Omotenashi is a Japanese word that represents the country’s approach to hospitality in which a host goes above and beyond to anticipate a guest’s needs and treats that person not like a customer, but like a friend.
It’s a style defined by a Japanese minimalist–meets–California Craftsman aesthetic that feels luxurious but not opulent, AvroKO did it well.
Situated in picturesque Healdsburg, with a nearby five-acre farm that grows most of the Japanese produce you’ll consume for breakfast and dinner, SingleThread is the highly ambitious feat from chef and Fat Duck alum Kyle Connaughton and his farmer wife, Katina, who spent three and a half years living in Hokkaido, Japan.
“It’s a restaurant with guest rooms,” says Connaughton, considering how to describe his newly christened baby. You could call it a bed-and-breakfast, and that is—in essence—what SingleThread is. But how many bed-and-breakfast rooms come equipped with matcha, locally sourced seaweed snacks, and elusive beers like Pliny the Elder? Not to mention a slate of house-made chocolates in flavors like chicory cardamom, Meyer lemon, and pumpkinseed praline and sage?
“We wanted to take out everything that made you feel like you’re checking into a hotel or restaurant,” explains Connaughton, who, along with Katina—and popular restaurant design firm AvroKO—styled SingleThread to feel like an extension of their home.
AvroKO distilled the Connaughtons’ Japanese and modernist sensibilities into Single Thread’s wood- and ceramic-rich interiors. Hand-woven screens throughout the restaurant are geometric interpretations of the DNA sequences of 12 seasonal ingredients, one to represent each month of the year. “Everything is custom-designed, a balance of us and our personalities,” says Kyle.
SingleThread’s cornerstone, though, is its 55-seat restaurant and open kitchen, which celebrates Connaughton’s interpretation of kaiseki cuisine using ingredients mostly sourced from surrounding Sonoma County and his own farm—cultivated by Katina and her brother Vince Rothermund—a quick five-mile drive away.
Kaiseki is considered one of Japan’s highest forms of culinary art, in which elaborate, multicourse meals composed of many small dishes made with local and seasonal ingredients are centered on the idea of balance—balance in flavor, color, texture, and cooking technique.
If someone falls in love with a wine at dinner, Single Thread staff will arrange an on-property tasting with the local winemaker. Or if Katina’s green-thumbed skills pique a guest’s interest, he or she can accompany Katina and the Connaughtons’ 20-year-old daughter, Chloe, who now works as a farmhand, on a visit to the farm.
“We were so young when we started on this journey,” says Katina. “The roles and the dream have evolved, but we’ve figured out how we can best work together at this point in our lives.”
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