Gardens and green spaces are rarities in the heart of the metropolis, especially in a busy neighborhood such as Poblacion. This is probably why some restaurants, cafes, and bars make it a point to have more nature-themed touches, if only to provide a respite from the bustling grays of the concrete jungle. One such refuge is The Wild Poppy, a cozy restaurant located on Don Pedro Street. The greenery of the place’s outdoor sign and its fresh green-and-white interior makes it clear that this is a haven, a place to escape the frenetic lights and traffic of this part of the city.
We had the good fortune to drop in twice at The Wild Poppy: first for a quick bite to eat en route home from work, and then eventually for an actual dinner. On our first visit here, we tried out the “Flying Chicks”: chicken wings with hoisin sauce and topped with sesame seeds. The wings were juicy yet crispy, and the hoisin sauce’s sweetness was not too overwhelming on the tongue.
However, the real stars of that trip were the drinks: we had some milky matcha and fresh watermelon shake. The watermelon shake was particularly refreshing, with a perfect consistency that was neither overly coarse or overly mushy. Now with our appetites whetted, we resolved we would soon come back for a proper sit-down dinner wherein we could relish each bite of the food.
For our latest journey here for dinner a few nights ago, we agreed that we’d try another appetizer/starter as well as two entrees. Unfortunately for us, the entrées selection here was rather limited; the true measure of variety here was in the various drinks and tonics, especially the gin mixes we could not drink! After a long debate, we decided to start off with “Tofu and the Gang”: crispy sautéed tofu with Chinese sausage in sesame oil. As incongruous as this pairing seemed at first, it was actually quite a delight: the stronger flavors of the Chinese sausage were set off by the milder ones from the tofu, thus making a dish that would prime the appetite instead of satiating it entirely.
Most of the dishes on the menu happened to be on the spicy side, so Lee found that the only dish he could safely order was the “Hoi Belly! Rice Bowl”. This turned out to be a deliciously braised slab of pork belly served atop this restaurant’s signature fried rice. This rice bowl did more than just fill our bellies; the pork was practically melting in our mouths with each bite! Definitely this is one dish we recommend.
Lee’s “Goin Coco” drink had a soft approach to the palate. Initially we thought it would taste more like tea, but we found the coconut milk with notes of the taste of tea was very welcome, considering the richness of the pork belly rice bowl.
As for me, I was in a rather adventurous mood so I ordered the “Chicken Ren Damn Rice Bowl”: chicken rendang with cucumbers and spices on top of rice. I suspect that the profanity may have to do with diners’ reactions when taking a first bite of this very spicy dish. However once that initial shock was over, I realized that the chicken rendang was well balanced out by the coconut milk used in the sauce. The result? I consumed every bite without much trouble—and without draining the dalandan juice brew I had ordered on the side!
Had we been able to partake of the various gin concoctions offered at The Wild Poppy’s ample bar, we might have tarried way past dinnertime. After all, how often does one get to at least figuratively escape the city? We’d definitely consider this place for another quiet night out, when we need some breathing room in the middle of the urban hustle and bustle.
The Food Score: 4.5/5: Our one gripe here is that the food selections are rather limited, at least in comparison with the drinks selection. However we are definitely not disappointed with the dishes we’ve had here, thanks to the delicate balance of flavors in each and every bite.
Ambiance/Service Score: 4.5/5: This place is on the small side and can feel cramped on a busy night, however the laid back candlelit ambiance does a great deal to help one relax. The ample terrace is also a good place to sit and dine al fresco. The staff are very polite and accommodating, and service is reasonably fast here.
GERD Score: 3.5/5. Thankfully they have legends on the each food item if the selection is spicy, which unfortunately, makes for a harder choice when there are only two entrées safe for people dealing with heartburn. The portion size of the meal’s just right (at least for Lee) in terms of having a comfortable meal without feeling bloated after.
Epilepsy Score: 4/5: Diners who are sensitive to heavily seasoned foods or ingredients may need to eschew some starters and entrees. Of course, the preponderance of alcoholic drinks severely limits one’s choices in terms of liquid refreshment if one is taking medications that preclude drinking alcohol.
Team Glasses Score: 4/5. The Wild Poppy is really more of a place to gather with friends for a quiet night with drinks, but the food is definitely worth a visit on its own. We definitely recommend this place for a weeknight out.