Los Angeles Chef Phillip Frankland Lee and Pastry Chef Margarita Kallas-Lee are transforming their pop-up Austin Sushi | Bar into a permanent restaurant. The couple’s nighttime omakase restaurant will remain in its space in the private dining room of East Austin Bento Picnic restaurant at 2600 East Cesar Chavez St.
Sushi | Bar ATX functions as a sushi counter, offering 17-course meals including various nigiri such as Japanese amberjack accompanied by corn pudding and otoro red tuna with caramelized pineapple and desserts like roasted soy sorbet. The fish comes from various markets around the world, including Japan, Australia, and Santa Barbara, and wasabi comes from Japan. Texas products include wagyu, bone marrow, olive oil, and all products.
Lee (a Excellent chef nominee) and Kallas-Lee (a 2016 Eater Young Gun semi-finalist) opened the Austin iteration of their Los Angeles restaurant in late December 2020. That’s when Los Angeles turned it down. all on site, on-site catering during a large wave of COVID-19 cases. In order to keep their staff employed, the couple decided to open the pop-up in Austin. That month Lee made it to town and within three weeks he was put in touch with Bento Picnic owner Leanne Valenti, who offered her private dining space as the location for the pop-up. .
Austin’s pop-up was supposed to run until January 2021 – when Los Angeles was set to reopen for outdoor dining services – but reservations were so immediately booked with a long waitlist (in the end of its third week, the list exceeded 100; at the end of January, they were more than 20,000) that they chose to extend the stay. âWe have decided to keep the pop-up until everyone on the waitlist has a chance to try it,â Lee said. âHere we are, eight months later, still with a full waiting list. We are grateful to say that we are here to stay.
Back in California, Lee and Kallas-Lee run the Scratch Restaurants hotel group, which includes the new American restaurant Scratch Bar & Kitchen, Magic Bar, Italian restaurant Pasta Bar and Leviathan small plate restaurant. They first cooked in Austin in 2014, when they ran Scratch Bar as a month-long pop-up. Since then, the couple have wanted to open a restaurant in Austin. Lee and Kallas-Lee also moved their home port to Austin to run the restaurant, buying a home in the city.
Lee eventually opened the original Sushi | Bar in Los Angeles in 2016 because he wanted to be a sushi chef since he was young in the San Fernando Valley outside of Los Angeles. âI knew that as a white man in LA, to open a sushi restaurant, I had to ask the ‘why’ and do something that would do justice to such an important culinary profession,â he says. He learned as much as he could about Japanese omakase restaurants by reading and chatting with chefs. “What struck me the most was that sushi chefs told the story of their childhood or their childhood through the flavors of their sushi,” he says. âSo that’s what I’m trying to do with ambition; I believe the most authentic thing I could and the best way to honor tradition and craftsmanship was to put the flavors of my childhood on a plate.
Kallas-Lee has always been drawn to desserts. âIt was fun creating a dish that is an exclamation mark at the end of a meal,â she says. “The dessert completes, refreshes and satisfies with a smooth end to the meal.” The current offer is a mix of his favorite flavors: makrut ice cream with black sesame shortbread all covered with a matcha white chocolate shell.
The chef at Sushi | ATX Bar is Ambrely Ouimette, who previously worked at Japanese restaurants Matsuhisa, based in Denver, and Saiko Sushi, based in Cornando, Calif., As sushi chef and sushi chef respectively.
Bento Picnic owner and chef Valenti opened the restaurant first as a farmer’s market stand in 2015 and then the physical space in 2018. It expanded with a retail wine store in the space – Saba San’s – in April 2020. Normal Bento space is not affected. by Sushi | Bar.
Reservations for Sushi | Bar ATX’s $ 125 meal book are growing very quickly – it’s already full for the rest of August. Reservations open at 10 a.m. on the first of each month. There are two seats per evening every night. Coronavirus mitigation measures include the implementation of plexiglass between parties and staff wearing masks.