A new dinner and drinks place in Quezon City co-owned by fashion designer JC Buendia is now serving up couture cocktails and Cajun-Creole inspired food. Barely one week old, Poppins Gastrobar has already attracted a sizable dinner crowd even without any announcements, save for their few Facebook and Instagram posts.
Something's a-poppin': Poppins is now open
"We were afraid to make a big annoucement, since we're still very new," JC shares over our dinner last night. Understandably so, as a new restaurant announcement may overwhelm their establishment, which seats under one hundred inside, with a couple of tables outdoors. The interiors are simple and elegant, with different kinds of pretty chandeliers hung from the ceiling as their main decor. A white wall curves upward, with a collage of picture frame moldings adding some charm. There is still a lot of breathing room for future decor, and JC tells me that mirrors will be placed on the wall very soon.
For now, Poppins is the only establishment open at the new commercial complex right across Il Terrazo in Tomas Morato. "Soon there will be a cafe right across us," the designer says. The gastrobar will be open to the public on Saturday (as this Friday evening is reserved for their Supermoon opening night, a private event), serving dinner and drinks from 6pm until late night. On their menu are Cajun-Creole inspired food with touches of Caribbean and Mexican, the food selection conceptualized with Chef Aiz Anog. Think New Orleans comfort food enjoyed in a loungey, chic restaurant.
Poppin's Chiquee Poppers
To kickstart our evening, we ordered a couple of poppers. First is a plate of Poppin's Chiquee Poppers (P300) , six pieces of chicken croquettes with Jalapeno and bacon. Cutting one popper in half reveals its gooey mozzarella center. Slightly spicy but balanced with just a squeeze of the lemon wedge, these compact and meaty croquettes were a delight to pop on the mouth. Add some tangy sweetness with sun-dried tomato jam served with this appetizer.
Next to pop into our mouths is the Poppin's Loco Coco Shrimp (P250). What's not to like about crisp, breaded shrimps? Poppins does their version with a little Caribbean twist by serving them with a tropical island salsa made with mangoes, and an addicting cajun tartar sauce. Ask for free refills of the sauce, as they are always willing to accommodate.
Poppin's Loco Coco Shrimp
The Poppins version of the Jambalaya (P300) is a pleasant one. The rice dish with a medley of shrimp, chicken, and sausage was surprisingly light, with rice grains more fluffly rather than sticky.
Served "N'awlins" style, the Jambalaya is good for two (or one, with a mean appetite), and my tastebuds find every spoonful with a sprinkling of lemon juice was the way to experience it best.
I discover over dinner that Poppins is pretty consistent with their rice at this early stage of its operations. Our Blackened Chicken (P280) is served with buttered rice as fluffy and addicting as the Jambalaya that I decided to indulge in more carbs than I usually allow myself to for that evening. The chicken, tender and moist, is topped with grilled carrots and asparagus. Remember that cajun sauce from the shrimp poppers? Order more of that good stuff to dip your chicken slices into for added flavor. Though I must say that the chicken itself is flavorful on its own, its skin laced with a delicious lemon pepper mix.
The pescetarian counterpart of the previous dish is definitely the Pesto and Walnut Crusted Salmon (P325), with its similar plating, rice pilaf, and green veggies.
Pesto and Walnut Crusted Salmon
Another favorite on our table that evening, the crusted salmon is baked till soft and moist on the inside, its crisp skin so tasty. It comes with this honey grapefruit glaze that you can choose to drizzle on your rice or onto the fish meat, but I still prefer a squeeze of lemon juice here and there–which is why I appreciate that all of our orders had a lemon wedge served with them!).
Poppins' Surf & Turf
If you can't decide which form of protein to partake for dinner, then order Poppins' Surf & Turf (P400) and you will get a generous serving of organic Australian rib eye (fatter than a fist) and cajun shrimps.
The beef is chunky, browned outside and perfectly pink inside–it's served medium by default if you do not specify its doneness. The seafood is a handful, with a sweet glaze, enjoyable as it is although cajun tartar sauce is served with it. The lightly spiced sweet potato wedges on the side were so addicting, I wonder if they have it available a la carte.
To go with our food orders, we have ourselves a trio of mixed drinks, which Poppins label as Couture Cocktails. They currently have thirteen cocktails listed on their menu, each drink named after a person who is part of the Poppins Gastrobar family. If JC were a drink, he says, he would be a lychee martini, and the Poppins version of this classic cocktail is ready for your tasting. The JC Martini (P150) combines vodka and lychee, and interestingly, some lavender syrup!
A Trio of Couture Cocktails: Paolo's Watermelon Cooler, Big Paul Apple, and Noy Sipper
A couple of ladies in my table ordered Noy Sipper (P140), a mix of gin, fresh ginger and fresh rosemary, swirled with lavender and rose syrup; and Big Paul Apple (P120), a mocktail made with fresh apple and lime. My drink of choice was Paolo's Watermelon Cooler (P120), which is a fruity and light mix of gin, fresh watermelon, and basil.
Paolo's Watermelon Cooler
Before ending our dinner, I asked JC why the restaurant is named so. "Is it for Mary Poppins?" I wondered, as touches of whimsy and charm inside the restaurant remind me of the Julie Andrews film. Turns out I was pretty accurate, and JC also reveals that he is fondly called 'Poppins' by his close friends and colleagues because of his cheery disposition (he really is a Poppins, he is such an endearing person!). And this positive vibe is also what they aim for patrons to experience at the gastrobar: that feel-at-home, happy place where you can kick back and enjoy a drink or two with your dinner.
Poppins Gastrobar will be closed on the evening of June 21, Friday, for their private Supermoon opening night. They will be open for dinner and drinks 6pm till late night starting Saturday, June 22. Cash transactions only. Like Poppins on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Poppins) and follow them on Instagram (ilovepoppins).