haze of convivial conversation, all set to the soothing tones of jazz. Even after the last bite of matcha and Makrut lime ice cream, you won’t want your time here to end.”

READ: The Fine Art of Outdoor Dining in Santa Barbara

Other Exceptional Restaurants in Montecito

While Sushi | Bar Montecito is the only Montecito restaurant to receive a Michelin star, there are several others that will tantalize anyone’s tastebuds. In fact, Montecito abounds with incredible restaurants serving up innovative, delicious fare.

Here’s a rundown of some of my personal favorites:

For breakfast, there’s nothing like starting the day at Bree’OshRenaud’s Bakery, or Jeannine’s Bakery. Vegans and meat-eaters alike rave about Oliver’s, which specializes in upscale plant-based cuisine for lunch and dinner. 

In my view, Tre Lune and Pane E Vino are the top spots for Italian, while  Los Arroyos tops the list of delish sit-down Mexican restaurants in town.

READ: Tips and Tricks for Organizing Your Kitchen — Again

Lucky’s steakhouse is a Montecito restaurant institution. The martinis alone are just as classic as the people watching. The Honor Bar is equally enticing for eats, drinks, and a lively crowd, including some of our favorite celebrity residents, Prince Harry, and Meghan Markle.

Montecito Country Mart is a dining destination. This is the place to enjoy casual staples. Other local go to dining spots include Panino when you’re craving a satisfying sandwich. Pair Neapolitan-style pizzas and farm-fresh salads with perfect negronis at Bettina Pizzeria. Savor organic fare crafted by acclaimed pastry chef Elizabeth Colling at Merci Montecito. Perk up with a coffee at Caffé Luxxe or a fresh juice and plant based snacks at Pressed Juicery. Have a sweet tooth to satisfy? A scoop or two of Rori’s Artisanal Ice Cream will do the trick, I promise.

If you’re not staying at one of Montecito’s premier resorts, dining and drinking on property is the next best thing. Besides the Michelin Star Sushi|Bar Montecito, foodies can sip and savor in style at San Ysidro Ranch’s Stonehouse or the more casual Plow & Angel. And who doesn’t enjoy eating and drinking their way through the Rosewood Miramar Beach’s Beach Bar or Caruso’s.

There’s no arguing Montecito restaurants, with or without a Michelin star, are some of the best in the country, but if you’re looking for a new home with your own gourmet kitchen in Montecito or any of Santa Barbara’s luxury enclaves or neighborhoods, give me a call at (805) 886-9378, or email me at I will happily add your listing to my portfolio of amazing estates for sale and find you a new home at the same time. 

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“Cristal Clarke has conducted numerous real estate transactions for me beginning 13 years ago with the purchase of a Lemon Ranch. She has handled both large and small purchases and sales with equal dedication. As a negotiator, you can’t find anyone better. Her transactions are always conducted in the most appropriate and professional manner. Cristal has considerable knowledge of the Santa Barbara market.”

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“After considering our many choices, we are grateful it was Cristal Clarke of Sotheby’s International who represented the sale of our Montecito cottage. We are familiar with Cristal’s reputation of hard work and dedication to clients, but it was her attention to detail that made our experience so positive. She offered suggestions for staging the property, worked in harmony with potential buyers and was even able to secure back up offers. The sale of our cottage was completed much sooner than we expected, due in great part to Cristal’s professional skills and support. We highly recommend Cristal as a first choice for anyone needing representation with real estate.”

- Michael & Nancy Lee

“Our experience in working with Cristal Clarke resulted in the successful and discrete acquisition of a property which was not yet on the open market. Her knowledge of the Montecito/Santa Barbara area and vast expertise blended with her passion for real estate and architecture, provided us with the very highest level of professionalism and personalized services. Cristal exhibited a rare combination of excellent communications, attention to detail, creativity and patience.”

- Richard and Catherine Frinier

“Cristal really breaks the mold. She knows every nook and cranny of this real estate market, understands value, and follows up on everything, all the time. She was incredibly patient with our two year quest to find the perfect house. Every house hunting trip from across the country was well planned, and our time was never wasted. On top of her professionalism and expertise, she is delightful to spend time with. We are thrilled with the home we purchased, and grateful to Cristal for so wisely advising us through this process, right through to the close and beyond.”

- Laurie Siegel

“We met Cristal first in the course of renting a winter home (for three years), then buying a house using her as our agent. She was amazingly good at listening to our wants and showing us homes that fit our needs. Her mastery of the paperwork was perfect. Most importantly, there was never a situation where we doubted her straightforwardness or integrity. If we do another real estate transaction in Montecito (which I doubt, we’re happy with what we purchased), without question we’d use Cristal again.”

- Ken Saffir

“Susan and I just want to thank you for your efforts in the sale of our home. You are really quite amazing. Your competence, persistence, optimism and humor made the entire process effortless. Every problem that arose, you somehow fixed; any obstacle, you overcame. We have bought and sold many homes. It has never been such a painless and enjoyable process!”

- Michael & Susan Marquart

“A little something about “our” realtor, Cristal Clarke. My wife and I came to Santa Barbara about fifteen years ago looking for a seasonal home from which to enjoy the weather and amenities of the central coast. Being in the real estate business myself I was familiar with agents and brokers so entered the market with open eyes. We “flipped” a few houses in the early years, dealing with various agents and finally ended up in Montecito. That’s when good fortune put us together with Cristal. To say we were impressed is to put it mildly. Cristal really knows the market. She is familiar with the area, its history and trends. When we have questions about a particular property she either has the answers immediately or gets back to us by phone or email. There is no waiting or wondering with Cristal. She is an agent who is “on top of it.” Her recommendations as to price points, contractors, inspectors and title agents have proven to be exceptional, showing great insight and the highest professional standards. We consider ourselves exceedingly fortunate to say that Cristal Clarke is our realtor and would recommend her services to any serious buyer or seller.”

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