Spoiler alert: just like Town Square, Tivoli Village doesn’t have any good places to dine. In fact, Tivoli might be one of the larger development failures in recent years in Las Vegas. I found nothing good at Bottles & Burgers which recently closed, and I don’t think anyone in town could tell you the name of another restaurant there. Now we welcome Poppy Den, the latest restaurant to open in this cursed shopping area. This place is brought to us by Chef Angelo Sosa from Top Chef D.C. and Top Chef All Stars which really means nothing to me as I don’t watch any of those. Still, with those credentials it promised maybe something good. Right?
After waiting over 20 minutes for our table to be ready even with a reservation, we were seated directly next to the bathrooms which made for a high traffic, slightly annoying location. The booths are incredibly awkward; they fit 3 people comfortably, but for a party of 4 they’re forced to place a chair outside of it in the circulation area. The space is also incredibly loud as there are no soft surfaces anywhere, so if you’re there on a Friday or Saturday night for dinner, be prepared to shout. There’s a bar at the front that seats maybe 10 people, those crappy booths along the left side, and a bunch of loose tables filling the rest of the space. There’s some sort of upstairs area that wasn’t opened yet at the time of my visit, not sure what it’ll be and I didn’t ask.
The menu is loaded with all sorts of Asian-inspired dishes that I won’t bother duplicating here. I love Asian food, and a lot of the items sound great, but I may or may not be back to try some of them. The Poppy Burger that I came for is based on his Bibimbap Burger which was voted the Greatest Burger in America by Eater in 2011 you can read more about it here.
First we ordered two appetizers in addition to our main course; oddly neither dish was served with a serving spoon although they both needed one, making for a slightly awkward dining experience if your table of friends isn’t all that close or friendly. The ahi tuna and deviled eggs were ok, nothing special, and same goes for the pork dumplings. I wouldn’t order either again, and don’t know if I would order any of their other apps based on these.
I was hoping that the burger which was based on something with such an acclaimed title would represent a little more. The four of us ordered almost identical burgers, but what came out were four distinctly different burgers. First of all, look at the insane amount of lettuce that was placed in my girlfriend’s burger, I have no idea why any chef thought this looked ok enough to send out. Two of our burgers were ordered medium rare and two of them medium, yet none of them looked similar to each other and my unevenly cooked medium-rare burger was cooked a bit more than that in spots. This was a great way to test the restaurant’s consistency, which in this case was a total failure. Also, if you clicked on that link above to see the original burger this is based on, this one looks nothing like it.
As for my burger, the meat to bun ratio was completely off as there was way too much bun. The bun was grilled and actually very tasty with great sesame flavor, but was way too big and fell apart. The meat had ok flavor, but nothing great. It was charred well on the outside but that char didn’t really have standout flavor. The pickles had really good flavor, but the egg and sriracha weren’t that noticeable. This was incredibly messy, and the plate they give you is completely flat and makes for a very risky meal. Napkins had to be put in place as a dam to stop juices and sauce from spreading onto the table and eventually us. Overall this burger was a total failure in general, and ten-fold if you know what it’s based on or compare it to other Asian themed burgers I often speak highly about. After about three bites I actually spoke out a simple “nope” in a response to no one’s question at the table.
The fries looked and tasted almost like McDonald’s upon first bite. They didn’t have great flavor, but were cooked ok. The salts and whatever seasonings on it were present but not all that noticeable. The kimcheese sauce was gritty, flavorless and not really that great either, and I longed for ketchup most of the time. If you do like this kimcheese sauce when it comes out, eat it quickly because as it cools it becomes really gritty and nasty.
Between the less than stellar appetizers, and absolute failure of a burger, I can’t say I’ll make my way back here to try anything else. I love Asian food, and the menu certainly has plenty of great sounding items that would normally bring me back, but not in this case. The burger with fries is $13, which would possibly be acceptable if this was good. Our meal for four with a couple drinks, two appetizers and four burgers came to $120, which is way too much for how unhappy I was walking out. While the restaurant was very full the night we were there, I fully chalk that up to the fact that it’s a brand new ‘hot’ place, and don’t expect the lack of draw that Tivoli has to bring anyone to it, just like the rest of the places there. If Chef Sosa truly wants to make a great Asian themed burger, he should go down the street to Bachi and take notes on the proper size of a bun, how to form a patty, and how to apply your toppings. Until then, don’t bother coming here.