Sunday, November 2, 2008

Sunday Dinner. Poppy.

After work I head home and wait for C. to swing by. We're having dinner at Poppy, lured by the prospect of tandoor-roasted chicken and naan bread. (It is not so much Indian food as Indian-inspired food). I want to see how the thali concept (a set menu, available in two sizes and with vegetarian options) has held up since the restaurant opened in September, and when we walk in to find that all tables are booked for the evening (despite some empty seats) I can only suppose that Jerry Traunfeld's reputation is holding steady, despite the current state of the economy and reports every week of restaurant closings and slow evenings. We take a seat at the bar, where you can order the set thali menu or various nibbles and plates from the bar menu, which includes several appetizers (also available in the main dining room) and three main courses: tandoor-roasted chicken, scallops, and braised beef cheeks. (The last two are also items included in the "thali" and "smali").

I waver between the set menus and the bar plates, but C. has her heart set on tandoor-roasted chicken, so I suggest a plate for each of us and a few appetizers to share. And lemonade to drink. Tonight's lemonade is spiked with rosemary, not too sweet. The couple next to us, who arrived and ordered after we did, receive their eggplant fries before we do, which incenses me until all three of our appetizers arrive together. Well, ok then. We have the eggplant fries that I remember so well from my first dinner here, and the savory strudel, this time with pears and tarragon instead of apples and dill, but with the same leeks and taleggio. We try the gorgonzola cherry-sage puffs, filled with bacon. Without the bacon they would just be weird. Actually, they are still a little weird, but bacon automatically makes anything tasty.

Our main courses arrive before the last puff has been eaten, when half a tart still remains. I have the braised beef cheeks with purple kale and cilantro-spiked naan. They fall apart under the gentlest touch of my fork, and I scoop up a little sauce with a piece of naan. C. passes me some of her tandoori chicken, not the tandoori chicken found in cheap Indian restaurants, languishing in lunch-buffet steam tables, dry and weirdly orange. This is something more subtle. I can't wait to order it next time, unless beef cheeks are still on the menu, because I can't resist braised beef or pork cheeks, all rich, gelatinous meat in some dark, deeply infused sauce. Or maybe I can.

For dessert we share the malted milk chocolate ice cream, and a honey frozen yogurt with Riesling-soaked apricots. I have a few bites of the chocolate ice cream, which is as good as I remember, and then I notice C. looking at it, which makes me feel guilty for persuading her to order the frozen yogurt. We swap. The frozen yogurt is perfect, slightly tart against the faintly alcoholic sweetness of the fruit. I wish there was more of it, but there's no need to be greedy. There will be other dinners here.

Walking down the street afterwards we spy Dilettante Chocolates, which has moved into a new mixed-use complex that combines loft condos and shops along a tree-shaded block. Soon another café will move into the old Dilettante space, a block or two farther down Broadway. New memories will join the old ones. In that old Dilettante both new and old memories collided in my mind, as often happens when I walk through this neighborhood. I have lived in Seattle for more than twenty years. Sometimes I see my eight-year-old self twirling down the sidewalks, trying to match the brass footsteps that trace complicated ballroom dance steps, the waltz, the fox-trot, the box-step. Those twenty years went by in a blink of an eye.

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