I'm going to be biased in my review of Gram Cafe & Pancakes because I've been to Tokyo for soufflé pancakes and they were a far cry from what I had at Gram at The Amazing Brentwood. I'll do my best to go into detail what my expectations were versus what was served but overall, the tiramisu pancake from Gram is not something to write home about based on my experience through the menu and the serving.
Food and Drink:
Team Tastic came here for a Saturday dessert run and I had a great taste of the following:
- Brown Sugar Fresh Pearl Milk ($5.75)
- Tiramisu Pancake Upgraded to 3 Premium Pancakes ($16+4)
The brown sugar fresh pearl milk was a treat. Using fresh milk means result is a drink that had a deeper milky concentration of flavour and at $5.75 is very competitive with traditional bubble tea shops. You wouldn't see brown sugar at a Gram in Japan but it's cool to see one here! The pearls were on the harder side – certainly stiffer than what you'd get at Xin Fu Tang but if you like them extra al dente, these are the pearls for you.
On the tiramisu pancake, this is where things got really suspicious. It was $4 to get the "premium" version of this item with 3 pancakes, otherwise if you don't specify you get just two pancakes which differs from the pictures on the menu showing standard pancakes. Confusing, right? But details are nowhere to be found on the menu. In addition, this pancake is served cold! Who goes to a restaurant for cold pancakes? Again, not a detail that was mentioned on the menu.
Also really suspicious is that this pancake came out within 20 minutes of ordering despite the menu stating that these pancakes take up to 30 minutes. Our server said the premium pancakes are made fresh to order, but the "tiramisu pancake" is served cold. That makes zero sense. You can't cook a pancake that you have a specific warning about cooking time for fresh and cool it in the span of 20 minutes. There is some mixed messaging on Gram's tiramisu pancake and I really don't like having to find out about it the hard way.
On the actual flavour, this was a mascarpone and chocolate pancake more than it was a tiramisu pancake. Though there was espresso powder, it was pretty weak in flavour and because it's only sprinkled on top, it's not distributed evenly throughout the pancake. And because this is served cold, the "premium" pancakes are not at all fluffy – in fact they're rather dense, even if they still cleave with a fork. If you look at another tiramisu soufflé pancake I've had in Tokyo, you'll understand these soufflé pancakes are meant to be fluffy and warm.
Overall, I think you'll have a better time at Fufú Cafe even though my visit there was a blog tasting and not one I paid for. I'm confident in this assertion.
Gram Cafe takes up residence in The Amazing Brentwood and is a small little shop with lots of deep green and gold accents filling its colour palette. It's quite elegant and I like that the windows let in tons of natural light into the already bright space. There is seating for about 40 guests and there is even a little takeout counter if you just want to grab some cold premium pancakes to go. The vibe inside is quite bustle and it makes sense because everything at Gram is a sugar high waiting to be experienced.
On the menu design, there is only one page (the front page), advertising the premium pancakes. One page! It's really easy to jump to the pages of "regular" pancakes and think that's the signature Japanese style of pancake but that is false information. Unfortunately, the menu also makes zero mention that you can "upgrade" your regular pancakes into premium pancakes to get the real soufflé pancake experience. This lack of direction makes me whether it's the product that's being advertised to Vancouverites or the brand.
Servie for the most part was pretty good at Gram and I'm surprised because there's only one server for the entire floor. There is help in serving the plates out but somehow they make do with resources on the restaurant floor. We didn't have a problem getting a table at 6pm on a Saturday but it was definitely a full house throughout our stay. The food was quite prompt which normally is a great thing but as noted above in the tiramisu pancake, I don't think it's made fresh, I don't like that they chill the tiramisu pancakes, and I don't like that the menu communicates none of this key information prior to your order and neither did our server if this is truly a unique circumstance for the tiramisu pancake.
Here's another thought. Because the "Now hiring" sign outside lists a Gmail address, it feels like this business is really a random entrepreneur using the Gram brand to franchise out the business and is not "officially" Gram building the cafe. My expectations could be set way too high but I think headquarters from Tokyo would be a little sad if they came here for an experience.
One-liner: A truly international treasure that did not set expectations for my go with tiramisu pancakes correctly and left me scratching my head about the experience as I exited the cafe
Highlight: Brown Sugar Fresh Pearl Milk
Price per person: $17-$30
Would I go back? No.