When you sit down to dinner at SingleThread, the West Coast's hottest new restaurant, you'll find a centerpiece of moss, twigs and flowers built earlier that day, covered with nine small bites custom to your table. On this night, that means oysters with fresh wasabi, Indian-spiced carrots, bite-size woven nests of crispy potatoes and smoked sabayon served inside tiny blue eggshells. If the scene sounds intimidating, it isn't.
The mood is light and the kitchen open for guests to venture inside and watch tweezer-wielding chefs plate tempura-battered mustard flowers. "It's kind of like an adult Easter egg hunt," chef and owner Kyle Connaughton says, explaining his avant-garde approach to fine dining. "This is an experience that's meant to be fun. It's not something to feel uncomfortable about, or like, all right, we need to speak in whispers or sit up straight."
Sure, the food is no joke—and neither is the intention behind each detail, down to the "bread and butter" course, which is plated on a bed of white stones arranged to match the nightly moon phase. But the precision that extends from kitchen to dining room and all the way to the five-room inn upstairs is unassuming. It all feels as natural as the mossy tablescapes and rustic bouquets arranged by co-owner and head farmer Katina, Kyle's wife and high school sweetheart.
There are typical wine country restaurants, and then there's SingleThread, located in the heart of Sonoma. To say that this place is simply raising the bar would be to compare it to others, when this restaurant is really in a league of its own.
The first thing to notice is the Japanese influence, apparent in the understated design, the serving ware, the ingredients—think barrel-aged ponzu sauce and dashi—and the custom-made earthenware (the subject of a book Kyle coauthored last year). Even deeper runs the principle of kaiseki, the multicourse and hyper-seasonal tradition the Connaughtons became familiar with while living in Hokkaido for three years before moving to England, where Kyle led research and development for The Fat Duck.
"There's a narrative to the menu, like the way a movie is written, or a long orchestral piece of music or a novella. You have this whole progression of peaks and valleys," Kyle explains in the quiet hour before dinner service. "This sort of architecture is very much inspired by the architecture of the kaiseki menu." Which includes the daily changes at SingleThread, an homage to the concept's commitment to the present.
Later, Kyle will be stationed between the kitchen and dining room, greeting guests as he calmly directs his cooks, like his chef de cuisine who doubles as the coastal forager. SingleThread isn't just a restaurant after all; it also includes a five-acre farm set along the Russian River, where Katina and her brother grow vegetables and flowers, tend to two flocks of heritage-breed chickens, which produce the restaurant's eggs, and man a fruit orchard. The farm's yield is what makes the daily menu, which Kyle alters further according to each diner's dietary preferences when possible. And it's how the restaurant stays so committed to its philosophy of capturing a single moment in time.
"The story that we tell every night is, 'This is today. This is this moment,'—something that's always kind of this elusive thing people are trying to capture," Kyle explains, referencing the Japanese cherry blossom, whose flowers bloom and quickly fall.
SingleThread's second tentpole is hospitality. Though it might sound surprising in light of all the hype, the emphasis on a personal experience—from the first round of bites before the meal even begins—is what sets SingleThread apart. Every detail, down to the hand-molded knives that diners select themselves before the first of two main courses, is tailored to the individual. On the flip side, every choice is imbued with a special touch from Kyle or Katina.
"Our type of hospitality is really like if you were coming to visit us at our home," Kyle says, explaining that whether you're staying at the inn or not, the restaurant provides a concierge service that goes as far as planning a guest's entire visit to Sonoma County.
Quite literally, this attention to detail is the single thread that connects everything and will protect this instant blockbuster from the biggest risk any hit restaurant faces: becoming an impersonal experience. Instead, the team behind one of the most anticipated spots in the country will make you feel right at home.
As Kyle says, "It was different yesterday; it will be different tomorrow. It's special, and we're sharing this together."
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