Jerry Traunfeld's long-awaited Poppy is just fine, thank you. He has transformed the nefarious Elite Tavern into a high-ceilinged, tall-windowed open space (seating for 120) in muted mustard and deep red tones, and infused the menu with similar elements of cauliflower, eggplant and roasted peppers.
Behind the bar, Amon Mende returns to prime time and ventures beyond the traditional, the road not shaken, if you will. The Papi Delicious ($10) starts with hornitos plata, adds red bell pepper and jalapenos for punch, mint and lime for aroma. The Poppy Martini ($15) owes its price (and character) to Old Raj gin, a straw-colored premium spirit enlivened with saffron.
The full menu is a ten-item tray called thali, one of the best ideas in a long time. No more does the adventurous diner have to suffer through an endless (and costly) tasting menu. With everything served at once, you navigate at your own pace. If the relatively modest $32 tab still seems excessive, you can even opt for a $22 "smali." To be sure, there are echoes of India in the flavors and presentation, but this is a far cry from some sloppy Bombay Buffet. Approachable, too, with hosts and servers quite informally dressed.
And if all you want is a drink and a bite, then the starer menu (most at $5) does the trick perfectly. Eggplant fries are drizzled with sea salt and blackberry honey, cauliflower mash is flavored with sesame, a leek and teleggio tart is showered with julienned apple, curried chickpea donuts called vadas are accompanied by a lush yogurt raita. The cauliflower's the standout, especially mopped up with chunks of terrific nigella-sprinkled naan.
Traunfeld, who made his reputation at the Herbfarm, named Poppy for his mother. What a good boy. Plays well with others. Bravo!Posted by Ronald Holden at September 22, 2008 8:00 AM | TrackBack
The International Kitchen
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