Review: SingleThread Farm and Restaurant, Healdsburg

In November 2021 I headed out to Healdsburg, Sonoma County, California. Not only to explore a bit of this wine country but for the main event: a dinner at Singlethread Farm – Restaurant – Inn. I honestly could not believe I managed to get a reservation, given my normally rotten luck with Tock reservation openings and that I was walking through an airport on my phone as the reservations opened up.

Singlethread is a 3 Michelin Starred, #37 world ranked, restaurant in Healdsburg. I feel like it has helped put this northern Sonoma town on the map. The restaurant has been on my radar for a few years now and is only getting more well known as it racks up the accolades, rave reviews and does special collaborations or pop-ups. The restaurant has its own organic farm a few miles away from the restaurant, and a lot of the ingredients used in the meals are sourced directly from here. There is also an inn above the restaurant.

So, is it worth it? Absolutely. I truly feel this was the best fine dining meal/ restaurant I have experienced in the U.S.. I Came in with already high expectations with the 3 stars and new #37 in the world ranking, but all were met, if not exceeded. From start to finish, food was delicious, balanced, textured, subtle, complex, albeit 1-2 just mediocre dishes (compared to everything else) but still good. Service was perfectly paced and so down to earth yet exceptionally professional and elevated. You can feel the chef and wife team’s passion and commitment to biodiversity farm to table, not just using the now over-utilized and ineffective term “farm to table” as a marketing ploy, Unforgettable. Would return.

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Singlethread

Singlethread is helmed by Chef Kyle Connaughton, who I was fortunate to meet and briefly chat with after our meal, and his wife Katina, who oversees the farm as well as front of house service and decor. The story is that the Connaughtons picked up their bags and moved to Kyoto for a few years. There they learned about, embraced and immersed in Omotenashi (art of hospitality) as well as Japanese culinary arts and culture, everything here is inspired by Japan, but in no way are they trying to recreate or fusion Japanese. And no, this isnt a case of yellow-fever, or unhealthy obsession with orientalism/Japanese culture. It is a true appreciation, understanding, respect and an American/Californian reinterpretation of all the couple learned and experienced. Singlethread is focused showcasing the abundance of the biodiversity in Sonoma and the region but presented with Japanese influence and techniques as well as service ethos and pathos. The leading couple’s dedication to their mission, to California’s agriculture and their humble and passionate nature translates to their team, it is not about them here, it is about the food and their guest’s experience. It is also refreshing to be at a top restaurant wherein the chef is not exactly a “celebrity chef” with a cult following, and I sense the Connaughtons are not trying to pursue that either.

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The space is warm and inviting. Hues of wood and earthy tones, dotted with perfectly placed and arranged flowers. Tables are spread out enough that you dont feel you are dining right next to the party next door. The lighting is just right. Not overly dark, not super bright, just the right amount to feel a upscale and romantic, but yet homey and inviting at the same time. The coolest part is the big wide open kitchen that you can see from basically every table in the restaurant.

The service was so good. Perfectly paced, not too fast or pressuring, but not slow either. They anticipate your needs. Every time you get up and leave, they replace your napkin, not just fold it.
The sommelier was amiable, approachable, knowledgable and made wine enjoyable/ easy to pick. He also poured the perfect amounts, like just the right amount for each dish, enough for 1 bite + 1 sip, I never felt like there wasnt enough wine nor did i feel like I had to chug a pour before the next wine came. it was meticulous precision. You can choose from a mind bogglingly book of a wine list. But no worries, the super friendly and not at all stuck up sommelier will gladly help make life easy, or you have 2 wine pairing choices, the regular or Reserve. I was probably their favorite guest as it was so easy to sell on the reserve tasting. But it’s just not everyday a restaurant is pouring Dom Perignon P2 and Chateau Y’Quem 1997 by the glass in a pairing!

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Chef Kyle in the beige apron

Information and Reservation

Seatings available Thursdays-Mondays 4:00PM to 8:00PM.

Reservations open at 9AM PST on the 1st of each month for the following month (May 1 9AM PST reservations open for month of June) and can only be made through Tock: https://www.exploretock.com/singlethreadfarms/ as with all reservations on Tock, you pay in full up front, you can select your supplements and beverage pairing while booking or decide at the restaurant. You can transfer your reservations through Tock as well if you cant make it. Unfortunately, with Tock, no cancels.

Unfortunately minimum part size is 2, so cant go solo here. Though this really is one to experience with a significant other, family or friends.

The menu now is USD$425/person, not inclusive of tax and gratuity. Wagyu supplement is USD$90

You choose your beverage pairing at the restaurant. There are 2 kinds of wine pairing, a regular pairing at USD$300 and a Reserve pairing at USD$500.

Inn: Reservations for one of the suites in the Inn open 3 months in advance, and you get first dibs on a seat at the restaurant when you book a stay at the Inn. Price of the stay does not include your dinner, it does however, include a what seems like rather extensive breakfast option prepared by the kitchen, and during your stay you can also order room service or enjoy Japanese hot-pot. The inn is very pricey, and in my opinion not that worth it. It does make for a very convenient experience though.

I believe normally, when its not COVID, they have a rooftop bar area where you can enjoy pre-dinner or post-dinner beverages.

Thankfully, they have all the key information and informative FAQs on their website. https://www.singlethreadfarms.com/bookings

The Meal and Experience

Our reservation for the 3 of us was at 4:30PM, early? Yes. But who cares, beggars cant be choosers and it was fine as the meal itself began at around 5PM, and you basically exit the restaurant by around 8PM.

A greeter awaits guests outside the main door, and upon confirming your reservation leads you into the lobby, which is shared with the upstairs Inn. After taking your coats and welcoming you in the beautiful lobby area, they walk you up to the first stop of your evening.

The first stop is a window into the kitchen. Here the team serves you a cup of a hot floral tea. You sip as you get your first glimpse into the food of the evening and the team in action. You also get to see the expansive doorless/wallless open kitchen that opens out to the main dining room. (Lobby is separated from the dining room by a hidden door). You also will spot the many TV screens show camera footage to help the entire team pace and action the service. I love this full transparency and honesty.

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Afterwards, our host was ready to walk us in to the restaurant and to our table. The tables are already set up with the first, and quite frankly the most impressively presented dish(es) of the night. After slowly soaking in the overwhelming, in a good way, table set up. The various team members and Sommelier come to your table, offering hot towels, tap/bottled/sparkling water, and of course the crazy book of a wine list. At the table was also a birthday card signed by the entire team, as this was my birthday dinner.  The Sommelier later returns to explain the wine list briefly and then introduces the 2 pairing options and what they consist of. I am a simple man, at the mention of Dom P2 and Chateaux Y’Quem, I was sold on the reserve pairing. Then came the extensive explanation of the beautiful display of Amuse Bouche in front of us.

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The massive Amuse Bouche, “Mid Autumn in Sonoma“, which Katina designs daily, it is inspired by the region and the seasons. Most things do come from their Farm.

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Kushi Oysters, Sudachi, Fingerlime
Amazake Panna Cotta, Watercress, Caviar
Shima Aji, Quince, Bone Soy
Scallop Tamago, Creme Fraiche, Truffle
Pickled Aji, Champagne Bubble Tomato, Shiso
Habanada, Pepper Miso
Komasu, Pok Choy, Kumquat
Beet, Carrot, Compressed Apple
Tai Zushi, Pesto Rice, Kohlrabi
Spiny Lobster, Pomegranate

Dom Perignon Plenitude 2 (P2), 2000

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Still going with the amuse bouche, an amazing chawanmushi

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Along with a delicious tempura prawn

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Domaine Trimbach, Cuvee Frederic Emile, Alsace, France, 2011

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After all that amuse bouche, it was time for the first dish: Kampachi, nasturtium, nashi, and kanpyo

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DuMol, Chardonnay, Estate, Sonoma Coast 2015, very delicious Chardonnay, perfectly balanced.

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Central Coast Abalone: fort bragg uni, sea bean cream, and Chawanmushi. Oh my goodness gracious, this was so good. It tasted and smelled of the sea, wonderfully textured and balanced. Reminded me of a sea themed dish I had at Osteria Francescana.

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Chateau Simone, Palette, Provence, France, 2015

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Duck Liver Parfait: sunflower seeds, basil, sunchoke custard, and apple. Incredible dish. Textured, balanced, complex, subtle and perfectly synchronized, as in the flavors and textures seemingly revealed themselves in a choreographed way in your mouth before all coming together for one finale. You had the salt and fat from the foie gras, but that fresh and citrus sweetness from the apple and the earthiness from the sunchokes and basil.

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Richard Desouche, Le P’tit Domaine, Saumur-Champigny, Loire Valley, France, 2011

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Black Cod Ibushi-Gin: jimmy Nardello Peppers, crepes, marinated tomatoes. Essentially a make your own smoked cod burrito. Certainly delicious, as it was very fresh, but nothing over the top or mind-blowing.

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The peppers for the Cod burrito

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Next up, the Sommelier brought 2 Pinot Noirs, a Sonoma Pinot and a classic Burgundian Pinot, both part of the tasting but he wanted us to try both and decide for ourselves which we preferred, a battle of the Pinots so to speak, I loved this concept. They are letting you decide your preference rather than tell you which Pinot pairs the best with the next dish or that Sonoma is better or vice versa.

The first one was LaRue, Pinot Noir, Rice-Spivak, Sonoma Coast, 2014

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Then Joseph Voilot, Champans, Volnay ler Cru, Burgundy France, 2011. Ultimately I still liked the Burgundy Pinot more than the Sonoma.

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Duclair Duck: savoy cabbage, farro verde, huckleberry. Solid and perfectly cooked duck, but while every dish of the meal was great, this one was probably the last ranking one. Just nothing terribly special.

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La Rioja Alta, Seleccion Especial 890, Gran Reserva, Rioja 2005

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After much time and contemplation, ultimately my favorite dish was this one.
Anago Shime: Koshihikari Rice, Hakurei Turnip and Nori Pesto. Smoky, fragrant, had the crunch of the turnip, the slight tender chewiness of the rice and the salt from the eel was not overpowering at all. The broth add complexity to the rice and brought out layers of flavor from the various ingredients used in the dish.

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Farm Grapes: burnt honey, ginger, and puffed Amaranth and matcha powder. So refreshing and beautiful. Sweet crispness of the grapes with a hint of spice from ginger and the bitterness to round it all off from the matcha.

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Wow. Chateau d’Yquem Sauternes, Bordeaux, France 1997. This is what sold me on the reserve pairing. The fact that they pour this by the glass for a wine pairing is absolutely incredible.

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Red Kuri Squash: Okinawan black sugar, pepitas, buttermilk Merengue. Very interesting, in a good way, dessert, with the use of squash.

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Wagashi (the petit fours):
Thyme and Gravestein Apple
Yuzu and Pomegranate
Five Spice Milk Cake; his was delicious, loved the use of Five Spice in a dessert.
Rosemary and Persimmon

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Beautiful menu to bring home, with handwritten note by Katina

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And with that one of my most memorable meals was over. Sure, it could have been the occasion, the company of my wonderful friend that contributed to my feelings about this meal. But I really was blown away by the service, the food, the atmosphere and I already had very high expectations. Even the dishes I felt were not mind blowing, were all very good and solid, just in comparison to some of the other items we had it did not offer anything special. Of course, how can one not rave about the wine? The fact that they even offer a reserve tasting in addition to the regular one and pour some fantastic bottles is just so amazing.

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Truly would recommend this dining experience in the California wine region. Would return and would recommend over The French Laundry or Restaurant at Meadowood.

Bon Apetit!

TheGastronomicTraveler

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