Billed as the "Biggest Opening of 2016" by Eater National when it opened in December, SingleThread in Healdsburg, Calif., is a fine-dining concept dedicated to the details, from an in-depth surveillance system to condensationless water cups. Co-founder and chef Kyle Connaughton took inspiration from his travels in Japan and his work in Michelin-starred restaurants—including Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck in England—to create the $294 11-course dining experience that’s as seamless as possible for both customers and staff. Here’s a look at some of the details that make the 55-seat restaurant tick.
Designed to feel like a dinner party in someone’s home, SingleThread features an open kitchen at the center of the restaurant. The kitchen has acoustical sheetrock to minimize noise from the kitchen traveling into the dining room, and appliances run on vibration systems instead of beeping timers. The kitchen also has sound-cancelling pocket doors that are closed at the end of the meal so staff can clean and pack up without disturbing the dining room.
Hidden cameras monitor every diner from arrival to departure. Part of this is to keep track of diners’ movements on the property—the first two courses are served on a rooftop garden before guests make their way downstairs for the remaining nine courses—but the cameras also cut down on verbal communication so that the staff can work “as effortlessly as possible” in the open kitchen. Hidden from guests are screens showing video feeds that Connaughton watches to see when diners are ready for their next course. “I don’t have to ask someone to go check on a table; I can just look myself to see if they’re ready,” Connaughton says. “We don’t want the guest to feel like the waitstaff is hovering over them.” The screens also show a feed from a messaging app that staff uses to communicate important information about each table among themselves and to the kitchen, such as food allergies or if someone is celebrating a special occasion.
The tech-savviness extends to other parts of the restaurant, including the lighting. All the lights operate on a preprogrammed system that’s tied to the atomic clock, meaning the lights automatically adjust to the changing sunset times each day. The lights are programmed to incrementally become brighter throughout the meal so that guests “keep their energy up and don’t get sleepy after eating all this food,” Connaughton says. Even the toilets are high-tech, with heated seats that automatically rise as customers approach.
Seamless plating and presentations
Each of the nine courses served downstairs features different dishes and cutlery, so to speed up plating, SingleThread has credenzas with a corresponding drawer for all tables and courses. The drawers are prepared before guests arrive and pull completely out to become trays that servers use to plate the tables. Adding to the plating and presentation are custom-made water cups featuring a double-layer of hand-hammered titanium that makes the cup immune to condensation.
Many ingredients are supplied by the concept’s own farm, SingleThread Farms. The 5-acre property, also located in Healdsburg, Calif., includes a greenhouse, chicken coops, beehives, an heirloom fruit orchard, olive trees, a cattle paddock and grape vines for wine. The farm, headed by Connaughton’s wife Katina, supplies the restaurant with produce, herbs, flowers, honey, eggs and olive oil.
Extending the experience
SingleThread doubles as an inn, offering five rooms exclusively for restaurant guests. Room prices, starting at $800 a night, include a multicourse seasonal breakfast for two, local beer and amenities such as free high-speed Wi-Fi and the same high-tech toilets that are featured in the restaurant.