Walking into Jerry Traunfeld’s ‘Poppy’ Restaurant on a chilly November night, whilst in Seattle I was greeted warmly just like an old mate. This is a great feeling when travelling alone and having not spoken to a soul all day because of solo independent pursuits. After a little chat with the hostess she sat me close to the window so I could take in the restaurant layout and feel the delicate ambiance. But most importantly warm up.
I had read about ‘Poppy’ a few months back when starting my research for my time in Seattle. I was staying in Capitol Hill and saw that ‘Poppy’ was just up the street from my accommodation.
Jerry Traunfeld opened ‘Poppy’ at 622 Broadway East (at Roy) in 2008 appropriately after his mother, Poppy. “Food will still be inspired by herbs, and will delve deep into spices. Rather than the rarefied Herbfarm style, it’ll be food we can eat on an everyday basis — and with Traunfeld’s track record of deliciousness, we just might.” This sounded incredibly intriguing to me.
The restaurant serves Traunfeld’s local and seasonal-emphasized cuisine in a pattered small dish tasting format, inspired by Indian Thali. “Thali,” is a platter served to each guest holding a variety of small dishes. Poppy’s menu borrows the idea of the Thali to present Jerry’s own style of northwest cooking, highlighting seasonal ingredients, fresh herbs, and spices. It’s a modern northwest tasting menu served all at once.
I noticed that the space was full at ‘Poppy’ the night I chose to dine with them. I glanced at my menu but felt distracted by the northwest meets NYC upper west side stylings. It was a stunning space. The staff was bustling around and I observed them to be attentive with guests but not overly. I instantly felt comfortable and was eager to eat as I saw steaming dishes with meals being delivered to just as eager patrons on the floor.
The Friend Mussels with Lovage Aioli is a must try on ‘Poppy’s’ menu. The Fried Mussels were simply prepared and ached of its original essence. They were boisterous, tender and required a slice in half to eat them with as much grace as they suggested. I had texted my sister at the time as I ate this gorgeous dish to tell her that the mussels were the size of Silver Dollars. Immense! This dish should not be shared but needs to be eaten slowly, deliberately to truly appreciate its delight.
The Grilled Smoked Trout with Fennel Salad and Salsa Verde was the recommendation of my server Benedict. I was a tad nervous that perhaps the Grilled Smoked Trout would be too big a portion but it was perfect in every way. Portion, preparation, taste and texture. The Trout was not overly smoked but had a slight accent so you could enjoy the fish for which it was. A perfect marriage between the Fennel Salad and Salsa Verde. Their notes brought out the flavouring of the Trout without letting you forget that the Trout was the headliner. I enjoyed the sweet and savouriness of the Fennel Salad and Salsa Verde. The overall dish made a perfect introduction to the entrée that followed.
The cocktails I ordered to sip throughout my meal were again great recommendations by the hands of my hostess. They were allies but did not take away from the purity of the food.
Gin, Chartreuse, St. Germaine, Lime, Orange Bitters.
The Loveless cocktail was certainly not Loveless. This lady was all romance. It took me awhile to finalize my menu choices because of the love this drink was extolling onto my heart.
Wild About Saffron
Vodka, Brandy, Rose Geranium, Saffron, Lemon, Angostura.
The Wild About Saffron was a tad strong but a nice way to transition my meal from Starters to Entrée.
Thali is a perfect choice if you are looking to heighten your senses while trying a little bit of everything. What you may not realize at the time is that each segment on the Thali stage is speaking to one another as soon as it is placed in front of you. I was taken by the colours, textures and gentle voices I heard coming off my Thali platter.
My server, a young fellow who at first wanted to quickly tell me everything on my Thali and get out of there warmed up to me when I asked, ‘Hmmmm…where should I start?’. He cracked a smile and simply replied ‘Anywhere you like, Miss’. Thank you for the permission I thought.
Indeed I started with the Red Pepper, Apricot and Walnut Soup. The soup was resplendent. It washed down my throat easily and its warmth opened up my belly. I felt instantly recharged and reawakened for what was to come. I was present. The Soup was fresh, thick and it could stand alone as a mate on a Saturday afternoon at home with a simple spoon and large soup dish in bed with a book.
The Satsuma, Pea sprout and Fennel Salad was next. Even though I had some Fennel salad before with my Trout – I was not ready to let it go. Again, fresh, beautifully curated and a perfect bonjour as I began to deconstruct my Anderson Ranch Lamb Osso Bucco with Malay Flavors.
So began the dance.
The Anderson Ranch Lamb Osso Bucco with Malay Flavors was the genius. I was ready for protein and this was my star in the sky for the night. The Anderson Ranch Lamb was humble as it was dynamic. Fall off the bone moist, tasty, and delightful. I could feel my legs twitching under the table. This is kind of lamb you want for your Sunday dinner, Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. It is posh and it has all the makings of, ‘Now that you’ve had it prepared this way. You can’t go back to any other way.’ Transcendent.
There was a few back in forth between the Winter Squash with Rosemary, Chili and Lime, Pomegranate Red Cabbage and Carrot, Lemon, Ginger Pickle. These characters were the jewels on my plate. Think about rubies, emeralds and canary diamonds on a “The Royal Maharaja”. It was all decadence. I think if I was sat with my Indian Mom at the table that night she would have been cajoling me to ensure I was having a relationship with my Nigella-Poppy Naan.
The Nigella-Poppy Naan was bountiful, poofy and the smile on my plate. Indeed I tore into her gentle consistency as I added the lamb and variations of the Winter Squash with Rosemary, Chili and Lime, Pomegranate Red Cabbage and Carrot, Lemon, Ginger Pickle onto her. They were each vying for my attention and not at all upset as I took my time with each.
There is the odd time you eat a meal at a restaurant and feel transformed. In a sense taken away to another place and time. I don’t mean this in an overly verbose sense. But what I do suggest is that this meal at ‘Poppy’ educated me. This meal was perhaps one of my best meals that I had captured whilst travelling in a long time. I felt satiated, enlightened and also deeply appreciative of the finely curated plates.
Have you ever been to the Opera and needed a little sweet to get you into bed so you could reflect with ease? Well I found the Lemon Verbena Cream Tart with Huckberries and Candied Ginger Ice Cream was my girl. This dessert was sweet and yet stood on its own as it took a bow. I enjoyed the lovely Lemon Verbena Cream Tart. It had a homemade texture but with a wink of royalty. The Huckberries and the Candied Ginger Ice Cream will be ceremoniously spoken about to friends and family as the dessert that kept on giving without any pomp or circumstance.
As I licked the last bits of my Candied Ginger Ice Cream off my spoon, I reflected on the space again at ‘Poppy’. It was modern but also had some formidable northwest tones. Sexy origami chandeliers, met with reclaimed wood ceilings and furniture, a statement brick wall by the bar that makes for a wonderful meeting place for friends, family, co-workers or just a solo meal and drink. It was uptown meets northwest chic but all the makings of an authentic small town vibe.
I found the staff warm, inviting and eager to give suggestions which were proven to be trusted bang on choices.
I highly encourage you to check out ‘Poppy’ Restaurant on Capitol Hill. Be it if you are travelling to Seattle or a local, you will guaranteed to leave this impeccable tucked away resto with not only a full Buddha belly but some enlightened thoughts on your experiences. Most importantly you will be wondering when you will be booking your next seating.
622 Broadway East
Seattle WA 98102