Dine Out: Poppy


My husband and I had dinner at Poppy last weekend, and we were so glad we finally made it there; it’s been on our “to do” list for awhile.

I love the name “Poppy”—it just conjures such a sunny, light feeling, don’t you think? Poppy the restaurant, however, conjures something more gastronomically pleasing. You walk in and see the trays of thali being brought in by the wait staff, plus the look of anticipation on the diners’ faces, and you know you will be in for a treat.

Poppy is Jerry Traunfeld’s Capitol Hill restaurant which opened in 2008 (can you believe it’s taken us this long to get there?!). Seattleites know him as the one who put The Herbfarm on the map; it nabbed him a James Beard award in 2000. While Herbfarm brings you a nine-course meal on the apex of foodie heaven (as well as the apex of your restaurant budget), Poppy is foodie heaven on a more attainable and down-to-earth scale.

Poppy’s concept is inspired by the Indian “thali,” a meal made up of several dishes in small servings. My friend Nicole, who likes to order two appetizers instead of one entrée, would love this kind of eating. Instead of the usual one larger main dish with a couple of sides, you essentially get a bunch of sides. But if you are worried about it not being a satisfying meal, I promise you that will not happen.

We started out with the batata wada (potato fritters) with cilantro lime sauce and spice crispies. The latter sounds like what Jhumpa Lahiri describes in the first paragraph of one of my favorite books, “The Namesake.” It made me smile just to remember that. Not surprisingly, the cocktails were strong and tasty, and went perfectly with our food; I had the Loveless (gin, Chartreuse, St. Germaine, lime, orange bitters) and Jim the Knockers Up (Buffalo Trace bourbon, lemon, egg white, bitters).

For the main event, the thalis, we had these two (and I tell ya, it took us some time to choose):

columbia river king salmon w/ pinot noir sauce, lobster mushroom & bacon
late summer corn soup
cherry tomato, melon and mint salad
pole beans with berbere and yogurt
five-spice eggplant
fennel and shiso kimchi
nigella-poppy naan

alaskan spot shrimp and grits with peperonata
billy’s tomato, strawberry and sage soup
cherry tomato, melon and mint salad
pole beans with berbere and yogurt
golden beets with spice bread
fennel and shiso kimchi
nigella-poppy naan

As you can see, Traunfeld draws on the rich history and diversity of Northwest cuisine to create these thalis. Although “thali” is Indian-inspired, the dishes are not necessarily so. The menu lists them as “today’s thalis,” so I shall assume that the selections change somewhat regularly; a thrilling thought if you plan to return and try a new set of thalis.


The dining room was casual and warm, and remarkably, so were the waitstaff.

What are you waiting for?



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