Saturday, 1 August 2009

Binge – Lunch at Vanilla Pod

I seem to be meeting up with friends’ new husbands of late. Madam was invited to a lunch tasting at Vanilla Pod last week, hosted by my little friend’s newly acquired hubby who was representing the restaurant. Little friend J – who put together the wine list for the restaurant - was there, too, which made the company even better.

Hot and muggy outside, but it was lovely to while away the lazy hours in the air-conditioned restaurant, perched as it was on the edge of Mandai Orchid Garden. Yes, it was a long drive out there from my little warren in Siglap but well worth it. It is, after all, a destination restaurant – meaning you take the trouble to go all the way out there to the distant yonder just to eat there.

So was it worth it? Yes it was. But let me confess I have always liked Vanilla Pod since it started way back in the early 2000s. In the ensuing years when I had kinda stopped going, it apparently fell into a bit of a rut. Well, it has just relaunched itself with a new team helmed by Chef/Owner Peter Boon.

The restaurant itself is still a little higgledy-piggledy, like parts of it were added on as an afterthought. But it’s plate glass with lovely view of the orchids, greenery and open space makes up for it.

How was the food? Starters was a large crab cake which was packed a little too loosely, so everything kinda fell apart when put to the fork. Nothing incredible with the taste either – I’ll try something else next time. The mushroom soup was good, predictable but well done, so no complaints. Creamy, earthy, rich, mushroomy flavours – sometimes you just want something comfy and this was it. On to mains – the pan fried red snapper sounds like a bit of a bore, but it was surprisingly very good. Crisp skin, milky moist flesh and so flavourful, it was technically very well prepared and very enjoyable, with the rather off centre pairing of capers.

Chef Peter’s signature dish though was the pork knuckle ($25.50)– so good that it was literally sold out and he had saved the last piece for this tasting. Excellent! I’d drive there again – all 3000 miles – to have it for lunch. Crisp crackling with tender, soft, yielding pink flesh oozing gently with mellow, deliciously sublime porkiness. That’s why pigs are a favourite animal of mine. What will we do without swine? For dessert, I had the VPX ($6.80 and $2 for extra PX) a scoop of ice cream with an extra ‘life-giving’ dose of pedro ximinez, a gorgeous, unctuous, sweet Spanish fortified. Lovely!

I’ll definitely return ‘cos I think it’s perfect for a slow weekend lunch or dinner, either with family – lots of space for the kids to run in the garden – or for a girls night out. I am told that until end August, you can get the VPX for just $1 from 3pm – 5pm at the restaurant and café on weekdays. Every Thursday, a grouping of four ladies who order four main courses get a jug of sangria free! (Last notes – necessary to call ahead for the pork knuckle ‘cos it sells out fast.) - Ee Waun

200 Mandai Lake Road
Tel: 6368 0672

Watch out for my next review – The Lighthouse at Fullerton where I’ll be sharing a nice, top of the world kinda secret!


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