After more than a yearlong hiatus, sushi was due to be back on the Matheson menu starting Dec. 1. But chef-owner Dustin Valette is outsourcing the project. He’s contracting with Sushi by Scratch, a Los Angeles-based group owned by husband-and-wife chef team Phillip Frankland Lee and Margarita Kallas-Lee.
Begun as a pop-up, the concept now has locations in Beverly Hills, Montecito, Miami, Austin, Chicago, Montreal, Seattle and Los Angeles. Reportedly, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle dine at the one-Michelin-starred Montecito spot often.
Details have been changing frequently since The Press Democrat visited for an exclusive preview in early September, but things are finally coming together. The Lees now plan a 17-course omakase feast, limited to 12 diners at a time and prepared by a Sushi by Scratch chef who is relocating from southern California to run the Healdsburg operation.
The menu is all-nigiri sushi from Lee’s proprietary recipes, based around fish and shellfish flown in from Tokyo’s world-famous Toyosu Fish Market.
Pricing will be $185 per person plus an automatic 20% service charge. Beverage pairings will range from $105 to $125, including sakes, two micro cocktails, beers and Japanese whiskies.
The new mini-restaurant marks a significant change for the hyperlocal Matheson operation, which opened in 2021 touting a dedication to Sonoma County culinary resources and talents. Valette, a Healdsburg native, deems the project “a celebration of Healdsburg heritage” and outfitted the building with locally crafted art, wines and, of course, food.
When it debuted three years ago, the Matheson offered sushi in a partnership with beloved chef Ken Tominaga of Hana Japanese Restaurant in Rohnert Park. But sushi service stopped when Tominaga died in May 2022 after a short battle with cancer.
Valette has not commented on the new L.A.-based sushi concept, except to playfully promise it will include “fire and dragons” in the dramatically redesigned space that used to be Matheson’s first-floor private dining room behind the kitchen.
He’s joking about the fire and dragons, of course, but the preview tasting of several dishes three months ago did offer plenty of flair.
The show started with the chef hand-grating fresh wasabi straight from the root. Next came Canadian albacore wrapped in smoky, sake-infused seaweed and topped in garlic confit, yuzu, ponzu and crispy onions.
Another nibble included silky hamachi brushed with sweet corn pudding and crunchy breadcrumbs made from the Lees’ trademark sourdough. Then it was the Lees’ signature nigiri crowned in roasted, torched Wagyu bone marrow that is so creamy and rich the chef calls it “meat butter.”
The new Sushi by Scratch comes at a time when the Healdsburg restaurant scene is under criticism from some that it’s losing local character and investment.
Matheson’s primary business partner, Craig Ramsey, is a longtime Healdsburg-based entrepreneur. But Single Thread restaurant in Healdsburg, for example, has recently attracted negative attention for its East Coast-based funding and investors for new in-town acquisitions.
The Matheson is located at 106 Matheson St., Healdsburg; 707-723-1106, thematheson.com.