Scratch Bar & Kitchen, Phillip Frankland Lee and Margarita Kallas-Lee’s flagship tasting menu restaurant in Encino, has received a conceptual refresh and a minor interior layout change. The place reopens today with tickets available on Tock.
What they’re dubbing Scratch Bar 2.0 has a lot of refinements and adjustments since it opened just over two years ago on the second floor of a large San Fernando Valley strip mall. The new menu boasts just one $145 tasting that spans over twenty courses. Gone is the former Frankland’s Crab & Co, which has been converted into a wonderful new bar lounge. Diners start in the hidden room and belly up to the bar, where a trio of bartenders serve a preamble of drinks and small snacks.
After the overture, the staff will direct diners to the newly fashioned dining room, which retains its counter seating but has changed the tables to wall-leaning banquettes that face the kitchen. Basically the whole thing feels like a kitchen theater, with a bevvy of cooks assembling plates. The menu retains a signature dish, the poached green mussel sake shooter, but otherwise the courses are completely new.
Things lean heavily on the wood-fire hearth, which emits smoke and heat onto the dining room. Flavors meander through Phillip Frankland Lee’s typically cuisine-agnostic mindset, though there’s a lean on Asian and European ingredients. Cuttlefish gets lightly dry-roasted and plated with sweet potato mousse and a nuac cham/leche de tigre sauce. A smokey, lightly steamed hamachi comes plated on a whole roasted celery root and an anchovy-celeriac “gazpacho”, all topped with freshly shaved black truffle.
Staying consistent with Scratch Bar’s mantra, everything is made in house, to the cheese and butter to the bread and charcuterie. There’s dry-aged wagyu beef served on a ring of potatoes for a kind of classic meat and potatoes savory course, while fire-roasted quail breast comes laced with pickled walnuts and a brown butter curry sauce.
Kallas-Lee’s desserts are numerous, with a nob of triple cream cheese ice cream and toasted brioche for a trompe l’oeil-style bread and butter course that leads to the rest of the the desserts. A sweet bone marrow custard gets filled into an actual cleaned out bone, with crispy meringue, grape slivers, and fried parsley for another visually deceptive, but well-composed dessert.
Overall there seems to be an additional layer of finesse, restraint, and development with Scratch Bar, which leaned more heavily on luxury ingredients (namely, uni, salmon roe, and foie gras) in its previous rendition. While there are still certainly those elements here, Scratch Bar’s newest menu presents not only a viable alternative to some of LA’s more celebrated fine dining institutions, it’s become a bona fide destination in itself in spite of its Valley geography. With the city’s fine dining scene on the ups, with news of Republique’s executive chef opening on Melrose, NoMad in Downtown, and Somni inside the SLS Beverly Hills, this might be the most exciting time for lovers of upscale gastronomy in Los Angeles.
Scratch Bar & Kitchen. 16101 Ventura Blvd, Encino, CA. 818-646-6085.
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