Wine and dine at Vigneto gastro-bar

The open carpark within the commercial area in Taman Sutera Utama is a convenient spot to park my car before I walk the short distance to meet my friends for an introduction to the recently rebranded Vigneto Wine & Dine.

Cheers to Vigneto with our Apricot Jello Shots! 
It’s easy to spot Vigneto in the corner unit, designed with a welcoming arched doorway.

Coming in from the evening sun, I pause a few moments to let my eyes adjust to the subtle lighting within.

From the doorway, I can see the end of the short corridor just as our host, Edward Ng, is able to see me and he steps forward to warmly welcome me to his new venture here.

The corridor opens to the dining area with just a few tables, arranged in such a way to offer discreet privacy for a charming dining experience.

Arched doorway with a cool corridor
bordered by a wine cellar on its Left
and lounge seating area on its Right
But my eyes are riveted to an entire wall, dedicated to a long bar set up against a backdrop decorated with a dramatic display of bottles, while a bartender is mixing cocktails for guests who are trickling in to enjoy Happy Hours from 5pm to 7pm.

The cosy vibe within is enhanced by the throb of cool music and behind long, dark drapes, there are private alcoves furnished with lounge seats for guests to chill-out over drinks and snacks.

Opposite the bar, through the tinted floor-to-ceiling glass wall, I see more tables outside for the option to enjoy alfresco dining.

While Vigneto started in 2014 as a wine bar, Edward and his team aim to take this experience to the next level by introducing the gastro-bar concept where diners may enjoy pairing good wines with good food.

To achieve this, Vigneto is working in partnership with the culinary creativity of Chef Justin Christopher Yap, a young chef who is adding his personal touch to the Global Cuisine featured in their new menu.

The long bar designed along an entire wall in Vigneto
Chef Justin, a Malaysian who is one half of a pair of twins, tells me that his culinary interest was sparked while he worked part-time in his uncle’s Japanese restaurant in Bangsar.

This interest led him to New York where he pursued a Degree in Food Science and continued his culinary journey through travelling and working in Europe and South East Asia, particularly in Japan and Korea.

A closer look at Vigneto’s versatile menu has proof that his Malaysian-Chinese roots is a strong influence in his amazing creations among the exciting fusion of recipes that hint of Indian, Japanese, Korean and Italian inspirations.

I’m more than ready to sample a taste of Chef Justin’s cuisine when he serves us not one, but two Appetizers.

Testina is made with finely sliced rolled whole piglet served with sundried tomatoes and chili-lime dressing, while Yuba Parma is a salad that combines beancurd skin flakes with pickles, radish, mature aged Prosciutto di Parma with citrus-chili soy dressing.

The taste of sundried tomatoes (my favourite!) is a perfect foil for the slices of rolled piglet presented in Testina.

As for the Yuba Parma – I must admit that this is my first experience of tasting beancurd skin with Parma in a salad – is a rather chewy but tasty combination.

Mussel & Clam Brodo is kept warm at our table
With our appetites whet for more, our next experience are three Hot Tapas items.

A serving staff arranges a pot stand complete with a tea-light on the table, ready to light up (to keep the pot warm) when a copper pot of Mussel & Clam Brodo is served on it.

According to the menu, this dish of Asari Brown Clams and Black Lip Mussels tossed in rice wine and chili, will be served with Buttered Sourdough bread.

However, Chef Justin gives us a treat with a choice of three bread rolls – Sourdough, Kaiser and Focaccia – with a side of Nori Butter (for more oomph!), to soak up the natural goodness of the rich gravy while we savour the clams and mussels!

A serving of Masala Lamb Skewers
“Eat it while it’s still warm,” Chef Justin gently urges us but it’s quite impossible when the next item reaches our table: Masala Lamb Skewers.

We split the two loaded (with Masala Lamb) skewers among the four of us to enjoy the delightful taste of minced and marinated New Zealand lamb, charcoal grilled to perfection and served with side of yoghurt mint aioli.

As its name describes, the taste of this Masala Lamb just takes me back to India…

I ask a passing staff for a top-up of drinking water to clear my palate before I can do justice in properly tasting the next item presented at our table: Wagyu Sando.

My Wagyu Sando sandwich (just before I devoured it!)
Touted as the holy grail of steak sandwiches, Wagyu Sando has earned its place as Japan’s favourite comfort food and is now served at Vigneto.

Our Wagyu Sando is created with medium-cooked Premium A4 grade Wagyu Sirloin steak, sandwiched between buttered white toast which is spread with caramelized onion and burnt pepper aioli.

Quite unconsciously, I shut my eyes as I bite through the airy slices of bread to slowly savour every bit of the juicy meat within.

Mmm…a sigh of pleasure escapes as I lick my lips.

Parmigiana Guanciale Carbonara was
prepared and served beside our table
I open my eyes to the sight of a live-cooking station being set up beside our table.

A staff is assembling ingredients, complete with a whole wheel of 14-month aged Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese from Modena Italy, to prepare and serve our pasta dish: Parmigiana Guanciale Carbonara.

We watch as the staff tosses and twirls robust strands of traditional egg yolk pasta fettuccini within the cheese wheel with rendered bacon, sundried tomatoes, aged yolk and hollandaise sauce, before adding a splash of brandy and shredded cheese toppings.

I thoroughly enjoy the rich taste of this Pasta Carbonara and when my portion has been happily eaten, I must confess that I feel like Oliver – with a deep longing for “More!”

Aware that we are only halfway through our tasting, I keep this thought to myself as I prepare to taste the first of our Main course items: Butterfish Sanzai.

For non-meat eaters, Chef Justin recommends this fish dish created with a fillet of Miso Butterfish resting on a bed of Pomme (potato) puree with lots of roasted root vegetables and drizzled with clam and mussel Pomodoro.

A generous serving of Butterfish Sanzai
Every spoonful of the tender fillet of fish, drenched in the rich clam and mussel gravy, can be described as simply satisfying.

Finally, we are ready for the Ultimate Pork Chop.

This signature sous vide grilled pork chop is served in its bone, on a bed of Pomme puree with a side of bacon sauerkraut and a small jar of Tonkatsu Reduction sauce.

As I slowly savour the tender texture of a slice of pork chop drizzled in rich Tonkatsu sauce, I know that it is named Ultimate for good reason.

Chef Justin carving the Ultimate
Pork Chop for us at our table
Chef Justin is all smiles when he sees how the portions are being polished off the platter.

He then explains that the 500 grams of pork chop (without its bone) was marinated in brine for 24 hours and sous vide grilled for an hour before being served.

Happy that all the plates and bowls are leaving our table empty, Chef Justin goes to prepare his classic dessert for us – silky smooth Crème Caramel infused with tea fog.

With our stomachs satisfied, Edward invites us over to the bar to meet the friendly bartender and sample some of Vigneto’s signature cocktails.

With each sip of the delightful drinks, we can agree that the ideas and ingredients that go into the making of cocktails here like Elderflower Mist, Sweet Talk, Rumming Man and Apricot Jello Shot, are rather unique.

Over the agreeable taste of smooth and silky Crème Caramel, we raise our glasses of Apricot Jello Shots, to toast Edward and his team with warm appreciation for all that they are doing to pair good quality food with good wines in this gastro-bar.

Classic silky smooth Creme Caramel infused with tea fog
The experienced team behind Vigneto Wine & Dine belongs to The Merk Group which also operates established brands like the Faculty of Caffeine, Replacement Lodge & Kitchen, Shakespeare Milkshakes and Tropique.

Vigneto Wine & Dine [Non-Halal] is 106, Jalan Sutera Tanjung 8/3, Taman Sutera Utama, 81300 Skudai, Johor.

Open every day from 5pm to 1am.

For reservations, Tel: + 607 – 562 4488 or +6017 – 657 9235.

For promotions and updates, check out Facebook: @vigneto.jb