Fine Dining Encino

Scratch|Bar Dials Up Ambition to 11 in Encino

Scratch|Bar & Kitchen was already the Valley’s most ambitious restaurant, but now owners Phillip Frankland Lee and wife Margarita Kallas-Lee are upping the ante.

Scratch|Bar & Kitchen was already the Valley’s most ambitious restaurant, but making cheese, charcuterie and bread “from scratch” apparently wasn’t good enough for chef Phillip Frankland Lee and pastry chef/wife Margarita Kallas-Lee. If the restaurant’s previous incarnation maxed out the culinary volume at 10, the couple has dialed it up to 11—serving a 20+ course, $145 per person tasting menu with impeccable service.

Your starting point on Scratch|Bar’s three-hour culinary odyssey is a cocktail bar behind opaque glass that previously housed the couple’s short-lived seafood restaurant, Frankland’s Crab & Co. Now only Scratch|Bar diners can access this special drinking den. Shelves stock prized Pappy Van Winkle bourbon, plus aged amaro, 30-year-old Campari and 100-year-old Chartreuse,” which Sushi|Bar bartender Ben Schrader called “little bottles of time travel.” This intimate bar is also where you’ll experience the first few “snacks” before moving to the adjacent dining room.

Appetizers—which constantly change—include roasted garlic and thyme popcorn, a wild mushroom meringue sandwich with chanterelle mushroom mousse, cured foie gras and shaved Italian black truffle. Meat|Cheese|Bread, just one example of the restaurant’s craftsmanship, is a platter starring house-made Alpine-style Swiss cheese, air-cured New York strip “bresaola,” grilled house-made sourdough and a small cup of mead (fermented honey water).

Ben and his fellow bartenders create cocktails to accompany the snacks. Kir Royale, a classic French cocktail made with crème de cassis and Champagne, features cava and black currant and hibiscus tea infused with herbs and spices, served in a coupe brushed with hibiscus “paint.”

Dinner begins in full once you’ve settled into Scratch|Bar’s newly revamped interior. Gone are the tall tables with barstool-like seats. Instead diners can now settle into spacious, tufted, chocolate-colored booths or at a 10-seat counter facing dapper staffers in an open kitchen.

The menu changes monthly and relies heavily on a massive hearth fueled by smoldering almond wood that yields well contained smoke. Highlights from February’s opening lineup included a beautiful coal-charred leek slathered with a caramelized basil and bone marrow sabayon. Roasted sweetbreads were also exceptional, served on a bed of silky chicken liver pâté with spiced aioli, crispy brioche, pickled vegetables and herbs. Sweet Maine lobster is steamed and smoked and plated with smoked paprika aioli, shaved breakfast radishes and Italian sturgeon caviar. Lobster broth is poured tableside in the bowl.

For dessert, Margarita has created a four-stage tour de force. Her “cheese” course pairs savory triple crème ice cream with buttery toasted brioche, smoked honey and chives on a stylish wood slab. Bone marrow custard is another standout featuring rich custard served on the half-bone, topped with crunchy pine meringue shards, punchy pickled grapes and crispy parsley chips.

Beverage pairings top out at $125 for a Grand Tasting that includes cocktails, beer, spirits and wine. Scratch|Restaurants regional chef and sommelier Gavin Humes showcases small-production wines from California and beyond. His selections also factor into a more abbreviated $85 pairing. Teetotalers can enjoy a $45 non-alcoholic pairing.

On the TV show Stranger Things, the “Upside Down” is a dark, dangerous bizarro world. At Scratch|Bar, the “Upside Down” is a $37 post-dinner bonus round featuring three sweet courses from Margarita that mirror the original savory snacks.

Beet chocolate with beet mustard, beet toffee and matching mustard frill replaces pork belly. Another meringue sandwich touts cardamom, caramel fudge and truffle shavings. Finally you’ll receive another scallop shell, but this time with aloe, passion fruit and soy sauce instead of jellyfish.

Of course more food means more pairing opportunities. In the Upside Down, sweet snacks are available with a flight of three amari (wonderfully bitter Italian digestifs).

As we drove down Ventura Boulevard into the night, we reflected on the dinner. It’s clear that Scratch|Bar has become more multifaceted than before with deeper attention to detail and a more fulfilling experience.

16101 Ventura Blvd., Encino, 818-646-6085

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