Poppy is the new restaurant opened by Jerry Traunfeld, of the HerbFarm. I was especially intrigued by the place because the menu is primarily served prix fix Thali style, is mostly vegetarian, and has intentional vegetarian alternates for the dishes that aren't. It is a little more expensive experience than I generally indulge in ($35/person without appetisers, drinks or dessert), but went recently for a special celebration.
We started with the honey drizzled eggplant fries, which didn't immediately appeal to me off the menu. I don't tend to love eggplant, nor do I tend to like my savory and my sweet too intimately acquainted. But these surprised me. They were hot and soft on the inside, fried crisp on the outside, and the honey (and sea salt) actually worked. I wasn't in danger of gorging myself, but I did manage to enjoy them quite a bit and we polished off the plate.
Of all the delicious things I tasted on this night, my starter cocktail was amongst my favorites. I ordered a drink called the "Rum Curry," which was made from rum, coconut water, curry leaf, lime and orange bitters. Before this drink, I didn't exactly know what curry leaf tasted like, but after tasting it am completely enamoured with it. I don't have the words to describe it... not exactly toasted, not exactly earthy, not exactly spicy (and definitely not the flavor I associate with "curry"). But there was something in that flavor that was deeply pleasing to me and I found this cocktail to be the beautiful amalgamation of skillfully considered components that truly displayed emergence in their combination. I wasn't expecting to be blown away like I was by the taste of this thing, but I was and it was fantastic.
For dinner we ordered the full on thali experience. I ordered the vegetarian choices, my dining companion ordered the meat versions. My menu was:
- Nettle watercress soup
- Blood orange, fennel and olive salad
- Shaved cauliflower salad with sumac and Aleppo pepper
- Sun choke truffle ravioli
- Braised artichoke hearts (substituted for the goat cheese flan since I don't like goat cheese)
- Beet, pea sprout and hazelnut salad
- Polenta square over some sort of savory puree
- Baked farro gratin
- Rhubarb pickle
Just about every bit of every item was delicious. The flavors were clearly composed by somebody who knew how to think about food.
My only complaint was that, while each dish was a treat, there wasn't a clear vegetarian protein (the flan I substituted out might have served that purpose) and most of them felt fatty and salty enough to constitute a little side dish that should have been set against something more healthful instead of the makings of an entire meal. As decadent individuals they were superb, but having an entire platter of decadent individuals felt somehow incomplete (though it was certainly satisfying from a hedonistic point of view).
Savory braised artichoke looking like the leg of a tiny lamb
It was a fun experience, and I love being able to taste a huge variety of different items. But it felt sort of a like a party in the sense that the food was entertaining and enjoyable, but would loose its appeal if I tried to partake too frequently.