The arrival of Poppy Den marks something of a watershed moment for the local food scene. It’s not uncommon for a prominent chef to escape to the ’burbs from a marquee Strip restaurant—evacuees include Fat Choy’s Sheridan Su, Bratalian’s Carla Pellegrino and Michael Jordan of the late but never forgotten Rosemary’s. But it’s a rarity to find one off the Strip without first having spent time under its neon lights.
- POPPY DEN
- Tivoli Village, 802-2480.
- Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday, 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
Top Chef alum Angelo Sosa opened his first Poppy Den not in Alphabet City, Soho or Williamsburg, but right here at Tivoli Village. It will soon be joined by a NYC counterpart, and though that rare Vegas export won’t exactly be homegrown, we can lay claim to it anyway. Where Sosa opened would be immaterial if the restaurant wasn’t any good, but for the most part, it is—better than most nearby Summerlin choices, which, even with the recent opening of Honey Salt, are still dominated by corporate chains. In that light, Poppy Den is a welcome addition.
So, what to order? People are raving about Amma’s homemade tomato soup ($7), but I find it overly sweet (no offense to Amma). I prefer the Caesar salad with yuzu dressing ($8), which features smoked whitefish in place of anchovies.
The general’s chicken wing ($9) is Sosa’s take on classic General Tso’s chicken, with gochujang (Korean chili paste) to add heat and sweetness to the heavily breaded poultry. Better are the tuna deviled eggs ($12), deviled in the loosest sense of the word. The dish can be a bit salty in spots, but it’s well conceived and playful, with chopped eggs balancing, not overwhelming, the tuna tartare. And I can’t wait till summer to reorder the watermelon salad with goat cheese ($9), which tastes great during watermelon season.
An eclectic menu served on mismatched plates mimics the shabby-chic décor, as if you were doing Sunday dinner with your hipster Asian grandma. The actual poppy garden patio awaits warmer weather and should be a highlight, where the see-and-be-seen crowd can descend upon that watermelon salad. Sosa has a short window to enjoy his sole Tivoli celeb chef status, with Bradley Ogden due to arrive across the cobblestone street. Quite an interesting turn of events for the sleepy suburban dining scene—and one for which I’m grateful.