How far are you willing to drive for a restaurant? 5 min? 15 mins? 30 mins? Typically, anything more than 15 mins will be stretch for me. But I’m usually more charitable when I’m on vacations. In this case, I drove 107 miles from Daly City to Healdsburg for this dinner, although admittedly, I took 2 worthy detours (stopped by Bouchon and Silver Oak in Napa and Alexander Valley before heading over to dinner). Overall, I can’t complain about the peaceful drive as I took in the beautiful scenery along the way.
In short, Singlethread is a 3-in-1 concept: farm, restaurant and inn. It’s a creation by Kyle Connaughton (formerly of The Fat Duck, Spago, The Dining Room at Ritz Carlton, Lucques, Hama Sushi, and A.O.C., and restaurants by Michel Bras in Japan) and his wife, who also tends to their farm, Katina Connaughton. Since Singlethread has a heavy bent toward Japanese kaiseki, the restaurant leans heavily on produce by their own farm that’s just 7 miles from the restaurant.
Service: Warm and outstanding service is expected and met. However, never have I experienced such coordinated set of servers. Everyone had seen plated food set down at the same time by a group of servers, but have you seen a flock of servers moving gracefully in and out putting dirty utensils onto empty plates at the same time before clearing them off your table at the same time, and every single movement in unison? I haven’t.
Summary: The first thought that struck me…this is n/naka on steroids. Both restaurants did their own interpretation of modern kaiseki focusing on seasonality while leaving room for creative takes on dishes. In comparison to n/naka’s approach, Singlethread’s interpretation is definitely more extreme but still remained sensible IMO.
How was dinner? Simply outstanding with flawless execution. Factoring in creativity, deliciousness, presentation, hospitality, and the sheer amount of work that goes into this meal, its admission ticket is more than fair. Most importantly, I went to dinner hungry and came out stuffed since their portions were quite generous.
upon entering, we got a sneak peek of the kitchen through a window opening
we were then presented with an aromatic warm tea of black pepper and rose. it was quite nice to be able to warm ourselves up from the freezing cold outside.
nice kitchen view from our table
after we sat down, we were presented a card signed by their staff congratulating us of our special occasion. thoughtful.
don’t worry when they take your beautiful herb bouquet away after you’re seated. at the end of the night, the staff will hand it back to you atop a copy of the night’s menu!
and before we were even seated, a stunning display of our first course of early winter in sonoma, consisted of 10 delicious snacks, were already sitting on our table awaiting our arrival!
butter lettuce, toasted sesame seed, citrus vinagrette
does it really get any fresher than this?
kusshi(?) oyster, mignonette gelee
clean, sweet, light
kumquat, some kinda soup
i completely forgot to write down anything on this one
aji, broccolini, sunchoke chip
broccolini was lightly charred and played well with the fattiness of the fish
bok choi, sesame
crunchy, grassy, nutty
conch, buddha’s hand
sweet and crunchy
delicate, mild, reminds me a bit of fluke
duck breast, scallion salad
tender and lightly smoky
shima-aji, miyoga, romanesco
textbook freshness and perked up by the tangy sauce
it tasted more cauliflower than cauliflower itself! creamy af and essentially a cauliflower 3 ways with cauliflower as a custard, crumbs, and small pieces of fried cauliflower.
next, we were presented with the hot dishes which is a continuation of the first course
this univalve was as soft as a flaky piece of fish! but i prefer my abalone to be more chewy. am i crazy?
tempura of engawa
the first highlight of the night. engawa is the fin muscle of flatfish and the texture always contains a very satisfying chew. but this engawa, embedded in a very light and crunchy batter, was as soft and fatty as toro! i have no idea what the heck they did but these were amazing bites!
absolutely the smoothest and creamiest chawanmushi i’ve had anywhere. another hightlight.
the buttery and mildly sweet sabayon and herbs were a nice addition to the eggy goodness.
next, a warm towel was provided to wipe our hands clean.
akabana kanpachi, winter citrus, daikon, chrysanthemum
#highlight the first prep was beautifully plated and had everything going whether it was the gorgeously fatty kanpachi, a savory and tangy orange emulsion, crunch and peppery notes from the draw daikon, to bursts of fruity notes from the supremed citrus and frozen olive oil ribbons. every element complemented each other stunning well!
#hightlight the second prep involved this fish grilled rare with wood fire sitting atop ponzu. its skin was nicely charred so there was a nice smokiness that permeated throughout the firm and fatty flesh.
heirloom pumpkin, dungeness crab, miso pumpkin roll
to the right of the roll, we had toasted pumpkin seeds and delectable shredded dungeness crab sitting in a silky pumpkin-crab dashi that was perfectly balanced between sweet, smoke, and ocean brine.
roll was soft like a cloud with savory pumpkin-miso butter oozing out from the center
continuing with the second course, we had these intensely sweet and soft flesh from the heirloom pumpkin brushed with kanimiso and a housemade leek furikake
smoked salmon “ibushi-gin”, brassicas, sunchoke, steelhead roe
#highlight the salmon was smoked with cherry blossom in a donabe. it yielded a gentle smokiness and this barely cooked yet flaky texture.
duck liver parfait, hoshigaki, vegetables from the farm, chestnut
this course reminded me of TFL’s “garden salad” but a million times better with each of the impossibly fresh crudites offering a unique texture and flavor combination with the creamiest duck liver parfait i’ve ever had. the freshness of the crudites really played well against the mild funkiness of the parfait too.
black cod, morel mushroom, kohlrabi terrine, grilled bone broth
this classic prep of miso-marinated cod was grilled and seasoned beautifully. on the other hand, the mild sweetness and radish-like flavor of the crunchy kohlrabi terrine acted both as a palate cleanser and textural contrast against the richness and softness of the fish.
notice how the plate came with a spout so you can drink up the leftover fish broth!
it’s beginning of the end when you get a knife…
miyazaki a5 wagyu, spinach, sunchoke, malted potato, trumpet mushroom
a5 wagyu is perfect as expected but i really appreciated the chew of trumpet mushroom, insanely crunchy smashed potato, the spinach 2 ways (simply blanched and pureed), and the nutty sweet sunchoke 2 ways (roasted(?) and espuma). there were so much different textures on the plate!
sonoma grains, koshihikari, tsukemono, duck consomme
as with japanese traditions, we ended with a rice course and this was singlethread’s interpretation of it. the duck consomme was delectable and strangely addictive with a hint of smoke and had notes that reminded me of star anise and five spice.
savory, light, crunchy, chewy, creamy, aromatic
we had koshihikari rice cooked risotto-style on the bottom that offered the traditional creamy yet toothsome texture. the next layer involved multi-grains that were toasted and cooked to a more al dente texture but each type of grain had its own unique mouthfeel. finally, the top layer had a variety of vegetables that were either chewy, snappy, or crunchy and a multiple vinegar gelee that offered a sharp contrast to select bites. so much thoughts had gone into it.
tomme dolce, white alba truffles, black trumpet duxelle, sourdough sauce - supplement
#highlight i had never been too fond of cheese course, but this one changed my life! this firm goat cheese was quite tame in terms of tang and pungent flavor that are typically associated with the typical goat cheese. instead, its sweet and nutty flavors were perfect alongside the rich sharpness of the velvety sourdough cheese sauce ,musky aromas of the white truffle.
yuzu custard, yuzu granita, jasmine, mochi
crunchy, silky, tart, chewy. this delightfully refreshing course came at the right time since the cheese course was very rich.
hazelnut, chocolate, black truffle, espresso
bitter, sweet, nutty…classic flavor combinations of chocolate, hazelnut, and coffee were used. We had chocolate cake, hazelnut and espresso ice cream, and a milk foam that tied them together. even the odd balls of raisins and black truffle worked well in providing slight flavor variations throughout.
the second part of this dessert was a crunchy sables “cigar” filled with a moist financier. on the side, we have a simple whipped cream dusted with chopped hazelnut and cocoa powder for dipping.
singlethread’s take on traditional japanese confections
gravenstein cider and white chocolate
a bursts of crisp and refreshing cider hides beneath the thin layer of white chocolate “egg shell”. fun bite.
burnt citrus and tarragon
matcha semifreddo cake
the world’s largest slice of cake literally melted in my mouth
pinot noir gelee
a tart palate cleanser
sweet, savory, silky
copy of the menu was handed to us as we were leaving the restaurant
131 North St
Healdsburg, CA 95448