Farm-to-table is a phrase that’s overused and abused, but SingleThread, in Healdsburg, Calif., takes the concept to an ambitious level, elevating the dining experience to an immersive adventure.
The husband-wife duo behind SingleThread—Kyle and Katina Connaughton—are the indispensable ingredients. Katina runs the operation’s 24-acre farm in nearby Dry Creek Valley that supplies much of the restaurant’s herbs, flowers, fruits and vegetables. Kyle creates the 10-course menu that innovates on the fresh flavors from the farm while layering in Japanese influences. Pair that with wine director Rusty Rastello’s nearly 2,600-bottle list and you’ll be ready to hand yourself over to the experience.
When weather cooperates, guests have the option of starting the evening with a glass of wine in the rooftop garden on the third floor, enjoying views of Russian River and Dry Creek valleys from SingleThread’s location just off Healdsburg Plaza. The dining room is a handsome and luxurious space with decor featuring dark wood accents. The design is inspired by a traditional Japanese-style inn called a ryokan. Tall doors slide back to expose the open kitchen, allowing guests to watch and even interact with the chef and his staff. Before opening SingleThread in 2016, Kyle worked with A-list chefs outside London and in Los Angeles, as well as at French chef Michel Bras’ outpost in Japan.
While the menu is influenced by cuisines around the world, Japanese flavors predominate. Ingredients such as dashi and kohlrabi play frequent roles. Another Japanese touch is the handmade plates, ceramic vessels and donabes, traditional lidded clay pots used for both cooking and serving.
Dinner is deliberately paced, and service is polished without being stuffy. Servers lift the donabe lids with flourish for the big reveal, and the sake service has a sense of artistry. “It’s a dinner and a show,” Rastello says with a wry smile.
Meals open with an intricate spread of amuses-bouches that appears almost foraged in the way it’s presented, on a gnarled tree plank decorated with flowers and greenery. The selection changes with the season but you might discover small bites such as trout with nettle purée, a salad made with carrots picked that morning, or lightly pickled Kumamoto oysters with wasabi.
This is not in-your-face cuisine—flavors whisper their depth and intensity. Tempura-fried summer squash is accented with scallop mousse. Black cod is smoked in a donabe over cherry wood, and filet of Sonoma lamb is roasted with carrot, dried apricot and scarlet turnips.
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Since SingleThread opened, five years ago, the wine list has grown significantly, from 900 to about 2,600 selections, becoming the best wine list in Sonoma County. Rastello previously worked at Gramercy Tavern and Eleven Madison Park (a Grand Award winner) in New York before joining SingleThread in late 2019. The wine list, updated daily, is strong in Burgundy, Champagne and the wines of California. About 30 wines by the glass are offered, and three wine pairings are available, priced at $195, $300 and $500, depending on age and quality of the wines. Rastello says that the average customer spends $240 on wine.
For those who prefer to make their own wine choices, the full list is an expansive read stocked with great wines and gems that will please Old World and New World devotees alike. For a splurge there’s a fine collection of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. Rastello recently sold a bottle of 2010 DRC Romanée-Conti for $13,500. There are also impressive verticals of Châteaus Latour and Mouton-Rothschild. California wine lovers have plenty of choices, particularly with Pinot Noir, with the lovely Dehlinger Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2004 ($250). Marcassin Chardonnay Sonoma Coast Marcassin Vineyard 2006 is on hand too ($1,000).
The obsession with provenance here and the details of the experience may be lost on some diners. Do you care that your steak knife is crafted from the recycled steel of a 1968 Volkswagon? In addition, guests are expected to place their total trust in the restaurant: dinner menus generally arrive before a meal, presented as a list of possibilities, but at SingleThread, guests receive it at the end of the meal, offered more like a keepsake. However, for those willing to put themselves in the hands of the Connaughtons for a three- or four-hour event, SingleThread stands apart as a creative, relaxed and new experience.
131 North St., Healdsburg, Calif.
Telephone: (707) 723-4646