As much as we would’ve liked to experience more local fine-dining on our vacation, for budgetary reasons we limited ourselves to one really nice meal. Early on, we decided that it would be in San Francisco; it was a little over half-way on our trip and what better backdrop than the San Francisco Bay for a nice seafood meal. However, after a later-than-expected arrival in the city and a hastily-chosen, un-researched restaurant, we were sorely disappointed at our choice: overly touristy, mediocre food, and outright poor service. This would not be our fine-dining experience of the vacation.
So when Christine’s friend, Emiley, who was going to meet us in Seattle, suggested Poppy, we looked it up online and were sold. This was going to be our nice meal of the trip, and it did not disappoint. Located in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, Poppy is Jerry Traunfeld’s thali-inspired restaurant. Each thali contains several small dishes (choice of 7 or 10 item thali) comprised of local, seasonal ingredients, inspired by fresh herbs and spices.
Their herb-inspired cocktail list reflects their commitment to fresh ingredients. We ordered a Shiso Cool (gin, dolin blanc, shiso, cucumber, lime), a Papi Delicious (tequila, curacao, red bell pepper, jalapenos, lime, mint), and a Six Twenty Two (rye whiskey, amaro nonino, rhubarb and angostura bitters). All were light and refreshing; a nice compliment of flavors to come.
We started with three wonderful appetizers: eggplant fries with sea salt and honey, lightly fried mussels with lovage, and an heirloom tomato, leek and herb tart. While not a big fan of eggplant in general, I found myself eating fry after fry—the salty sweet combination of the honey and sea salt only enhanced the flavor of the eggplant. The mussels were incredible; amazingly fresh with a nice finish from the lovage. I had to make a conscious effort to eat only a couple as our main course had yet to arrive. And the tart, well, I think the picture speaks for itself—fresh, savory, with a crust that just melted in your mouth.
All three diners ordered a 7 item thali: Christine had the grilled wagyu coulotte steak with roasted romas and walla wallas; Emiley ordered one of the vegetarian thalis—chard handkerchief pasta with walla wallas, sage and hazelnut; and I had the qualicum scallops with carrot vinaigrette and shiso-fennel salad. The wagyu was accompanied by potato and coriander soup; tomato, leek, and taggia olive salad; curry leaf savoy cabbage, zucchini basil gratin, melon anise-hyssop pickle; and nigella-poppy naan. Emiley’s pasta came with corn soup with shiso; radish, grilled spring onion and purslane salad; beets and huckleberries with lemon balm; leaf broccoli with fennel flower; melon anise-hyssop pickle; and nigella-poppy naan. My scallops thali included corn soup with tarragon; radish, grilled spring onion and purslane salad; beets and huckleberries with lemon balm; zucchini basil gratin; melon anise-hyssop pickle; and nigella-poppy naan.
The thali theme is ingenious; each diner receives a nice sampling of many dishes and flavors in one meal that’s not overwhelmingly heavy. By using fresh ingredients, Poppy takes this theme to a sublime level; their pairings and combinations offer the diner a well-balanced, harmonious tasting experience—a true taste of Seattle.