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 unveiled their second concept at a sneak peak prior to the August 1 opening of The Monarch.
The Monarch, located within the historic Montecito Inn, pays tribute to the treasures of the Central Coast with outstanding local cooking built around a rustic, wood-burning hearth in an elegant, all-day dining room and bar. Utilizing the season’s best vegetables, fruits, herbs, seafood, and meats – paired with the region’s best wines – Chef Lee helms the kitchen’s arcadian approach to living off the land.
Chef de cuisine John Butler, formerly of Melisse & Foreign Cinema, is director of the old world rustic cooking rituals implemented in the menus at The Monarch. Ingredients are coming from the Central Coast with the majority coming from within Santa Barbara County. Purveyors include Watkins Ranch, Cultured Abalone Farm, Sage Hill Farms, Jimenez Family Farm, Flora Vista Farms, Earthrine Farms, Wylde Honey Wines, Weiser Family Farms, Roots Organic Farm, Golden State Papayas, Qjai Sproats, and Stephanie Mutz Diving. The Monarch’s menu focus on utilizing the connection of Mediterranian ingredients and those sourced from Santa Barbara make it obvious why this area is has become known as the “American Riviera.”

The Monarch Restaurant & Bar

Starters of local oysters, fine spreads, and an array of flatbreads begin the meal, with favorites such as oceanimbued 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.
Our starters included an extraordinary carpaccio, was not only picture perfect, but melted in the mouth, and I was amazed by the a lamb ragout with ribbon pasta as well. They were both outstanding and typical of the unique and original recipes Chef Lee has become known for.
Entrees are served family-style The Monarch, with the chef’s selection of shareable sides to accompany each main dish – each showcasing the myriad cooking methods of the wood-fired hearth. Some include a pork Tenderloin brined in brown sugar and caramelized with fresh herbs in the hearth’s brick oven, mussels from Hope Ranch buried in coals to steam with sea beans, orange, white cardamom, and herbs de provence, and an entire Shortrib coated with a mixture of red wine and mustard before being hung fireside to slow roast for several hours.

Le Duck Monarch

The Duck Breast brushed with honey, jasmine, and coriander is hung in the charcoal oven and finished on the wood-fired grill was my choice. Because I love duck and just traveled to five european countries where I enjoyed numerous versions of duck, I was curious about Chef Lee’s preparation and presentation, and he did not let me down. His duck is perfectly crisp on the outside and moist delicious on the inside with perfect seasoning – simply divine duck!
Among Chef Margarita Kallas-Lee’s sweet endings are a Strawberry Mousse with creme fraiche and berries, and a fresh Donuts with lavender and maple, as well as four of her hand-made chocolates served in a beautiful jewel box. Such a perfect ending to a delightful first experience at The Monarch.!
In giving kudos to the region’s fine vintners, the wine program at The Monarch, curated by Gavin Humes, offers affordable and rare wines of the Central Coast. Standout selections include Los Olivos’ Solminer Wines, Jonata, and Liquid Farm, with its fine chardonnay and pinot noir. A few specialty cocktails on the menu include 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. The Monarch offers a rotating draft of known area beers with specialty release beers from neighborhood brewers.

Jewel Box Chocolates by Margarita

Designed in collaboration with Montecito Inn co-owner and designer Danny Copus, the inviting venue melds together a seamless transition from morning to evening. Original columns anchoring the space date back nearly 100 years, recalling the golden days of Santa Barbara in the 1930s. Oversized arched windows framing the dining tables, created by local woodworker Albert Apodaca, beam with natural light in daytime, and add charming illumination by night. Gold accents and tufted dining sofas give an overall sense of ease and style to the artisan-crafted tables.
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. Operations Manager David Rosner, formerly of Wine Cask & Bar Boulud, is overseeing the whole show at The Monarch, which is open Wednesday – Sunday for dinner from 5pm to 10pm and bar service continuing until midnight. Word is a daily brunch and happy hour will launch in the very near future. For more information, visit
By Bonnie Carroll