Phillip Frankland Lee and Margarita Kallas-Lee
Frankland’s Crab Crawls into Montecito
First of Four Montecito Inn Concepts by Phillip Frankland Lee and Margarita Kallas-Lee
Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Why let words get in the way when you just want to make great-tasting food? That explains why what might be labeled a lobster roll somewhere else is “just” a buttered Maine lobster sandwich at the new Frankland’s Crab & Co., recently opened in the old bar space at the Montecito Inn.
“Half the people say it’s not a lobster roll if it’s not hot with butter; half say it’s not if it’s not cold with mayo,” explains co-owner Phillip Frankland Lee. “I love a shrimp cocktail, love the cocktail sauce, the iceberg lettuce, a little seasoning.” So that flavor profile is what he aims for, but with added special twists like a lobster butter specially made by his wife and business partner, Margarita Kallas-Lee, plus her house-made brioche roll, to dress things up a bit.
That’s emblematic of the Frankland’s experience, which they call a “modern American shell shack.” Yes, you can order many a fried thing of the sea, but the star is the seafood itself, not the fry. So your oyster is briny and beautiful, just accented by the crusty quick coating. And you can dip it in a mignonette zippy with vinegar or a tartar sauce bright with lemon, flavors that ping your palate alive for more good eating.
This is the couple’s first venture outside of Los Angeles County, where they have a Scratch | Restaurant empire, especially in Encino, near where Lee grew up in the San Fernando Valley. It took some time — they’d hoped to open last year, but the usual Santa Barbara delays got compounded by the less usual: specifically, fire, flood, and six feet of mud in the Montecito Inn driveway. And it’s just concept number one of the four they have for the inn, once home to the beloved Montecito Café.
The deal went down one evening when the Montecito Inn owners were dining at the couple’s Scratch | Restaurant. “We had agreed to do one restaurant,” Lee recalled, but then ideas got complicated. “So we called them back and said, ‘We hope you’re not going to be mad, but we’ve changed everything.’”
In addition to Frankland’s Crab, the former main restaurant space for the café will become Monarch (target opening: late July), which will be a very local (everything sourced from Oxnard to Morro Bay), lounge-like space driven by craft cocktails, with a wood-fired hearth at the kitchen’s heart. “Margarita and I travel a lot, and we hate when the hotel restaurant is just Italian food when you’re not in Italy,” Lee said. “We thought, ‘Let’s do something here for here.’ I’m already talking with farmers and fishermen. Everything will be of the day, will change maybe hourly.”
Concept three (target: late summer) will be the first where Kallas-Lee gets to be the star, hence the name Margarita’s Snacks. What was just going to be her clever rethinking of ice-cream treats (cornbread cones with condensed-milk ice cream, cinnamon, candied popcorn, say) is now a full-on pastry program, inspired by the traditional tea rooms of Latvia, where she grew up. She’s particularly excited about the holidays and to-go orders for classics like apple pies that will “look traditional,” as she puts it, “but the apples will be cooked in brown butter, there will be caramel, a depth of flavor rather than just an apple pie.”
The fourth concept, the Silver Bough, will be in an undisclosed location, fitting for a high-end, multicourse, limited-seats-per-night spot. The version they do at Scratch | Bar & Kitchen in Encino has gotten the approval of Pulitzer Prize–winning Jonathan Gold, so we have something to look forward to next winter.
And in the meantime, we have one tasty crab shack.
1295 Coast Village Rd., (805) 845-9310, franklandscrabandcompany.com