Sutter Park lands an instant classic
By Greg Sabin
Poppy by Mama Kim is a new restaurant in a new neighborhood serving new American food. The small dining room and patio overlooking Sutter Park may be humble, but the food is some of the best I’ve had this year.
Sutter Park might not be familiar to some readers. Cut from the footprint of the demolished Sutter Memorial Hospital in East Sacramento, the neighborhood comprises several blocks centered on 53rd and E streets. The new community features a variety of homes, apartments, retail and a spacious central park.
Now let’s talk about Mama Kim. Owner and chef Kim Scott helmed a local food truck, catering company and restaurant in the past decade. Her previous spot, Mama Kim Eats on Del Paso Boulevard, closed in 2018. Wherever she goes, she wins fans and accolades.
But even a skilled chef and dedicated staff face challenges in a pandemic. Personnel shortages continue to force restaurant owners to cut hours and turn away business.
I won’t lie. Mama Kim’s new restaurant is not unaffected by the state of affairs. As I write, Poppy is open Wednesday through Friday for dinner and Saturday for brunch. Service is friendly but in short supply, which leads to inconsistencies.
But when all cylinders fire at Poppy, the food is as good as any restaurant in town. Compared to the best greasy spoons or local Michelin honorees, Mama Kim more than holds her own.
Consider a bowl of summer corn soup. By the time you read this, it probably won’t be on the menu, which is a study in seasonal cooking. But I need to tell you about the soup anyway.
I ordered summer corn soup with middling expectations. It was my first visit, and I had been disappointed by quite a few restaurant meals in recent months. With low expectations, I received and savored a fabulous dish.
Erupting with sweet corn, topped with an avocado crème fraiche, fluffed through with a frothy, velvety consistency, this dish crushed it. Sure, it was served in a comically oversized bowl that made the small portion seem even more petite. But the visuals didn’t detract once that concentrated bite of late summer settled on my tongue.
I followed with an order of lamb sliders—a good choice. The dish matches white-tablecloth execution with burger joint flavors. A creole relish melds beautifully with a goat Gouda and grain mustard sauce to top the ridiculously well-seasoned lamb patty. The house-made sweet potato chips on the side are perfect, shatteringly crispy and light as a daydream.
The rest of the menu is just as eclectic, bouncing from Southwestern flavors to Japanese ingredients, homey baked goods to Greek favorites. At first glance it seems overambitious or maybe even ill conceived. Yet it works.
If checking out the newest place is your thing, or if you’re a fan of delicious flavors, Poppy by Mama Kim beckons. Or, like my father-in-law, you’re a fan in urban infill development projects, swing by Sutter Park and take a look around. It’s a lovely corner of our town.