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Exclusive: Sushi|Bar founders opening Pasta|Bar downtown, sushi restaurant in Hill Country

Matthew Odam
Austin 360
Pasta|Bar will be located in downtown Austin.

Two celebrated Los Angeles-area chefs who entered the Austin market a year ago for what they thought would only be a brief run are committing themselves to the area for the long haul. 

Scratch Restaurants chef-owners Phillip Frankland Lee, Margarita Kallas-Lee and their partners intended to open Sushi|Bar, an extension of their Los Angeles-based brand, as a brief pop-up in East Austin a year ago. But the incredible success of the theatrical omakase led them to keep the intimate restaurant — located inside Bento Picnic and fueled by social media love from the likes of Joe Rogan — up and running. 

The success at the Austin outpost led the married chefs to buy out their restaurant group partners. The deal left the chefs’ partners in control of the Austin Sushi|Bar, but it has also inspired the couple to open two more restaurants in the Austin area. 

Chefs Phillip Frankland Lee, center, and Margarita Kallas-Lee, to his right, have had success in the Los Angeles area with intimate tasting menu experiences.

Lee and Kallas-Lee intend to open a downtown Austin location of their Pasta|Bar in March. The tasting menu restaurant will put a local spin on dishes inspired by the Italian coast, serving 10 guests in an intimate space that has not yet been announced. Their original Pasta|Bar location, opened in 2020 in the Los Angeles area, earned a Michelin star after its first year in business. 

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The entrepreneurial chefs, whose restaurant group is built on “experientially-driven fine dining,” according to their website, will also continue their pursuit of creative sushi, with plans to open the omakase restaurant Shokunin in the Fitzhugh Road area near Dripping Springs in summer 2022. 

“Since starting out, we’ve never had a chance to completely feel like what we were doing was for us, as we always felt the pressure of needing to satisfy shareholders,” Lee said in a statement. “Having the freedom to now take the reins on our future means we get to do what feels right to us from here on out and for that alone we could not be more grateful.”