Friday, August 21, 2009

Poppy, the last of the three restaurants

Live got in the way yesterday and stopped me from writing about Poppy in Seattle.

Sheila and I wanted somewhere interesting to go for dinner in Seattle. We got a sitter, dinner with Max is not relaxing. Kudos to the Olympic in Seattle for general amazing service, some good restaurant recommendations and finding us a sitter for Max.

Seattle is much more of a foodie city than anything we have in Canada. The current trend in the city is chef independence, small hole in the wall places with chefs really playing with their art. I see the Seattle food scene as the polar opposite of Las Vegas where it is all about big money backing big name chefs, this season's Top Chef is really showing that as the food scene there.

We took the concierge's recommendations and went with the most innovative sounding one and they was Poppy. James Beard award winner Jerry Traunfeld, formerly of the Herbfarm, is the chef that created Poppy which opened late in 2008.

Poppy serves their food in thali style, though the food is not in anyway Indian. The thali is simply their way of offering a tasting menu and it works very well. One gets a plate with ten small bowls and plates on it with small bites of food, though each thali (and the seven piece smallie) has a centre piece protein, in many cases grilled American wagyu beef. How does one explain this sort of a meal?

If a good burger and fries is like going to good rock concert, and if eating in a 'typical' fine dining restaurant is like a string quartet playing some Mozart, Traunfeld's food is a symphony playing a sublime Philip Glass piece. I have never had anything quite like this and I loved the whole experience. Each mouthful was perfect, was enough. The most amazing thing was that food engaged the brain, it inspired us to talk about all the flavours and textures, about the unique uses of northwest fresh food, of how it was presented. the meal was physically, spiritually and intellectually stimulating.

In many ways the meal felt to me like a northwest riff on the family dinners I grew up with. When we had a family gathering, the table would be filled with numerous different hot and cold dishes from which everyone would take a small taste onto their palate. We call this zakuska.

The restaurant was casual but still allowed for dressing up. The decor was a current day re-interpation of early 1970s minimalist decor. The decor feels like it would suit Philip Glass music.

It is the sort of place that is about the food and vision of the chef and not about being a place to be seen or being the "trendy" restaurant. Though Conde Nast Traveller calls it one of the top 50 new restaurants in the world.

This restaurant is worth making the trip to Seattle.
Poppy on Urbanspoon
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