622 Broadway Ave E
Despite the waitress's adamant insistence to the contrary, Poppy serves INDIAN FOOD. It looks like Indian food. It smells like Indian food. Which isn't a bad thing because Indian food rules. Part of the fun is in the retarded names like "saag paneer," "galub jamun," or "rogan josh" (the latter is the funniest because it could ALMOST be a dude's name if the order of the words were reversed, like the way a guy named Josh Rogan's name would be printed on driver's license).
In fact it's almost too bad that Indian food is so good because the rest of that subcontinent sucks, and I've seen some pretty shitty subcontinents: it's disease ridden, it's poor, they actually enjoy eating rats, they DON'T enjoy eating cows, and they suck extra because the British ruled their asses for 182 years. Plus Indian chicks don't know how to fuck. It's such a letdown, and all because of the fucking Kama Sutra. You go into it thinking “All right! I heard they make the school kids MEMORIZE the Kama Sutra over there! Kama Sutra! Kama Sutra! The Kama Sutra is India's Constitution!” Well I've got news for you: it's nothing but a scam. Please tell me what page of the Kama Sutra they tell women how to retch, gag, and complain loudly when going down on a guy. I bet that move is called “the Spitting Cobra.”
But anyway: Poppy. The format is unusual. All the appetizers are $5 each. You pick a couple, then from there you're stuck because there's only one main course, a large platter of smaller plates called a thali. There's a vegetarian thali option, and a thali with a smaller number of items on it (cleverly called a “smalli.”). And the price is fixed: a thali is $32. A smalli is $22. But other than that you can't choose the dishes that come with a thali, so if you're not an adventurous eater, and if your idea of an exotic spice is black pepper, then you should probably fuck off in advance.
We started with the shoestring eggplant with honey and salt, and the curry leaf vadas. The tender eggplant slices were coated in a crispy flaky batter. These were pretty good but there didn't seem to be ANY honey on it, which is as blatant a case of false advertising as is India's claim to be some sort of endless erotic paradise garden. The best way to describe the curry leaf vadas is to call them donuts made of falafel. They were spiced with curry and cilantro and came with a dill yogurt dipping sauce. Very tasty, even though the vadas didn't need cilantro, otherwise known as THE WORLD'S MOST PLAYED OUT HERB.
After the appetizers came the thalis: a large platter upon which is a constellation of small plates. And by “small plates,” I mean REALLY SMALL: the largest plate we got was an oblong one about 4” long; the smallest was a soup bowl the size of a shot glass. I think we're at the logical conclusion of the “small plates” trend, unless some scientist comes up with microscopic plates made up of carbon atoms only a few angstroms in diameter, upon which is served a single meat or vegetable cell. They'll call this style of service “nano plates.” You'll carve the chicken to be served on a nano plate with an electron microscope, and one drumstick will be capable of serving over 2 million customers. If the restaurant charges only $1 per nano plate, the profit margins could be immense! Unfortunately for you losers the nano plate idea is mine. Patent pending, bitches.
Yet despite my scorn of small plates, the food served on these tiny plates was generally pretty good. A romano bean (which I personally couldn't distinguish from a regular old green bean), hazlenut, and fennel pollen salad featured crisply blanched beans, crunchy toasted hazlenuts, and absolutely no fennel flavor whatsoever. It's possible they forgot to add the pollen to my salad, or maybe pollen doesn't actually contribute that much flavor. Either way I must call bullshit on the current vogue of name- checking the most exotic possible ingredients, especially if they don't taste like anything. Why not blanch the beans in tritium? Or salt them with some of the salt inside a mummy that the Egyptians used to preserve the dead pharaoh's organs? At least then you'd have a good story to tell, about how you braved a mummy's curse to flavor the customer's meal.
One thing that didn't need any extra mummy salt was the carrot salad. It was a bowl a carrots shaved into long ribbons, scented with clove, and heavily HEAVILY salted. It was a shame, really, because without so much salt this could have been a GREAT dish. Clove and carrot together really tastes like Thanksgiving to me, and it could have been a cute culinary tip of the hat to the coming holiday season, but they blew it because I couldn't finish it because it was TOO GODDAMNED SALTY.
Poppy's poor showing on the carrot salad was redeemed, however, by the meat dishes. The pork belly was magnificently succulent, and nestled opulently in a bed of sauteed cabbage. The belly was tender throughout, crisp on the outside, and perfectly seasoned. Seared albacore slices served with peppers and fennel were equally well- executed. Unlike the romano bean salad, this time you could actually taste the fennel, and in my book being able to taste ingredients is a plus, unless the ingredient in question is excessive salt, like in the fucking carrots.
The melon pickles were tart and sweet, but again were polluted with too much cilantro. However, the melon gaspacho (which came in the shot glass- sized bowl) was FUCKING DELICIOUS! It's a pity there wasn't more of it, because it was sweet and creamy, and as an added bonus had a couple ripe, bright red cherry tomatoes swimming in it. A small bowl of garbanzo beans in yogurt sauce was okay, but like an afterthought: smooth, creamy, and over all inoffensive.
Roast fingerling potatoes were fancifully dusted in an herb called ajwain, which I'd never heard of. When asked about this mystery spice, the waitress was nice enough to bring out a bowl of it for us to smell and taste in the raw. It's a little like thyme and a lot like black caraway seeds, but it has a fresh woody flavor. I can't quite put my finger on it but ajwain smells like what it would smell like if you put a sprig of mint through a pencil sharpener and then smelled the pencil sharpener. Needless to say, this strange herb made plain roast potatoes much more interesting.
A mound of steamed rice in the center of the platter rounded things out. The rice was light, fluffy, and just sticky enough. The rice bowl was topped with a perfect plank of naan which was crusty, sooty (in the good way), studded with caraway seeds, and chewy inside.
After all of these mini plates it was time for dessert. Like the appetizers, all of the desserts cost $5. I was surprisingly full by this point, so we went with the plum tart. It was fine. The pastry was flaky but maybe a little too crisp. And the plum flavor didn't really catch my attention, but by this point I hardly cared because I was really fucking stuffed.
One thing you'll notice when dining at Poppy is that the portions are deceptive: it doesn't seem like you're getting very much, but it really is a lot of food. Some of the dishes suck but the place did, after all, open YESTERDAY. Overall I'd call their unique idea a(qualified) success. The food is good. The prices are reasonable. The service is really friendly, and they do in fact take reservations. Still, I'd wait a while before going there for them to work out all the bugs. If there's a take home message to all this it's that Poppy, unlike all of those Indian women who allegedly know all there is to know about the Kama Sutra, never fails to satisfy.
Rating: 7 Dalits out of 10