Date Night Dining: Thai-Western Fusion at Vanilla Rockbund

The new pop-up menu

by Michaela Fulton | Thu, December 07, 2017

“The fondest of memories are made when gathered around the table” and Vanilla Rockbund is no exception when it comes to a memorable date night with their new pop-up menu.

The space

Vanilla Bar

You’ll be greeted by the sweet scent of vanilla the moment you step through its transparent doors, into a venue of minimalist decor. The entrance is made bright by LED signage encouraging you to “live life with a little vanilla.” Industrial-chic interiors fill the space of this lower ground venue, with neutral colours of brown, grey and bronze decorating small accents throughout curiously placed furniture exhibited in glass containers – though we were unsure of their significance. Despite being on the doorstep of The Bund, you won’t find impressive skyscraper views here, but an expansive menu boasting thai-fusion flavors. 

The food

Vanilla Oysters

Whilst not one to actively choose oysters, we started with a half-dozen serving of Kumamoto Oysters (¥298), dressed in a Thai chilis and citrus sauce. These Eastern Pacific oysters originate from the Kumamoto Prefecture, Kyushu, Japan, and were delicately arranged on a plate brimming with dry ice. Deep-cupped and filled with petite meats, the dressing was a combination of chili, garlic, coriander roots, lemon juice and palm sugar that gave the succulent meat a fresh balance of salty, sweet and sour Thai flavours that we were pleasantly surprised by.

Vanilla Tartare

Next, we tried the Tuna Tartare (¥108). A light-bite consisting of five layers of natural, raw ingredients that was plated with:

  • First layer: potato chips. These were super crunchy and added a nice contrasting texture to the soft tartare underneath.
  • Second layer: a mixture of avocado and sour cream.
  • Third layer: fresh tuna, dice and mixed with shallots, honey, and a Thai chili sauce.
  • Fourth layer: diced and ripped mango, with a touch of mustard to really enhance the flavor.
  • Final layer: some more avocado, diced and mixed with lime and coriander roots.

The result was a light seasoned dish that we couldn't get enough of and a decent enough size for two to share if opting for other dishes alongside it, like the oysters.

Vanilla Seared Salmon

A seared salmon with Vanilla's own Thai salsa verde (¥168) made an appearance during our night too, bridging the gap between starters and main meals – though we were already becoming quite full. Whilst the salsa verde was a pungeant combination made with cucumber, chili, lime, capers, parsely and anchovies that combines nicely with the seared salmon, we didn't find it an overtly outstanding dish when compared to other items on the menu. 

Vanilla Ocean Volcano

Following the salmon, came an explosion of flavors with the "Ocean Volcano" (¥198) – a hearty serving of a spicy seafood soup served in a hot pot. Fresh herbs, such as basil, were clearly present in the dish, seasoning the fresh seafood – which ranges from clams and baby octopus to prawns – beneath the surface of the bubbling soup. With a bowl of soothing lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime broth and topped with a sauce originating from southern Thailand there was tremendous flavor with each mouthful. However, one of us with the weaker stomach couldn't quite handle the level of spice involved – it had quite a powerful kick to it. So perhaps have a cooling glass of milk nearby, just in case the heat takes you by surprise. This bowl of soup is extremely generous in size and perfectly suitable for two people to share if not over-indulging on more food later . . . like we did.

Vanilla Octopus Risotto

Finally, what is quite possible one of our favorite dishes of the night, came the main dish of grilled and marinated baby octopus tentacles with a squid ink risotto (¥168). Cooked with wine, onion and garlic, the flavor of the risotto was balanced perfectly and well-seasoned with salt and cheese towards the end of it's cooking process. It held a thick and creamy consistency that we could only dream of recreating ourselves at home, whilst the baby octopus had a great bite too it without being too tough and chewy.

The verdict

You'll be paying premium prices at Vanilla Rockbund, but what you get is a decent meal of generous portions, fantastically memorable flavors, and great quality. With it's minimalist design venue and pop-up menu, it's a great location for treating a loved one to a special meal before or after a romantic stroll by The Bund. What's more, if you act quick, and follow their WeChat: VanillaRestaurant, you'll be entitled to a free BBQ set and Champagne cocktail at 50% off.

Good to know

Address: Vanilla Rockbund, 130 Beijing Dong Lu, near Huqiu Lu

北京东路130号

Opening hours: 11am-10pm