The Matheson

106
106

The concept of modern wine country cuisine is by definition paradoxical—a melding of contemporary urban hipness with a romanticized vision of old-world, back-to-the-land dining. It wants it both ways—a hill not easily climbed, even in a North Bay home to some of the finest restaurants in the region. But one Sonoma County destination that actually achieves that balance is The Matheson, the Healdsburg farm-to-table restaurant opened in 2021 by chef Dustin Valette, whose other hashery along the 95448, Valette Restaurant, has been earning raves from Center Street diners since 2015.

Crudo is among the colorful farm-to-table items on the starters menu.

Located in a Healdsburg Plaza building that long ago housed a bakery owned by Valette’s great-grandfather, one’s first impression of the Matheson is its striking interiors. San Francisco-based architect firm Cass Calder Smith used blonde hardwood and soft ambient lighting to realize a high-ceiling, airy space that reflect Valette’s vision to honor the artisans, winemakers and agriculture community that pioneered the epicurean community Sonoma County is today. Lining the interiors of the main dining room are large-scale art pieces depicting vineyard workers and other craftmakers, while the fruits of their labors are made real by a 30-plus-foot wine wall that stretches the east side of the building, offering 88 separate labels on tap. (We’re a fan of the wine-wall concept, which essentially allows for a self-guided tasting tour of the wine menu.)

On our visit we were seated at a small table along a bench-lined wall in the main dining room. The place was busy—a Saturday evening, with few empty tables—but the noise levels were well absorbed; despite a lot of people around, and we felt nicely secluded in our little niche. We started with scallop crudo ($22), which mixed yellow peppers and blood orange atop the bivalve—a cool, citrusy choice as the summer weather heats up the evenings. A shared salad of greens ($17) followed, with gorgonzola and walnuts livening up the generous portion of peppery arugula.

Dustin Valette opened the Matheson in 2021.

Between courses it’s easy to find oneself absorbed in people watching at the Matheson; diners run the gamut between young and old, tourist and local, first-date couples to group happy-hour tipplers. The Michelin guide describes the restaurant as “no shrinking violet,” with its “soaring complex” and “uber-cool space”—the bar was standing-room only on our visit, with few shrinking violets among those queuing for the taps on the wine wall. For those who really want to see and be seen, the upper level of the building serves as Roof 106, a separate open-air restaurant and cocktail lounge overlooking the plaza, abundant with plants and fire pits and a menu of small plates, wood-fired pizzas and desserts.

Our main courses included bone-in pork with a delightful bacon-y pancetta ($41) and steelhead served in romesco ($39). Both dishes demonstrate how Matheson livens its menu with accompaniments. The pork is served with a sweet/savory pomegranate jus and a dollop of wholegrain mustard—effectively drawing out the dense flavors of the meat. The steelhead, meanwhile, shared its plate with crunchy cuts of grilled fiddlehead—the curly ends of a fern—and soft shelling beans, adding a nice diversity of texture, and all pairing perfectly with the tomato-based sauce. We rounded out the meal with a shared sticky toffee pudding ($13) served with banana chips and the requisite scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Valette’s vision of modern wine country finds its sweet spot at the Matheson. The restaurant enjoys an uptown vibe—as much as one can achieve in Sonoma County—while the menu stays true to the local artisans lionized on the walls. Like Michelin says, it’s no shrinking violet. But if it were, you can be it’d be a locally sourced one.

The Matheson

106 Matheson St., Healdsburg

707-723-1105

Thematheson.com

Dinner, Monday to Saturday from 5 to 9 p.m.

Sundays, from 5 to 8 p.m.

Happy Hour daily 4 to 6 p.m.

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