This is the second post in the series titled Weekend in Sonoma + Napa.
Cafe La Haye is the type of place I would visit regularly if I lived in Sonoma Valley. It’s a small, cozy, romantic family-owned restaurant that serves an ever-changing seasonally-inspired menu.
Saul is the owner, and he’s great. A veteran of the restaurant industry (he worked for years in New York City and San Francisco before settling down in Sonoma), Saul is warm, friendly, and seems to know everyone who is dining at the restaurant. If he doesn’t know you, he makes a sincere effort to talk to you and warmly welcome you to the restaurant.
Cafe La Haye is considered one of the top 25 restaurants in Sonoma County by Sonoma.com, was voted “Most Romantic” restaurant in the Sonoma Index Tribune, and is mentioned in the Michelin Guide, Gayot, Zagat, and countless other publications.
We visited Cafe La Haye for dinner our first evening in Sonoma. We were exhausted at that point, having woken up at 3AM to catch a 5AM flight out of Boston that morning. Our 8PM PST dinner felt like 11PM to our east coast brains, and thus we were a bit like zombies.
Saul immediately greeted us and told us he had just gotten off a plane himself after getting up around 3AM to fly in from New York City. He felt our pain.
“What time do you close tonight?!” I inquired incredulously, knowing that restaurant industry folks often get home super late.
“We take our last reservation at 9PM, so it’s not so bad. It’s not like New York or San Francisco. This is sort of like a retirement job for me.”
We soon took our seats and perused the small, approachable one-page menu. There are salads showcasing the latest seasonal ingredients, like heirloom tomatoes, summer corn, and beets. There are also homemade pastas, several meat dishes, and a few side dishes.
We started with a Beef Carpaccio ($13) which came topped with pickled beets, a crunchy cabbage slaw, a huge, meaty deep fried oyster, and a lemon aioli. The flavors worked together beautifully. I loved how the pickled vegetables and lemon balanced out the richness of the deep fried oyster and the beef. All in all, it was an excellent dish.
The Wild King Salmon Tartar (a special of the day) consisted of chopped fresh wild king salmon tossed in a soy-ginger dressing and served with wonton crisps on the side. Our server highly recommended the dish. I was afraid the seasoning would be too heavy, but it was perfect – just subtle enough to still allow the salmon’s own flavors to shine.
For pasta, we ordered the Fresh Bucatini Pasta ($21) with oven roasted tomato sauce, meat balls, fresh mozzarella, and basil. It turned out to be a very generous portion! The meat balls were huge, and the pasta portion was sizable.
I thought the texture of the house made bucatini was fantastic. It was very al dente and chewy. The tomato sauce was also quite flavorful, and the meat ball was great. We thought we wouldn’t be able to finish the dish, but we came close (!).
For our entrée, we got the Porcini-Encrusted Sole ($28) served with "beurre rouge" (red butter), whipped potatoes, and "haricot vert" (green beans), a special of the day. I found this dish to be fine, but it didn’t stand out the way the other ones had. I tasted more cream than porcini, but it was still a perfectly fine dish, just not my favorite.
We ordered a couple simple sides ($6 each), a pan-seared broccoli with red pepper flakes and some gorgeous heirloom tomatoes topped with an arugula pistachio pesto.
For dessert, we shared their signature Butterscotch Pudding and a slice of the Yuzu Cheesecake (because I love cheesecake). The butterscotch putting was very nice – it was much lighter and less sweet than I expected. The texture was closer to a grainy mousse than a thick pudding. I liked how light it was.
The cheesecake was also very good, having a solid, thick graham cracker crust and a thick, creamy yuzu-flavored inside. Both were very enjoyable. In fact, Bryan laughed in surprise when he returned from the bathroom and found that half the cheesecake was gone . . . oops!
All in all, we really enjoyed our dinner at Cafe LeHaye. The atmosphere is really cozy, the host is warm, and the food is very good. Wine prices are reasonable, with most bottles in the $40-$65 range.
I would highly recommend coming here!
Cafe La Haye Sonoma
140 E Napa St
Sonoma, CA 95476
Disclaimer - I partnered with Sonoma Valley Visitor's Bureau for this series. They helped me set up several of these visits and I did not pay for the experiences that were part of the itinerary, including the food portion of this meal. All opinions are my own, and I was not paid to write any of these blog posts.