A dinner at Vanilla Dive is kind of like a magical journey. Like a “We’re going on an adventure, Charlie” sort of thing. It’s kind of weird, but pretty awesome, and the weirdness only makes it more awesome. I’ve only been here twice (the first time was over a year ago, and honestly I’ve forgotten what I got then–I remember some sort of Vietnamese-style soup and a pizza), but both times are pretty memorable all-in-all.
Personally, the food is pretty good, but it’s the atmosphere that makes it the journey it is. It’s pretty darn fashionable (and huge, so very popular with weddings), and they have some cool private booths as well as a patio (although I don’t know if you can ever eat outside..?) separated by an in-house creek and stepping stones.
One of my favorite quirks is the writing on the wall outside near the patio. I didn’t manage to take a picture of it (you can find one here), but it reads:
How do you feel about “the sweet moods of Asia”?
Japan is part of Asia.
Japan must be together with Asian countries.
Why don’t you take pride in Asia and Japan?
Why don’t you love them?
At first be proud of your sweet heart and kissher(*?)
They also have a huge TV screen, which was playing MTV when I was there last, and they also tend to play some of the top US hits music-wise. So much for taking pride in Asia.
Otherwise I kind of sucked taking pictures of the interior, so if you want to see cooler pictures, here’s the Google.
Anywho, if you order the right things, the food can be pretty amazing. Order the wrong things, and it’s just okay, but nothing to write home (or too much details in a blog) about. Going here for a course might be a good idea so you can try a bunch of different things, but alas, so far I have not been cool enough to do so, and have always had to order everything individually.
First they serve you the otooshi, which is a savory pumpkin cream sort of thing. I really don’t know how to describe it, but it’s pretty good. As per my usual otooshi whining, still not worth ￥300 for the tiny, un-ordered glass, but decent.
Next came our egg-white omelet thing, topped with olive oil, prosciutto, and with a side of asparagus and mushrooms. Not bad, but I’m glad I shared it, because it’s a lot of overly-fluffy egg for one person. And I really don’t like prosciutto.
We ordered fried fish topped with mozzarella, tomato, basil, and balsamic vinegar. It was really good, but super tiny–just a couple bites each. With a place like this, you really have no idea what size you’ll get things.
We also got pasta swimming in an olive oil blend and topped with broccoli, tomatoes, and more prosciutto, as well as a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. This was a bulls-eye–even though I don’t like prosciutto, the pasta tasted super fresh, and the sauce was delicate and delicious. Portion-wise, it would be enough for one person, but also not too bad split.
Finally, we couldn’t leave without getting dessert. They have a variety of different “toasts,” and we settled on the chestnut caramel (something I normally wouldn’t hone in on, but I wanted to try something different). This was also an excellent choice–every flavor worked together perfectly.
Vanilla Dive is just a magical journey. It’s an adventure. It’s weird and quirky and tasty and I love it. If I had to choose any place in Utsunomiya to be my spirit restaurant, this might be it (maybe only second to the pirate bar though). They will also give you a free champagne tower if you come for your wedding after-party with the Hot Pepper coupon, so, if anyone wants to invite me to a wedding here, I’ll gladly accept. Just saying.