A new 17-course omakase (“chef’s choice”) experience will debut in Old Montreal on May 5. The Scratch group, established in California, chose the metropolis for its first address outside the United States. Chef couple Philip Frankland Lee and Margarita Kallas-Lee told us about it.
The 10-seat counter is located behind the Stillife bar, which will accommodate a maximum of 30 people per evening, at 5 p.m., 7:15 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Sushi by Scratch promises an experience.
Expect eel fried in marrow fat, aged bluefin tuna served simply with homemade soy sauce and fresh wasabi, and yellow corn “painted” hamachi with a pinch of breadcrumbs. made from Margarita’s famous sourdough bread.
“We love to cook, but we also love creating memorable moments. Our omakase is almost like a dinner show,” Philip says during our three-way videoconference. Margarita doesn’t often have the opportunity to say a word, but the pastry chef is on fire when she begins to describe the course of an evening in one of the group’s many restaurants, all in tasting format.
Japanese cuisine is the great passion of Philip Frankland Lee, who grew up in the San Fernando Valley surrounded by sushi restaurants. By age 13, he had already decided that his job would be to perfect the art of laying raw fish on vinegar rice.
But before getting there, the dynamic 30-something worked at a number of top tables in Los Angeles and Chicago. During this time, the one who would become his wife transformed her favorite hobby into a profession and became a pastry chef. Originally from Latvia, where she loved to forage with her grandparents, she has always cooked “from scratch”.
It is therefore together that Philip and Margarita opened the Scratch Bar
It was during a temporary private omakase in a garden in Miami that one of the owners of the Montreal bar Stillife met the couple. He had then invited the very charismatic duo to open a counter in Old Montreal. This was before the pandemic…
Since September 2022, Philip has come to Montreal three times. He hired and trained a local team and started discovering local products that could possibly be on the menu. The majority of fish and seafood used by Scratch are imported from Japan, with city-specific exceptions. “You have great seafood products in Quebec. We’re going to take advantage of it,” the chef remarks.
“At first, the bites served will be those that Margarita and I have developed, but once the team is well-honed, they can develop their own recipes,” says Philip.
There will always be three chefs and a bartender behind the counter. The group’s chief operating officer and sake specialist, Gavin Humes, will oversee the menu remotely. Above all, you will find a (Japanese) selection of beers, sakes and whiskeys. Three proposals are made for the agreements, the prices of which range from $125 to $165. The omakase itself will cost $230 per person, before tax and tip. Reservations open on the 1st of each month.