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.
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Below is the full description of each California awardee.
Two MICHELIN Stars:
Addison (San Diego – promotion from one MICHELIN Star)
Chef William Bradley continues to flaunt his impressive skills at this iconic, standard-setting dining room, and his talents are more tangible now than ever before. Addison’s menu retains the chef’s signatures while constantly evolving.
Birdsong (San Francisco – promotion from one MICHELIN Star)
Chef Christopher Bleidorn’s skill lies in his ability to combine the rugged appeal of flame-kissed meats with a delicate touch and palpable sense of whimsy. For proof, look no further than the lacquered quail with grilled Parker House rolls and crunchy pickles to be assembled by hand à la Peking duck.
Hayato (Los Angeles – promotion from one MICHELIN Star)
Dinner here is an intimate and engaging experience with chef Brandon Hayato Go. Many of the courses for this kaiseki meal begin with ingredients that are artfully arranged in the back kitchen and handed to the chef on trays, then finished before your eyes and presented with detailed explanations.
Harbor House (Mendocino County – promotion from one MICHELIN Star)
Chef Matthew Kammerer is devout when it comes to hyper-local and foraged ingredients, so much so that the fisherman’s name may casually be dropped into conversation or the apple orchard owner is likely seated next to you.
Mélisse (Santa Monica – New two MICHELIN Star)
Chef Josiah Citrin’s iconic dining room is back up and running — even thriving. His expertise lies in delivering a certain fine-dining experience that never goes out of style. It’s a lovely change of pace for anyone looking to slow down, indulge, and be pampered by the highly capable service staff.
One MICHELIN Star:
Adega (San Francisco – Promotion to one MICHELIN Star)
Chefs David Costa and Jessica Carreira elevate every bite on their appetizing menu with a perfect blend of pristine local produce and top-notch imported ingredients. Seafood is a particular area of focus in this kitchen, and diners shouldn’t miss a dressed-up take on Portugal’s culinary backbone — that is, bacalhau or salted cod.
Avery (San Francisco – Promotion to one MICHELIN Star)
The impressive menu pays homage to chef and co-owner Rodney Wages’s experiences at some of the city’s most elite kitchens. As the meal unfolds, it quickly becomes clear that this chef marches to the beat of his own drums. A lovingly curated champagne and sake list accents this distinctive cuisine.
Barndiva (Sonoma – Promotion to one MICHELIN Star)
The cooking, as conceived by chef Jordan Rosas, hones in on prime local produce and sustainability. There is a tangible deftness in such aromatic flavor combinations as seared dayboat scallops with kohlrabi, grapefruit and lemongrass-ginger butter sauce. Of course, it should be unlawful to forgo the creative goodies from pastry chef Neidy Venegas.
Bell’s (Santa Barbara – Promotion from New Discovery)
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.
Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura (Los Angeles – New one MICHELIN Star)
Chef Massimo Bottura has put the talented Mattia Agazzi at the helm, and the results are impressive indeed. This is cooking that is at once whimsical and grounded.
Jeune et Jolie (San Diego – New one MICHELIN Star)
Partner John Resnick and Executive Chef Eric Bost are behind this very appealing and well-orchestrated French restaurant oozing with style and elegance at every turn. This cooking displays a mature direction, with solid ingredients, unique combinations, and beautiful presentations.
Knife Pleat (Orange County – Promotion from New Discovery)
Everyone is here for chef Tony Esnault’s contemporary take on classic French cuisine, brought to you by professional servers who virtually glide around in measured movements. The menu highlights imaginative dishes that weave technique with ingenuity.
Marlena (San Francisco – Promotion from New Discovery)
Husband-and-wife team David Fisher and Serena Chow Fisher manage both the savory and sweet side of things, and their fine dining pedigree is apparent in the cooking, deftly marrying simplicity with sophistication. Diners will appreciate the precise technique and understated yet imaginative use of ingredients found throughout the prix-fixe menu.
Morihiro (Los Angeles – New one MICHELIN Star)
Chef Morihiro Onodera’s omakase yields an impressive amount of food that includes such impeccably executed items as firefly squid with wakame seaweed and halibut sashimi with pink peppercorn. Minimally seasoned nigiri with large defined grains may unveil everything from clean, white hirame to appetizingly oily mackerel.
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Niku Steakhouse (San Francisco – New one MICHELIN Star)
Executive Chef Dustin Falcon helms the kitchen, where pristine cuts of top-shelf Japanese beef share screen time with hearty American cuts — the red hot binchotan coals create mouthwatering char.
O’ by Claude Le Tohic (San Francisco – New one MICHELIN Star)
Chef Claude Le Tohic’s prix-fixe menu is composed of outstanding courses that may pair classic French techniques with pristine Californian ingredients. Exquisite sauces work their way into this rotating lineup that may begin with a generous trio of caviar with freshly baked breads; and end over enticing mignardise.
Pasjoli (Santa Monica – Promotion from New Discovery)
Chef Dave Beran has upped the ante with this captivating French bistro, where standards like onion soup and beef tartare are elevated to their highest reaches.
Pasta | Bar (Los Angeles – Promotion from New Discovery)
The mastery of this team lies in their ability to take full advantage of California’s natural bounty, with thrilling results, as seen in cavatelli with a glossy, butter-rich lobster sauce, with spring peas and chunks of sweet meat; or an exalted take on the caprese by way of marigold tomatoes, mozzarella, fennel flowers, and avocado.
Phenakite (Los Angeles – Promotion from New Discovery)
Chef Minh Phan’s Phenakite takes up residence at a co-working office space nestled among trees and within a beautifully maintained structure. Subtle, elegant flavors and singular textures show up in spades in such deeply personal creations as mochi dumpling with lardon and sugar snap peas.
Selby’s (San Francisco – Promotion from New Discovery)
This talented kitchen spins out classic American cuisine with a menu that showcases product from the group’s five-acre organic farm.
Six Test Kitchen (Paso Robles – Promotion from New Discovery)
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.
Soichi (San Diego – Promotion from New Discovery)
Named for Chef Soichi Kadoya, who honed his skills at Old Town’s Sushi Tadokoro, this intimate Japanese restaurant has quickly made a name for itself in University Heights. Sushi leans straightforward, but it’s impressive and flaunts much skill.
Sushi | Bar Montecito (Santa Barbara – Promotion from New Discovery)
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 dressing slices of hamachi.
Sushi I-NABA (Los Angeles – Promotion from New Discovery)
Chef Yasuhiro Hirano, together with his wife, who runs the front of house, is responsible for turning out some of the most exciting sushi around. His particular magic lies in weaving together a few key components, including the exotic fish that he ages before preparing with a host of ingredients.
Sushi Shin (San Francisco – New one MICHELIN Star)
Chef Jason Zhan is charming, engaging and a bona fide tome of information on product sourcing, aging and marinating. Diners fortunate to be perched in front of him may be presented with the likes of sea water eel braised in dashi and topped with plum sauce; followed by sardine tartare imbued with ginger and scallions. Next up, nigiri of exceptional quality and delicate seasoning.
Sushi Tadokoro (San Diego – Promotion from New Discovery)
Chef and owner Tadokoro along with young chef Tatsuro Tsuchiya take great pleasure in providing diners with a delightful dining experience. Attention to detail is a hallmark, as sauces are homemade and the fish of the day rests within a wood box awaiting very special treatment.
The Shota (San Francisco – New one MICHELIN Star)
The menu combines Edomae sushi with classic kaiseki — and is informed every step of the way with imported Japanese ingredients and local produce. Expectedly, diners are treated to a breathtaking experience from start to finish — as well as service that is effortless, unobtrusive and engaging.