Lunch – Saturday, September 22, 2018
Having recently revisited The Willows Inn at the end of August, and in anticipation of a return to Smyth in early October, I decided to make a quick pit stop at Single Thread to catch up – the five months since our last dinner here has been my longest interval between visits. This was also my first time in for lunch (not counting a late afternoon Christmas supper last year), and the first day of Autumn seemed like an auspicious time to do it. As always, familiar faces abounded, but to my surprise and delight, many of the dishes were new or significantly refreshed.
Early Autumn in Sonoma
The autumnal equinox hassun featured a number of superb highlights, including: (1) a stack of crisp lotus root braised in sake and tamari; (2) leaves of red oak lettuce arranged like flower petals, with braised negi, sesame and chicory; (3) cured and poached foie gras, layered with Asian pear and sandwiched between delicate sablé wafers; (4) a creamy panna cotta of turnip topped with Hokkaido uni; (5) cashew cheese, in the style of a triple crème – probably the best rendition of a vegan cheese I’ve ever had (granted, that’s not saying much, but this was pretty good).
Aleutian Island King crab, miso
Egg sabayon, caviar, herb puree
Inada (hamachi), myoga, sansho, French radishes
Juices of Gravenstein apple and arugula
Shima aji, squash, herb dashi
Tempura squash blossom with scallop mousseline
Gorgeous slices of striped jack, accompanied by an assortment of squashes in different forms and textures. The dashi had notes of lemongrass that were very alluring. On the side, the fried squash blossom was unbelievably light, and the airy mousseline furthered the effect. My favourite dish of the day.
Upstate Abundance potato
A dish still in the testing phase, and my first taste of a product from Dan Barber’s Row 7 seed company. The “potato” was a trompe l’œil – in fact, it was a shell of riced Upstate Abundance potatoes, with a molten herb puree center. It was ensconced in a fluffy bed of aerated malted potato. Intensely flavoured, but texturally monotonous – something the kitchen seemed aware of and were tweaking.
Cherry blossom-smoked tomato water dashi, green beans, housemade silken tofu
The first of a two-part celebration of tomatoes and the farm, entitled “Day”. These were varieties of tomato, warmed as if by the blazing California sun, served with a generous scoop of housemade tofu. Pure and delicious.
Aerated shiso tofu, serpentine cucumber, charred negi
As temperatures drop in the valley after the sun sets, so come the cold tomatoes of “Night”. The tofu from the previous course was repurposed and aerated with shiso – brilliant. Underneath the tofu was another great hidden gem – a frozen cucumber amazake! An amazing frosty treat!
Sweet corn, poached celtuce, wild nori, alliums
Duclair duck, kanpyo, komatsuna
Hearth-roasted beet, chicory and sesame soil
Wagyu short rib, black garlic, matsutake
The warm mugi mochi (barley) was served in a few different textures, and adorned with short rib and slices of matsutake. On the side was ice-filtered beef consomme, infused with more matsutake. A very comforting course – this last savory course keeps getting better and better as the restaurant evolves.
Melon sorbet, white chocolate egg
Melon licorice, plum marshmallow, sunflower seeds
I was impressed by the raw melons I had recently on Lummi Island, but this melon sorbet was in the same class. Wow, such intensity of aroma and flavour! And the combination with the salty sunflower seeds – terrific. I was actually so blown away by this dessert that I was still mulling over it when the next course arrived and I forgot to take a photo! (for reference, it was a sesame semifreddo, with variations of figs and Pinot Noir grapes – good but overshadowed by this first dessert).
An excellent selection of last bites, consisting of raspberries from the farm, a walnut treacle, fig leaf ganache with puffed amaranth, and a yuzu custard with passionfruit tapioca pearls. Refreshing, rather than weighty.
It was nice to see so many changes to the menu – the kitchen isn’t resting on its laurels. Kyle mentioned not wanting to have his hands tied by signature dishes, which I greatly appreciate (ask me how many times I’ve eaten “Hot Potato, Cold Potato” some time…). Service was as warm and competent as always – no surprises there. I hope it won’t be quite so long before we can return again.