Capitol Hill’s Poppy

It’s fair to say that Poppy is the most anticipated restaurant to open in Seattle. With good reason too. The chef/owner is the celebrated Jerry Traunfeld, who gained international recognition as the chef of The Herbfarm. Jerry has authored several books and was creating lyrical and impressive food, but one little visit to India introduced him to a new style of cooking that put the wheels in motion to revolutionize the Seattle food scene.

When you consider Jerry’s pedigree and what Poppy is achieving you can definitely appreciate the undertaking. Located on the north end of Broadway right off of Roy, Poppy is part of a revitalization of that area.

Jerry’s skill in the kitchen is well documented, so the opportunity to have his food was something that I looked forward to. And a lot of people were excited for Poppy to arrive too. When I found out that they were ready to open and take reservations, I jumped at the chance to be a part of the scene.

Poppy on Urbanspoon

Walking up to Poppy you’ll notice that it’s pretty darn big for Capitol Hill standards. There are a ton of windows and a high ceiling to give it an open feel. Walking by the kitchen, you can look in, spy, and be curious. The kitchen is spacious and you can see Jerry and his team working. And there are a ton of people in their working. The lighting of the place is excellent and you can see the thought and care that was put into the design. The color palette is modern and warm, the furniture is hip and the vibe of the place just feels cool.

We arrived a bit early and our hostess suggested that we visit the herb garden in the back. The use of herbs was one of Jerry’s hallmarks and it was great to see that it was part of the design of the restaurant. There are a bunch of herbs out back and it required some restraint on my part to not stick my nose onto every plant. I only did it to every third plant.

We were seated and one of the first things I noticed was the flatware. Of course it was hip and cool, but it was stamped ‘18/10‘, a nice little badge of stainless steel quality. The salt at the table was also really good; it was from Portugal, the salinity was subtle and it rocked!

We partook in the starters; eggplant fries dressed with honey and sea salt and fried mussels with a dollup of lovage. The eggplant fries were awesome. And for five bucks you’ll be inclined to get two orders. They are really good, sweet yet softly touched with salt, you’ll be grabbing these voraciously. Enjoy.

Something interesting with Poppy is that there aren’t traditional menus! Jerry’s trip to India introduced him to the concept of the ‘thali‘, a big plate with a bunch of small dishes. In Poppy’s case it’s ten small dishes for $32. Tonight’s had some interesting choices, braised duck leg and scallops were the carnivore options and for those that don’t enjoy the glory of things such as bacon, there were chanterelle croquettes and risotto dumplings. Alongside these were all sorts of good stuff. The highlights of tonight’s thali:

  • The fingerling potatoes with ajwain – We weren’t familiar with this spice before, but we’re fans now. A trip to World Spice at Pike Place Market is in order.
  • Bulger, melon, and cucumber salad – The interplay with the hearty grain, fresh cucumber, and sweetness of the melon was excellent.
  • The Soup! A thick, unctuous soup; this was spiked with cauliflower, clove, and caraway.
  • The rice. Made with matsutake mushrooms, it was so good it inspired me to try things like this out with my rice.
  • The veggie options. The duck and scallop were good, but the croquette and dumpling were awesome. Perfect texture and delicious.
  • Pear pie. This fried pie laced with caraway seed along with the fresh whipped cream was a perfect way to end a meal.

Not all was perfect with our experience; it took a solid wait to get our thali after our starters. Which is kind of odd when you consider that they know what their menu is for the whole night and should have the small plates at the ready. But our server was fun and kept us involved. We love beets, but theirs had opportunity. Ditto for the panna cotta.

One of the great takeaways of the meal is that because of the layout you’ll spend some more time enjoying your meal and savoring the flavors. And the flavors were awesome; restrained and pronounced, in balance with the other plates, yet each had their own distinctiveness. Isn’t it nice when skilled chefs can do great things with great ingredients?

Call us fans of Poppy. I mentioned a couple of posts ago that when food is really exciting it’s fun and surprising. Jerry and his team at Poppy definitely achieve this. We’ll look forward to trying out what else Jerry has in store for us as his thali list changes often.

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