Popped in for an impromptu dinner at Poppy the other night—and would have had our socks knocked off. Had we been wearing socks.
Here’s the thing: We knew chef Jerry Traunfeld was a perfectionist. (You don’t spend years and years at The Herbfarm if you’re not.)
So it wasn’t a huge surprise that the Neah Bay salmon topped with sea beans and bacon in a creamy Pinot Noir sauce was flawless, in conception and execution. (The sauce-fish coupling actually recalled a similar dish at one memorable Herbfarm dinner a few years ago.)
Or that the blush-perfect grilled Wagyu steak with Walla Wallas and a dollop of braised farro was divine…or that so was a bracing little bowl of cool cucumber gazpacho with lemon basil…and ditto a vivid beet,currant, and purslane salad that was not only palate-satisfying, it was outright mind-opening.
In his thali concept of eating, all these dishes (plus six more) arrive on a single tray for a single diner—arrayed in small bowls. Think small-plate dining—only without the pesky sharing.
And there wasn’t a dud in the bunch.
But here was the revelatory part: Not only were they stunning individually, they tasted great—even intentional—together.
And hence Poppy addressed a quibble we’ve long had with small-plate restaurants—where’s the chef’s vision? The master-plan? In small-plate joints, diners assemble meals from a-little-of-this, a-little-of-that. Taste good together? Um…well, maybe. But only by chance.
At Poppy, by contrast, the diner gets to enjoy small plates while remaining in the chef’s estimable hands.
And we are talking estimable. The best chefs in the world have palates that understand not just flavors, but layerings of flavor. Layerings that transform a simple oiled toss of leeks, taggia olives, and fresh savory, for instance, into something that transcends sum-of-its-parts altogether.
Best chefs in the world? After a dinner like that…we think it’s apt.