April 22, 2021

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From Hokkaido to Healdsburg: SingleThread’s Usu-Zan encounter is a culinary journey to Japan

5 min read

The return of Global vacation at last feels on the horizon and Healdsburg’s SingleThread restaurant is presenting a taste of what’s to come by means of a heavenly, 4-hour journey to the shores of a Japanese island.

The a few-Michelin-starred cafe has partnered with San Francisco designer Ken Fulk for a distinctive eating experience identified as Usu-Zan: A Homage to Wintertime in Hokkaido. Whilst the unique start was paused in the course of the final shutdown at the stop of 2020, it is back again and prolonged via May perhaps 31st.


Usu-Zan is the identify of a little, lively volcano in a distant village wherever SingleThread proprietors Kyle and Katina Connaughton lived when in Hokkaido. The Usu-Zan experience in Healdsburg can take area inside of a massive tent adjacent to the restaurant, but you don’t come to feel like you happen to be in a tent at all the moment inside of (and I have dined in a lot of tents in the earlier calendar year). Instead, it feels like you’re in a Japanese forest. Surrounded by greenery, the tent was crammed with soft and neutral-toned classic furnishings, like picket screens that individual the place into little rooms and Japanese lanterns.

Designer Ken Fulk has established a dreamy zen-style backdrop for SingleThread’s Hokkaido-impressed Usu-Zan dinners.(Joe Weaver)

Hokkaido is renowned for its seafood and consequently the 9-class adventure was seafood-centric, with a lot of of the substances sourced from producers the Connaughtons satisfied during the island, as nicely as from SingleThread’s personal farm and purveyors in California and the Pacific Northwest. It was a exclusive and personal point of view of the Connaughtons’ each day daily life, where by their hearts lie in two sites at when: Hokkaido and Healdsburg.

The restaurant set the tone for the evening from the second we arrived at our table, which was previously established with the very first training course, which is actually a collection of small bites that are individually plated on similarly small plates and arranged into a whimsical, edible back garden with actual greenery and bouquets. The distribute showcased several of my beloved treats, like oysters, salmon, crab, and caviar. It was a legitimate perform of artwork that I felt a very little bit responsible having…right until that initial, eye-closing chunk.

There were two plates for each nibble (around a dozen each and every), so my spouse and I didn’t have to combat over any of it, and we bought to choose our individual adventure in conditions of the buy in which we grazed. Then all of a sudden, just as the intricacies of the very first study course have been sinking in, an more a few bites had been brought out, including a mouth watering duck breast with the most beautifully crisped skin and an egg custard that was delicately plated inside an eggshell and rested atop a nest of moss.

A double-layered ceramic box marked the genuine get started of our epicurean journey. Inside of have been two interpretations of two varieties of scallops the 1st was sourced from Lopez Island, the second from Hokkaido. I can truthfully say that the cooked Washington scallop in a wild seaweed butter was just one of the most effective solitary bites of my daily life.

SingleThread’s hobayaki venison, grilled and served on a giant Mongolia leaf.(Joe Weaver)

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Each dish has a story, like the uni ikura don, an elevated twist on the standard sea urchin dish in Hokkaido. SingleThread changed salmon for smoked trout roe, rice for an arrested malted potato—the smoothest and fluffiest potatoes I have ever eaten, they threatened to outshine the sea urchin—and included braised spinach.

The up coming program was an interactive, construct-your-possess-taco state of affairs. You will not commonly anticipate to have to get the job done for your meal at a restaurant of these pedigree, but I individually loved it and felt that it actually made the whole knowledge feel a little bit much more relaxed. Our servers brought out two items of cod from the Sonoma Coast, which have been cigarette smoking in excess of a very little grill with cherry blossom wood purple barley crepes king trumpet mushrooms and other fixings like a shio koji vinaigrette and a ginger and radish sauce produced from the cod’s roasted bones. Assembling the taco (and feeding on it) was pretty messy, but also a nice break in the formality.

One more standout presentation was the hobayaki venison, grilled and served on a large Mongolia leaf. Served in a caramelized carrot miso with marginally sweet, Hokkaido milk bread on the facet, this was just one of the night’s most unforgettable dishes.

But the major party of the night was the scorching pot, cooked and served in a exclusive handmade donabe from a family in the province of Iga and produced to be shared amongst the desk. Though quite a few other attendees seemingly opted for the A-5 wagyu beef very hot pot, we acquired the king crab and seafood variation. There are also duck and vegetarian tofu alternatives and the pricing of each may differ.

I approximately clapped with glee when they introduced out the towering plate of crab from North Hokkaido and the Okhotsk Sea—along with a next plate packed with mussels, clams, shrimp, salmon, tofu, and veggies—to inspect just before they place it all jointly in the miso broth.

The king crab incredibly hot pot.(Camila Salazar Gomez)

A single of the most widespread fine eating critiques is that the plates are always so modest, usually just a bite or two value of foods, but this very hot pot by itself would have simply filled us up. Alas, it was one of numerous courses, and our servers reassured us that we could consider the relaxation home. They even packed up a jar of their tasty Chunky La-Yu condiment and we appreciated the final of the sizzling pot all over again the future night time. The warm pot then carried around into the ultimate savory dish of the night, a rice porridge with king crab, egg, and chive that tasted like a seafood variation of rooster noodle soup, the ideal overcome for pandemic burnout.

Dessert came in a number of waves and involved burnt orange shaved ice served in a hollowed-out mandarin, a traditional Japanese dessert. The magical, four-hour evening concluded considerably like it commenced, with us nibbling an assortment of compact bites, although this time they were being sweet. We remaining joyful and total, but diner’s beware: This evening will only enliven one’s insatiable appetite for journey.

// SingleThread’s Usu-Zan knowledge is offered Thursdays by way of Mondays, starting at $375 for every person 131 North St. (Healdsburg), singlethreadfarms.com.

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