A Sonoma Restaurant That’s Pricey but Not Pretentious


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A smoked wild salmon dish at SingleThread, where the dining experience is modeled on the Japanese idea of selfless hospitality known as omotenashi.

Credit
Eric Wolfinger

When a restaurant is as expensive and has as much hype surrounding it as SingleThread, in the charming Sonoma County town of Healdsburg, Calif., expectations are high. The head chef, Kyle Connaughton, who is best known for heading the experimental kitchen at the Fat Duck in Britain, and his wife, Katina, who is a farmer and a horticulturist, opened the Californian-and-Japanese-inspired restaurant and five-room inn in December. The 11-course meal costs $293 a person with service and tax, and the only way to reserve a table is to buy a nonrefundable ticket, which, of course, is tough to score (though tickets are transferable).

But writing off SingleThread as pretentious would be a mistake. The dining experience is modeled on the Japanese idea of omotenashi, in which hosts anticipate guests’ needs and treat them like friends, not customers. It’s a philosophy the Connaughtons learned during their time in Japan, which included a stint in Hokkaido of over three years.

“We recognize that this is a pricey night out, and we want diners to have a meal that’s personalized for them,” Mr. Connaughton said.

He wasn’t exaggerating: Like all diners, my husband and I received an email in advance of our reservation inquiring about our likes and dislikes and any allergies — then enjoyed a meal that met our pescatarian preferences perfectly.

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Credit
Garrett Rowland

Many of the ingredients (including the olive oil) come from a five-acre farm in Healdsburg run by Ms. Connaughton. What remains is from within the region, save for a few specialty items from Japan.

On pleasant days, dinner starts on the rooftop garden, which Ms. Connaughton mines for the menu as well. We relaxed with a drink and nibbled on a medley of snacks, including a crunchy pea pod filled with a confit of garlic scapes and topped with fresh peas.

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