Friday, October 24, 2008

The Real Dope on Poppy - Poppy Restaurant - Seattle

Restaurant Name: Poppy
Location: Seattle

I must first confess that I was not a fan of Jerry Traunfeld's HerbFarm. Rated one of the top 10 destination restaurants in the USA I felt it wasn't even close to one of the top 10 in Seattle. It was a Disneyland version of a really good banquet meal, but not, in my opinion, a high end culinary experience.
Cindy and I went to Poppy for dinner last night to see how Jerry Traunfeld's new concept of a tasting menu on one plate would rate. I have to tell you it rated extremely poorly. It was proof positive that "more" can definitely be less.
As states the meal is "A modern Northwest tasting menu served all at once. Jerry Traunfeld's Capitol Hill restaurant brings a new style of dining to the Northwest. While traveling in India, Jerry was inspired by a culinary tradition that involves a "thali," 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 cooking, highlighting seasonal ingredients, fresh herbs, and spices." Unfortunately this concept does not work.
The restaurant itself is located on a nice corner of Capital Hill, is beautiful, has a great open kitchen, and is staffed by a friendly, well trained staff both in the kitchen and front of house. We were promptly seated, menu explained, ordered a nice glass of wine - good range $7-$12 glass and lots of bottles under $45, and a Gorgonzola/cherry/herbed gougere. The nice generous pour and the appetiser appeared fairly promptly and we ordered the Thali. The Thali, as the picture above fairly accurately depicts, consists of a soup course, a fish course (Black Cod), a Meat course (Berkshire port Short Rib) - or 2 vegetarian "entrees" for the no-meat crowd - 6-7 small vegetable based items and a center bowl of bad sticky rice with a beautiful but not very good nan bread on top - all for $32. Most items, especially the soup, Cod, and Short Rib, were excellent. In fact, if Poppy offered a "3 course" of the soup, Cod, and Short Ribs served CONSECUTIVELY for $32 I would have been blown away and very satisfied.
The problem is with the Thali concept and the foods Poppy is placing on the plate. Our dining experience quickly turned into a Royal Fork type buffet with 9 conflicting items in a mishmash of quick eating to avoid the hot items getting cold and mixing up flavors and textures in a very unhappy way. The Thali works in Indian Cuisine because each item is a compliment of NECESSARY cooling and heating flavored condiments that are intended to go in the mouth with the main dish and/or scooped up with the nan. That is not what's going on here. They can cook well but they totally miss the point of menu and flavor development and harmony. The 30 minute wait , even though it was definitely not busy, between the appetiser and the Thali was also a problem and I suspect is systemic in trying to get 9 items ready simultaneously. It goes back to the HerbFarm "Banquet Concept" .
Jerry Traunfeld is a famous guy - he was in the Kitchen last night by the way - so I am sure he can survive for a while - However I give this concept zero chance of surviving for more than a year. I just cannot imagine way anyone would come back for a second try. It was not a satisfying experience.

Poppy on Urbanspoon


Miranda said...

Wow - sounds like a bummer meal. I guess it just goes to show that not all cultural culinary concepts translate across cuisines. Too bad.

Anonymous said...

The restaurant is over 4 years old now, and I've been there at least 3 times to enjoy the cacophany of tastes on one plate!