Step inside this café/bar hideaway on the backstreets of Shenton Way and you are fittingly enveloped in the subtle scent of the vanilla pod. Opened back in December, Vanilla serves modern Japanese favourites forged with a European edge.
Vanilla Bar and Cafe
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When I first saw their specialty dessert online, I was looking forward to visit the café. Where else can you find dessert served in a flower pot?
So, me and a friend visited vanilla bar and café on a Saturday evening and was glad that the place weren’t crowded. It wasn’t as lavish as I thought it would be and the fact that they serve Japanese dishes with a European touch was pretty shocking to me as well. There was nothing Japanese about it.
I ordered their breakfast set and a plate of aglio-style mushroom pasta. Their big breakfast looked really instant and tasted average with the saving grace coming from their salad sides. I love their pasta though. They come with a tinge of fragrance coupled with perfectly cooked pasta, which was blended really well with the mushrooms - totally savoury. Oh, and I love their coffee! It looked really simple with no fanciful decor but they definitely don’t lose out in taste as compared to artisan coffees.
Finally my long awaited flowerpot came! It was as beautiful as I imagined, with Oreo bits replacing “soil”, topped with gummy bear and a beautiful flower. I was disappointed with the taste though, because it feels just like normal ice cream and I couldn’t taste the cake in it. But well, I came for the creativity and not the taste, so it was well worth it.
I've been looking forward to try this place for quite a while, especially after my prof invited its pretty pretty owner for a talk during one of our Marketing classes. You can smell the soft vanilla scent the moment you step into the place, and it was a comforting and mild one. You grow used to the smell after like 10 seconds though and don't smell it anymore, lol.
Anyway. Because my friend has been here before and didn't speak too positively about their pastas, I decided to try something else. Settled for their Slow Cooked Pulled Pork Sandwich! Their picture of a panini sandwich got me hooked immediately, so to say. Paninis over ciabatta or sourdough, anytime. It was a wholesome sandwich with a flavorful pulled pork - nothing to complain about, really. A satisfying lunch! I'm not too sure what marinate they used, but it was just a tad tad too salty (tomato base, maybe?) actually. Still great overall, reminds me of something my grandmothers would have cooked for us.
My friend got a smoked salmon egg mayo sandwich, which looked equally appetizing. It was pretty good too according to her!
Verdict: Panini sandwiches over Pasta!
Located in the quaint area of Tanjong Pagar, Vanilla Café seems like an ideal spot to chill out on a weekday afternoon. It was just the 2 of us in the small cafe that day. Frankly speaking, the vanilla scented interior did not do it for me.
Too bad they did not offer the traditional Breakfast that afternoon! I settled with a crème pesto with chicken breast meat and had a minor shock when I realized that the entire dish was green. I do not have a good experience with green coloured food and it is sad to say that I did not enjoy the dish at all — the taste did not agree with my taste buds in the least bit. My friend’s salmon dish was all right, though I found it slightly overpriced for the portion.
Service is personable, perhaps due to the fact that we were the only customers in the café.
My experience at Vanilla Bar & Cafe was wonderful. I always love the architecture of shop houses as they appear to be one of a kind.
My friend and I arrived at about 4pm on a weekday and the cafe was empty. Menus presented were very pretty and easy to read. We decided to share 2 main course and a dessert. My friend recommended the Slow Pulled Pork Sandwich ($12.80) as she had seen good online reviews of it. I decided to get the Shiitake Mushroom and Bacon Pasta ($14.80) after I confirmed with the waitress that it is oil-based. For dessert, we went with the Vanilla Dirt Cake ($6.80) which my friend promised it would be a surprise. (Please note that prices are estimates)
The Shiitake Mushroom and Bacon Pasta is simply delightful. When the waitress arrived with this particular dish, I could not help but notice the fragrant aroma wafting from the pasta. It really worked up our appetites! The first bite was such a pleasant surprise because I did not hold much expectation for this dish. Personally, I love oil-based pastas like aglio olio and this dish was really well done.
On the other hand, I was rather disappointed by the Slow Pulled Pork Sandwich. The pork filling is rather wet and its taste is not appealing to me. My friend and I were more keen in the pasta. In the end, we ended up ordering another plate of the Shiitake Mushroom and Bacon Pasta as we felt like we did not have enough since we shared one plate! The poor sandwich was neglected.
Another pleasant surprise was the Vanilla Dirt Cake. It was served in a flower pot with a fake flower as decoration. There were even gummy worms to act like earthworms in the soil! An interesting dish that I had not seen before in Singapore. The Vanilla Dirt Cake was chilled with chocolate bits on top and I really enjoyed it. I would have given the food 5 stars but the sandwich brought down the score.
I really love the decoration of the cafe. There was a huge vintage bookshelf with items like manga, tin cans, robots and miscellaneous items like ketchup bottles and empty glasses. I had fun admiring the set up. I would have given the ambience 5 stars but halfway through our meal, more customers streamed in and the cafe became really noisy as conversations echoed around us.
I would patronise this cafe again and bring my friends along to hang out. I imagine this place to be great for dates too. Couples can have fun sharing the Vanilla Dirt Cake. Do not attempt to share the main course if you order the Shiitake Mushroom Pasta! You will end up getting another plate.
A friend working part-time at Vanilla introduced me to this café-restaurant. The menu here is Japanese main courses, with Western everything-else.
The smoked salmon and slow cooked pulled-pork sandwiches were recommended for the mains. I don't take egg mayo (in the salmon sandwich) so I got the pulled-pork, which was excellent - a not overly sweet mix of onion and pork shreds. This is from someone who doesn't usually take onion! My friends who took the salmon said it was very good too.
I've had the Pork Katsu don before as well, but that's just OK. You can probably make something of the same quality at home yourself.
For dessert, the lava cake is a safe choice. The cake is wonderfully moist and when you cut it open, the chocolate actually flows out! In many other restaurants the chocolate filling sometimes don't do that.
The service staff here are very friendly and are more than happy to suggest dishes to you. They are also receptive to feedback. The food here is not top-notch, but together with the service, it's good enough for me to drop in if I'm in the area.