Poppy: The Fine Art of Having It All

The Fine Art of Having It All

Yes, you can have it all. At the same time. On one tray.

The concept behind Capitol Hill’s Poppy is simple and elegant: an outstanding Northwest cuisine tasting menu served like an Indian-style thali.

When James Beard award-winner Jerry Traunfeld left the famous Herbfarm to start his own restaurant, he pulled off a miracle of downsizing, distilling the four-hour, nine-course meals he had formerly prepared  to their exquisite essence while remaining true to the fresh, local, seasonal ingredients, exciting flavors and culinary artistry he was known for.

The result? Poppy has piled up the accolades, including Seattle Magazine’s 2012 “Best Northwest Cuisine”—and served thousands upon thousands of tiny, impeccably prepared dishes.

Ordering seems ordinary enough: a starter, a main, a dessert.

The arrival of the main course thali, though, tends to take your breath away: a meticulously composed main—sockeye salmon in a pinot noir fennel sauce with sea beans and bacon, perhaps—accompanied by a round of equally beautiful sides. From the black-eyed peas spiced with berbere to little salads with golden beets, juneberry and cress, each dish is well-balanced and flavorful in itself but also harmonizes with the others on the tray.

The thali explodes like fireworks across the tongue, with alternatively bright, rich and tangy flavors, and with crunchy, creamy and juicy textures. The dessert thali that follows is no less varied, not too sweet and just as pleasing to the palate and eye.

Thoroughly Pacific Northwest in spirit, Traunfeld’s thalis do occasionally pay homage to Indian cooking, notably with the nigella-poppy naan that accompanies the meal.

As a showcase for the best of modern regional cuisine, Poppy stands out as a destination for locals and visitors alike. Best of all, it won’t break the bank nor leave you too full to move, though after its craft cocktails (try the “Wild About Saffron,” with vodka, brandy, rose geranium and saffron) you might still linger for hours in the bar.