Published on December 28, 2007
The Vanilla group has made its name in Bangkok with its bistros in Siam Square, on Thonglor and at Siam Paragon. Most recently, Vanilla has been promoting Japanese and Chinese dishes at Vanilla Garden, which also boasts a bookstore, and, as its name indicates, lots of greenery.
The Garden is another brainchild of Visaka "Jom" Raiva, who has adapted the big space of this old Ekamai house into a hip hangout for those looking for a stylish night out, a leisurely lunch or an easygoing afternoon break from nearby offices.
We recently visited the compound's Chinese restaurant, Royal Vanilla, which serves an array of dim sum and other Chinese favourites. Jom is an avid food love and has a knack for design and creativity, as is reflected in Royal Vanilla's impressive interior.
The big old-style wooden panel doors of Royal Vanilla open up to an old-style cashier's corner decked out like a historic tea house. The main hue here is glossy black with round tables and old-style chairs on the upper deck and smaller tables, carved with Chinese patterns, and stools on the lower deck overlooking a small but wildly grown garden and a big electronic fountain.
The "menu" is a just a piece of paper with a list of what's offered. Diners simply tick the dishes they want to order and give the menu back to their server. On the menu are appetisers, dim sum, soups, rice and noodles dishes, drinks and desserts. The dishes are for the most part typical of Chinese found in Bangkok.
We ordered chilled bean curd with thousand-year egg (Bt60), which comes with crushed toasted peanuts on top of the usual soy sauce and chopped fresh spring onions. Though heavy in taste from the soy sauce, the flavour of the dish is lightened from sesame oil that blends well with the peanut and the eggs. Smooth and satisfying!
Our shrimp sue-mai (Bt50) and ha-gau (Bt70) dishes are served steaming hot in a bamboo basket. Each bite is packed with fresh and crunchy prawns with its flavour rich and heavy; we do not need to dip any into the provided sauces. Both dumplings are already salty enough for all of us.
We also tried custard dumplings (Bt50), a house specialty. The dumpling is yellow custard wrapped in clear flour skin. It is a new take on the normal custard bun with the chewy skin adding quite nicely to the sweetness of the custard.
Their sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf (Bt70) is big enough to share with three people. The rice is heavily flavoured with slices of Chinese sausages, shitake mushrooms, pork and a yolk of a salted egg. The garlic rice with crispy pork leg (Bt130) and egg noodles with baked chicken feet (Bt130) are equally nice, but a bit too salty.
Royal Vanilla has just brought in a special oven for their duck dishes - aromatic duck (Bt180) is delightful when you want a break from the usual Cantonese-style grilled duck. The braised duck dishes here are deep-fried; the meat and skin are pounded tender and shredded and served with fresh cucumber, white chives, baked flour sheet and a sweet thick soy sauce. Their deep-fried crabmeat balls (Bt120), rolled with herbs and served with heaps of crispy garlic topping is also good, for someone who likes fried stuff.
Vanilla's creativity lives on in the dessert menu, which includes a sweet and icy glass of black jelly, lotus seeds, sweet potato, sticky rice, and ruby dumplings with choices of clear or red syrups and coconut milk syrup. All of that will set you back just Bt50.
53 Soi Charoenchai
(Ekamai Soi 12)
(02) 381 6120, (02) 381 6122
Daily 11am to midnight
Sirin P Wongpanit
For more food reviews, go to www.ohsirin.blogspot.com.