I have a short bucket list of restaurants that I want to visit before I die. SingleThread Farms in the Sonoma region of California has definitely been one of them. After being waitlisted, we were thrilled to be accepted to this three-star temple of gastronomy. Chef Kyle Connaughton is a legendary superstar chef in my books. Just a week before we arrived, his restaurant was awarded the position of number 37 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants List and received a third Michelin star again.
The restaurant is located in the charming town of Healdsburg at 131 North Street, just off the main plaza is what looks to be an unassuming, casual restaurant. But rest assured, nothing about this place is ordinary.
After a warm welcome, we are taken to a small window of the kitchen where we are served a refreshing drink of fresh fruit and vegetables. We are then escorted to our table, behind a tall door that slides open and exposed an open exhibition kitchen. It is a busy place with what looks to be about 20 chefs, all overseen by Chef Connaughton. But one of the first things I notice is you don’t hear any noise in the kitchen. Everyone seems to be working seamlessly in silence, which is the complete opposite of what we had experienced at Saison in San Francisco, where the staff yells out an annoying CHEF and YES which seemed like every 60 seconds. Here the atmosphere is calm, casual, and relaxing. Every detail is well planned out and executed with precision – even the lights in the restaurant apparently change seven times during the evening, but it is so subtle that you don’t notice. The sound system sits above each table to create an individual sound environment that is perfectly orchestrated. There is state-of-the-art technology throughout the restaurant but you won’t notice it happening.
The restaurant is not large but there is plenty of space for privacy. Handwoven screens depicting geometric interpretations of DNA sequences representing each month of the year are hung throughout the restaurant. Everything is custom-designed, from the dark wood accents, inspired by a Japanese Ryokan, to the handmade plates, ceramics, and traditional clay pots for cooking and serving, and the silverware changes with each course. They also use Zalto glassware, the gold standard for wine consumption.
The chef’s wife, Katina, runs a nearby 24-acre farm in Dry Creek that supplies the restaurant with herbs, flowers, fruits, and vegetables. With the exception of supporting some local producers, most items (70%) come from the property’s farm. Whether it is from greenhouses, chicken coops, beehives, or botanicals.
The ten-course meal is an immersive, secret dining experience, that innovates on fresh flavours from the farm. The chef pulls influence from working and traveling around the world, with predominantly Japanese influences, having worked for a top restaurant in Japan for several years.
Our dinner was in mid-October and was called Early Autumn in Sonoma. Kaiseki dining in Japan is considered one of the world’s highest culinary art forms, in which the chef organizes a hyper-seasonal menu hinged on balance, with respect to ingredients, colour, texture, temperature, taste, and cooking method. And, that is precisely what diners will experience here. SingleThread excels in “omotenashi “, a concept that delivers a heightened sense of hospitality, one in which anticipates a guests every need.
The table is pre-set with a beautifully show-stopping foraged wooden board, covered in moss, and branches, embellished with an array of delights, including nasturtium, bashing, and Kanpur. There are no menus given until the end of the meal. Besides celebrating some rare ingredients, I also had the sweetest tomatoes of my life on that board. That was followed by a central coast abalone, then a duck liver parfait with sunflower seeds, basil, corn custard, and pickled beans. Another dish was a black cod with Jimmy Nardello peppers, marinated tomatoes, and purple barley crepes. The next plate was served in two courses. Showcasing Duclair duck, with Savoy cabbage, farro verde, and huckleberry. Afterward, we received a rich duck consommé, with caramelized mugi and pickled kohlrabi. Desserts begin with grapes from the farm served with burnt honey, ginger, and puffed amaranth. An ingenious dessert of strawberry and tomatoes, alongside a sheep’s ricotta, black sesame, and olive oil was next. This masterful dinner ends with a double-tiered presentation of tiny sweet delightful mignardises.
You can enjoy a wine tasting experience to go alongside your dinner which is almost as expensive as your dinner, or you can order cocktails and wine a la carte. The sommeliers are experts in helping you and their lists include over 2,600 old and new world producers. SingleThread also has an on-site winery making it one of the smallest wineries in the U.S. We enjoyed a bottle of Billecart Rose Champagne to start and switched to a delightful red recommended by our sommelier James that paired perfectly with the duck.
I found the service to be impeccable without being stuffy, and as well-executed as the food. The evening was an exciting dining experience, with a high level of cuisine, cellar, and service. Considering the number of courses, we were finished with dinner in a little over 2 hours. A highlight was meeting and talking with Chef Kyle, who was interesting and personable.
I encourage all my fellow foodies to make the pilgrimage to SingleThread for the opportunity to immerse yourself in a truly unforgettable experience by a husband and wife team that have crafted one of the most critically acclaimed and talked-about restaurants in America.