Monday, January 27, 2014

Poppy's Ristorante

2000 N. Truman Blvd.
Crystal City, Mo
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We like Poppy's. It's a deceivingly classy and beautiful eatery, next to a bowling alley.
The Place:
The interior is gorgeous. Hardwood floors, heavy wood furnishings, and the walls are decorated with nice, tasteful and well thought out art. Even the lamps are tasteful and classy. I encourage you to got there and see for yourself. If you can't, please got to their web site to see the photos.
It was about half full when we got there, the day had been blustery, but temperatures in the forties beat the snot out of those we had experienced earlier in the week.
Angel picked it, no one objected. They make really good dishes, and plenty on them. They serve seafood, pasta, steaks and chicken all various ways. The bar is very well appointed. Angel said she wanted something less filling than the huge pasta plates we usually get. That sounded like a plan.
We were seated immediately at a four-top in the back room. Next to us were three heavy oak, pew-like booths. One held a young dad and his two pre-teen boys. I knew that story without even knowing them.
We ordered our drinks, tea, sweet tea and Pepsi. Sharp, professional, black shirted staff members bustled about. A senior citizen one of a of a foursome at the next table started singing "Jesus Loves Me", all smiles.
Which I have to say was better than the slightly too-loud music from the overhead. It just didn't fit. I suppose it was supposed to be adult contemporary, and they weren't actually bad songs, it just didn't fit with the general ambiance. Something soft and classical, Bach's Well Tempered Clavier or some piano sonatas would be better, or maybe some 50's classic trumpet and piano jazz. The stuff playing was like old late night FM (when nobody was listening) or Muzak.
The Food:
Angel decided rather quickly. I was still perusing, as was Adam. She ordered an appetizer, the St. Louis favorite, toasted ravioli. We'd seen an episode of "Restaurant Impossible" this week where Chef Robert Irvine ripped up the dish made at the St. Louis restaurant that supposedly invented the stuff. Though Mama's "On the Hill" Is reputedly the actual location of origin, the ownership of the place has changed a few times since the original dish came about in the 1940's. Irvine said the stuff there was just frozen ravioli. Which it might have been. Anyway, by episode's end they'd fixed that.
It's not complicated. You make ravioli, let it dry a bit, bread it (Panko please) and slam it into a deep fryer. The composition of the ravioli is key, as is the quality of the marinara sauce you dip it in.
The ravioli at Poppy's was pretty good, better than some places, mostly bars, that I've had it. Not too dry, crisp, yet with a moist, cheesy filling. The marinara was house made and quite good.
The tea was simply excellent. It's as if they knew I was coming. Clear, dark, fresh, a respectable 4 1/2 on the PJTea scale. We ordered.
Como salad
Me: NY Strip steak (medium rare), a baked potato and the combination salad with house dresing. Angel sure enough didn't order pasta, she asked for the lighter grilled salmon, a greek salad, then she blew the go-light plan by adding a baked potato. Adam ordered the Chicken Capri, described as "Charbroiled or lightly breaded,chicken, fried, prepared in a white wine, cheese and butter sauce, with broccoli, freshly sliced mushrooms, bits of prosciutto ham, and a touch of garlic." He asked for it without the mushrooms. He sided it with potato and bacon soup and mostaccoli in marinara sauce.
Greek Salad
We munched happily on the ravioli and the fat warm buns we'd been served. The place started to fill up even more.
The salads and soup arrived shortly. I'd had Angel's Greek before. It's good but I wanted something more American. The Combo salad is just lettuce, onions, carrots, and cherry tomatoes, a pretty basic salad, but what made this salad pop was the dressing. Sweet and creamy, absolutely delightful.
Adam's soup was thick and hot. chunks of potato and bacon filled his spoon, it disappeared pretty quick.
Just as we were finished with these, the entrees arrived.
The plates were clean, not cluttered with garnish. The foil-wrapped baked potatoes came on separate small plates. On my steak plate there was the steak, nothing else, on Angel's just the salmon. Adam's was gloppier, thick chunky sauce covered the plate, the chicken barely visible. In his separate plate was a pretty big pile of tubular pasta, covered in red sauce.
I cut into the steak, perfectly cooked, juicy, bloody, hot. I prepared my potato, slashing into it like a mad man, until it was practically mashed, then I added the sour cream and attacked it again. Butter and cream melted together soaking decadently into the ground up meat of the potato. I was looking forward to this, I hadn't had a baked potato in a long time, maybe months. Angel nodded her head after her first taste of her salmon. She picked off a small chunk of the fish and slid it onto my plate. I had some potato to clear my pallet, then another bite because it was so yummy, then tasted the salmon. It had a nice smoky taste and was quite flaky.
My steak was perfect. They hadn't tried to add flavors to it, just a good, honest, salt and peppered steak. I had cut the steak in half, it was a big boy, and I imagined I would take about half of it home. I had plans for it. Sunday morning scrambled eggs and steak plans.
The tea filler came around every time our glasses got down to half, the food went down smoothly and quickly, especially the potato. It was perfectly cooked, tender, warm and buttery.
Adam barely picked at his pasta, Angel tried it and winced a little. I thought about trying it but...potato.
Finally finished, I asked for a box. Meanwhile Angel said that though the fish was  very good, it would have enjoyed some sort of sauce, as it was "kind of dry after awhile." Adam said that the pasta sauce wasn't very good. Angel said that it tasted like someone had heated a can of diced tomatoes and poured it on straight, no depth to the taste. I thought this was odd, since everything else indicated that the kitchen knew how to deliver flavors.
Adam also said that the chicken sauce was a little strong on the wine taste. Adam's not a wine drinker. In fact he doesn't seem to ingest alcohol of any kind. I can't say that his assessment of the sauce counts as a bad note since he doesn't like wine.
I filled the little Styrofoam box with the half steak. A manager came by and asked how everything was, I remarked honestly that I thought it quite good.
The bill arrived, a not surprising sixty seven dollars and change. We were told that the appetizer discount would be applied at the check-out. They'd told us earlier that for some reason or another, appetizers were half-off this evening. That would bring the tab down about three dollars.
As we were getting up, a server was talking to the man with the two boys. She said he looked familiar.
"Yeah, we used to come here a lot when we lived here . . .  (awkward pause) We're divorced now and I only come to town once in a while."  I felt a little sad for him. I knew the drill, I had recognized the situation when I first saw them, but not because of some psychology class or documentary on the subject. No, I learned this from the school they call life.
We grabbed our stuff and headed up front. You pay at the cash register at Poppy's.
The service was excellent, at every point, absolutely no criticisms here. The food was mostly excellent, just minor points, like some sauce for the fish and they might want to rethink the sauce on the pasta.
Angel was griping. Her plan for going for a light meal had been quickly spoiled by that potato. For me it was quite different. My life had been rejuvenated by it.
I highly recommend Poppy's. If I had to give up my lucrative restaurant reviewing gig, Poppy's would still find a solid place on my short list of  favorites.

Poppy's Ristorante on Urbanspoon

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