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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.
 

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Wine Spectator

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).