MICHELIN Spotlight Shines on Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara County joined the prestigious ranks of MICHELIN-starred dining destinations in the newly released MICHELIN Guide California. Bell’s Los Alamos and Sushi-Bar Montecito each earned One MICHELIN Star, becoming the region’s first-ever to receive the coveted accolade, which equates to “High-quality cooking, worth a stop!” Three restaurants were also newly added to the Golden State’s 2021 class of Bib Gourmand eateries, further enhancing the local excitement over this big announcement. That brings Santa Barbara County’s tally of MICHELIN-approved establishments to a grand total of sixteen.

The Santa Barbara South Coast and surrounding wine country have long attracted foodies and culinary explorers, and these new endorsements will no doubt pique the interest and palates of those who have yet to discover the area’s singular mix of flavors. It also gives existing fans and Santa Barbara aficionados fresh inspiration to visit The American Riviera® to experience how the food scene has evolved firsthand. The region continues to attract talented chefs who have worked in some of the country’s top kitchens, as well as rising stars who see the possibilities in being part of a world-class resort destination—one that’s a close-knit collection of small towns lining the coast and peppering the countryside.

Santa Barbara County abounds with family-run organic farms and historic, multi-generational ranching operations. The Santa Barbara Channel is considered one of the richest sustainable fisheries on the West Coast. And then there’s the wine, with well over 200 Santa Barbara County wineries producing vintages that pair beautifully with artfully crafted cuisine. Beyond the ingredients, the local culinary community is infused with an authentic spirit of collaboration and connectivity that is reflected in every detail, from the words on the menus and the art on the walls to the warm hospitality and passion that goes into every plate. MICHELIN’s discerning inspectors recognized these attributes with their latest additions, which we’ve highlighted below and invite you to come celebrate with us.

One Star Spotlight:  Sushi|Bar Montecito

Sushi|Bar Montecito offers an intimate, theatrical omakase experience created by Los Angeles-based restaurateurs/chefs, Phillip Frankland Lee and Margarita Kallas Lee. Chef Lennon Silvers Lee is the head chef of the 10-seat sushi bar in the Montecito Inn, where the ever-changing 17-course feast unfolds over two delectable hours of improvisational, intuitive preparations. MICHELIN praised chef’s creativity, originality, and finesse, which you can admire yourself as he works at the cutting boards behind the bar. Enjoy conversation with Chef Lennon and your fellow diners as you savor the “new wave nigri” and other creative twists on Japanese classics. If you opt for the beverage pairings, expect a mix of cocktails, sake, and beer. Three seatings are offered nightly Wednesday through Sunday and you can prebook on Tock at least one month in advance. Dinner starts at $145 per person, which includes food and a welcome cocktail.

One Star Spotlight:  Bell’s

Bell’s is the labor of love of another hospitality power couple, Chef Daisy Ryan and her husband Greg Ryan, both alums of Thomas Keller’s Per Se in New York City. The casual French-Californian (a.k.a. “Franch”) wine country bistro is located on the main drag of tiny, charming Los Alamos. While the food is incredibly refined, Bell’s doesn’t take itself too seriously, as their slogan “good but not France,” encapsulates. Not long after opening in 2018, Food & Wine magazine named Chef Daisy one of America’s “Best New Chefs,” which helped put the restaurant on the national radar—as did well-deserved press in respected magazines including Esquire, Conde Nast Traveler, and Travel & Leisure. Open Thursday through Monday, Bell’s offers a la carte lunch service and a phenomenal prix fixe dinner experience, which can be customized for vegans and pescatarians alike. Dinner starts at $75 per person and next-month reservations are released on Tock at the beginning of each month prior. Walk-ins are encouraged for lunch, with limited seats allocated for daytime reservations.

The Bib Gourmands

In addition to the star rating system, MICHELIN’s Bib Gourmand stamp of approval is bestowed upon restaurants that their team of experts deem to have “good quality, good value cooking.” So, it’s not about being fancy or formal. You’ll find down-to-earth taco shops like new addition, Corazon Cocina. Stop by chef/owner Ramon Velazquez’s stall in the Santa Barbara Public Market for satisfying tacos that integrate fresh, seasonal ingredients, handmade tortillas, and vibrant salsas. Bettina, another newcomer, is an Italian restaurant located in the Montecito Country Mart helmed by alums of Brooklyn’s iconic Roberta’s—hence the highly memorable wood-fired pizzas. The third new and notable addition is Loquita, a stylish local favorite in the Funk Zone that’s known for flavorful, sharable Spanish-style tapas created by Chef Jasmine Shimoda as well as award-winning gin and tonics. Those three excellent restaurants join two other local Bib Gourmands already on the list:  Mesa Verde (plant-based) and Sama Sama Kitchen (Indonesian fusion).

The MICHELIN Plates

Last but definitely not least are the MICHELIN Plates—restaurants known for simple “good cooking.” Among the Santa Barbara County MICHELIN Plates who made the cut in the inaugural California guide are Yoichi’s for standout Japanese kaiseki; Los Agaves, a counter-service Mexican restaurant on Milpas Street; and Bibi Ji, a modern Indian restaurant with a natural wine list. Distinctive expressions of Santa Barbara’s regional Californian cuisine can be savored at Barbareno,  The Lark, and Blackbird. And destinations for splurge-worthy special occasion feasts include Caruso’s at the Rosewood Miramar, Stonehouse at San Ysidro Ranch, and First & Oak in Solvang’s Mirabelle Inn.