Central Coast Picks Up Three Michelin Stars
Bell’s in Los Alamos, Sushi | Bar in Montecito, and Six Test Kitchen in Paso Robles Awarded
Santa Barbara County is finally home to its own Michelin star — two, in fact, as both Bell’s Restaurant in Los Alamos and Sushi | Bar in Montecito were given the coveted one-star rating by the Michelin Guide on Tuesday morning. They were part of 27 new stars given out to restaurants across California, including a one-star award for another Central Coast standout: Six Test Kitchen in Paso Robles.
“As an international culinary destination and leader in the industry, California continues to impress Michelin Guide inspectors with a commitment to sustainable gastronomy and creative cuisine,” said the guides’ international director Gwendal Poullennec in a press release. “We are delighted to celebrate 19 promotions for restaurants that elevated their quality and consistency despite the challenges of the health crisis, and welcome eight new entries to our selection at the star level.”
All three Central Coast restaurants were elevated from “New Discovery” to one-star restaurants. “This has been a lifelong dream for us both and shared goal of ours since opening our first concept together in 2012,” stated Margarita Kallas-Lee, co-owner and pastry chef of Scratch Restaurants, which owns Sushi | Bar as well as Pasta | Bar in Los Angeles, another one-star awardee. Added her husband, Phillip Frankland Lee, who is Scratch’s co-owner and executive chef, “We’ve always set our intentions on this prestigious accomplishment and to have it become a reality feels surreal. We are honored to have a chance to share our unique dining experiences with the world.”
The Michelin Guide wrote the following about Sushi | Bar: “Nestled next to the tony Montecito Inn, this 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 dressing slices of hamachi.” (Here’s my 2019 story about Scratch’s impressive but short-lived Silver Bough concept, also in the Montecito Inn. The attention to detail is similar to Sushi | Bar, which my colleague George Yatchisin wrote about here.)
“It’s an amazing honor to be thought of and considered in terms of something like a Michelin star. Having worked in that style and those types of restaurants, we never imagined being recognized for something like this in Los Alamos, California,” said Bell’s co-owner Gregory Ryan. “But we are honored by it and thankful to our team and guests who have helped support us. You think about the guide and what it meant back in the day, which was to get in the car and drive somewhere. As somebody once said in the Santa Barbara Independent, it’s worth the drive.”
About Bell’s, the Guide reports: “After cutting their teeth at top New York City kitchens, Daisy and Greg Ryan headed to the West Coast — settling into the confines of the Santa Ynez Valley. This is cooking that tastes as good it looks, shining a spotlight on local purveyors. Naturally, the crowds keep coming for the unpretentious dishes.” (Here’s my 2018 story on their opening and then a 2020 story about Chef Daisy Ryan being named a “Best New Chef” one of Food & Wine magazine.)
Chef Ricky Odbert from Six Test Kitchen, which started as a six-seat restaurant in his parents’ Arroyo Grande garage before moving to Paso’s Tin City neighborhood, said the star was a “dream come true” for himself and beverage director Matt Corella. “When we opened in Tin City almost three years ago, we had a pretty all-star team, but business was too slow to keep most of them,” said Odbert. “We were lucky enough to bring David Ward back on after he left just five months after opening and now it really feels like we have the core team we need to move Six Test Kitchen to the next level. We are so honored to be a part of the Michelin Guide.”
The guide describes Six Test Kitchen as follows: “Chef Ricky Odbert’s multi-course tasting menu is on the books, evolving with and inspired by the seasons of the Central Coast. Fridays and Saturdays feature an expanded menu, with dishes that highlight the chef’s unique style and creative vision.” (Here’s my story on eating there back in 2016, when he was still serving food in his parent’s Arroyo Grande garage.)
Winning the even more exalted two-star award in California were Addison in San Diego, Birdsong in San Francisco, Hayato in Los Angeles, Harbor House in Mendocino County, and Mélisse in Santa Monica.