Dinner – Sunday, October 24, 2021
This 15-month period has been the longest interval between my meals at Single Thread since it first opened – no thanks to Covid. We missed the entirety of their outdoor dining residency, but with an unvaccinated toddler, it was the most prudent choice. I was very glad to be able to make this return trip, although doing so under the literal clouds of a powerful Pineapple Express was not ideal. In any case, once comfortably ensconced at my table, I felt the warm familiarity of the menu sequence begin – even as the entire restaurant team has seen significant changes since I was last here (and retained its 3 stars, on top of vaulting into a respectable #37 on the W50B, if you care for such things).
Mid-Autumn in Sonoma
As usual, the hassun was a visual masterpiece. Tonight, I was found the following bites particularly strong: (i) Salanova lettuce, A5 wagyu tartare, miso vinegar; (ii) kamasu with pomegranate and sunchoke; (iii) tachiuo with summer squash and almond crumble; (iv) pickled aji and cape gooseberries.
Nori-wrapped Santa Barbara spot prawn tempura
Chawanmushi with nasturtium pesto, malted potato and smoked black cod
Nasturtium, nashi, kanpyo
For as long as I can remember, the first course after the hassun has always been some iteration of kanpachi. This evening’s knocked it out of the park, not because of the fish itself (always excellent), but the pairing with pear and kanpyo. Local pears were showcased in multiple forms, including my favourite – a chewy, dehydrated version that mirrored the housemade kanpyo. My dish of the night.
Monterey Bay abalone
Fort Bragg uni, seaweed, sea bean cream, chawanmushi
Duck liver parfait
Sunflower seeds, marigold, basil, corn custard, pickled beans
Black cod ibushi-gin
Purple barley crepe, marinated tomatoes, Jimmy Nardello pepper
Line-caught black cod, glazed with tomato miso and sprinkled with sesame seeds, was smoked over cherry blossom wood in the donabe. This evening, I was instructed to fill the crepe with the fish and accompaniments, and eat the “taco” – the sheer wrapper held up surprisingly well to the substantial fillings! Very delicious, although I thought the tomatoes somewhat overpowered the fish. As a chaser, I ended with the pepper, which had been stuffed with tofu, sour cream and herbs – very nice.
Savoy cabbage, farro verde, huckleberry, sweet onion cream
My first encounter with this breed of duck was here at Single Thread, and it still never disappoints. The kitchen always treats the breast perfectly, ensuring a deep minerality that is offset by acidity and bitterness in the other components. Another hit of iron came from the duck hearts hiding underneath the bush of herbs to the right – superb.
Duck consomme, duck confit, caramelized mugi, pickled kohlrabi
One of the best gohan courses I can remember here – I loved the intense yet clean-tasting soup, and the charred bottom of the yaki onigiri was fantastic. One of the hidden gems in the broth was the large pearls of pickled kohlrabi – they added a nice counterpoint to the earthiness of the other components.
Green grape sorbet
Ginger sabayon, burnt honey cream, puffed amaranth, matcha
Emma Horowitz has taken over the pastry department, and her showing in this first dessert was impressive indeed. First of all, the presentation was just gorgeous, highlighting the season and ingredients perfectly. Each component alone was intense, but the whole dish was able to maintain a tenuous balance that revealed a synergy of taste and texture. A 3-star home run.
Strawberry and tomatoes
Sheep’s milk ricotta, black sesame, olive oil
Honeynut squash tres leches, thyme and Gravenstein apple custard
Berry and lemon verbena jelly, white chocolate egg with yuzu-cucumber liquid center
I was surprised at how novel I found this meal, even though the sequence of dishes was familiar to me from previous visits. Each course had been given a breath of fresh air over the past year and change – no doubt that Covid afforded most places an opportunity to look inwards, and places like Single Thread rose to that opportunity. The highs (notably, the kanpachi and yaki onigiri) were higher than they’ve ever been, and even the relative lows (the duck liver, and strawberry dessert) would be respectable in a normal restaurant. The Connaughtons, and their current kitchen team led by new chef de cuisine Marley Brown, are firing on all cylinders.