MICHELIN Guide’s Point Of View:
For years, Cafe La Haye has been a standby off the square in downtown Sonoma. One bite of its luscious burrata, surrounded by Early Girl tomatoes and crispy squash blossoms in the summer, or vinaigrette-dressed pea shoots in spring, proves it hasn’t aged a day. The small, modern space is still charming, with large windows and lots of mirrors. Stunning local artwork for sale decorates the walls. The food spans cultural influences, including a delicate risotto with pine nuts in a cauliflower broth, or soy-sesame glazed halibut atop whipped potatoes and braised kale. A postage stamp-sized bar pours glasses of Sonoma chardonnay and cabernet, perfect with rich strozzapreti tossed with braised pork ragù, Grana Padano and toasted breadcrumbs.
Located just off Sonoma Plaza, Cafe La Haye offers an appealingly unfussy sophistication. The split-level dining room holds just a dozen or so tables, but its open kitchen, raftered ceiling and walls adorned with modern art create a vibrant energy that’s contagious.
Convivial owner Saul Gropman and chef Jeffrey Lloyd make a formidable team. Lloyd, former executive chef of restaurant Michael Mina, offers a seasonal menu that’s discreet in its complexity, featuring the sort of dishes that seem to get better with each bite. Wolfe Ranch quail is paired with a sauce of black olive and white wine, while petrale sole comes with a delicate porcini cream sauce.
Gropman’s wine list comprises a modest 100 bottles, but it’s a smart, well-focused selection that ranges from value choices such as Bedrock Zinfandel Sonoma Valley Old Vine 2010 ($47) to splurges such as Domaine de la Romanée-Conti La Tâche 2005 ($3,500).