A visit here is a test in patience more than anything else.
There. I’ve finally gotten the chance to eat at VCR Stacks in Mont Kiara so now I’ll never have to do it again. This hip little cafe chain with beloved coffee and sandwiches has opened their third location at the Shoplex Plaza in Mont Kiara. Much about this place is an enigma to me, from its bizarre name (I get “stacks” but why “VCR”?) to the monk-like patience of the guests that are willing to wait for ages just to eat here.
The queue for such a small place is insane. We thought we could beat the crowd by coming here on a weekday but there was still a packed house with at least three tables ahead of us on the waiting list. Where the fuck did all of these people come from at 11 am on a Wednesday? Were all of them “working from home”? Today we had to wait 30 minutes for a table for two. On a weekend, I imagine the wait time is double that. Do not come here if you are already hungry or in a bad mood!
Ambience & Amenities
Inside has a very clean look with light wood and a black and white colour scheme. This compact space can only accommodate 6 to 8 tables with social distancing. Bench seating runs across one wall and a couple of tables with stools will be in the middle. Two more small groups (1 to 2 people) can be seated at the bar table in front of the window looking out onto the parking lot.
There is a patio at VCR Stacks, but this looks like an unpleasant place to eat. There are two spots meant for singles across from the doors. The circular tables at these spots are so tiny that if you order a sandwich, the staff will have to provide a stool to put your water on. A couple of regular-sized tables will be set up in front of the windows. Those at the tables at the right window will be sitting under the full gaze of diners at the high bar table inside. Whichever table you manage to get on the patio, you’ll constantly have to deal with crowds of queuers hovering so closely that they’ll feel like they’re up your anus.
VCR Stacks, like all the other tenants at Shoplex, does not have its own washroom. Guests will have to use the public Shoplex toilet. Exit the cafe, walk past Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and turn left into a simple entrance. The toilet will be on your right.
Plastered outside on the glass doors and pillars are QR codes that allow you to view the menu on your phone. You’re going to be waiting for a long time anyway, so use this time to browse the menu and research exotic ingredients. These QR codes will also be on the table once you finally sit down. There is also a small physical menu at the counter which will be more specific on the availability of certain items. For example, during our visit, all but the regular kombucha under the “Ferments” section was crossed out.
The menu is only two pages, one page for food and one page for beverages. VCR Stacks has a few breakfast options but their big draw is their sandwiches or “stacks.” The food is halal. The usual cafe beverages are here, but unconventionally VCR also has craft beers from around the world. Filtered water is free. A large bottle and the appropriate number of glasses should be brought to your table shortly after you sit down.
Ordering is strictly done at the counter since the staff are so busy. While you’re here, there are some goodies of interest to scope out. Under the glass counter is a small selection of freshly baked pastries that are not listed on the regular menu. VCR Stacks also makes their own nut butter, espresso shots, kombucha and coffee grounds that you can purchase and take home. Lastly, there are a couple of plant-based milks that you can buy here, but these are the same brands found in the supermarket (Oatly and Pacific Foods).
Takeaway is available, but rest assured, you won’t be saving any time. I witnessed a couple of people who were already waiting when we arrived, and only got their food minutes before we were seated. The takeaway crowd had to wait just as long as everyone else to get their food.
No surprise, it was another long wait for the food to arrive – about another 25-30 minutes. The vegetarian Zen Stacks (RM22) came a few minutes before our other dish. Lots of melted butter soften the rough and crusty toasted rye bread. Heaps of pesto covered the stack, so much that blobs of it dripped out. The pesto had a subtle yet excellent flavour that didn’t dominate the sandwich despite how much of it was smeared on. The slices of halloumi are thick, but they didn’t cover the entire acreage of bread. All of my bites at the back edge of the sandwich were halloumi-less.
The Saigon Stacks (RM24) is like a reimagined Vietnamese banh-mi. The bread is a sourdough ciabatta. Based on how it looks, our worry was that it would be very dry. However, the lavish amount of butter on the inside provided a moist texture. This sandwich is much more complex and with lots more crunch. The salty deli meat is the first flavour note when you bite into this, but as you chew, the smooth pate begins to come through. It doesn’t explicitly say it in the menu description, but the “herbs” in this sandwich is obviously cilantro so there’s a continuous peppery, citrusy explosion. I’m a bit of a cilantro hater, but even its inherent foulness couldn’t bring the sandwich down. Mark got mildly annoyed with me when I didn’t want to relinquish the sandwich after my sample bite!
I often forget how white I am and how many sandwiches I’ve eaten in my life compared to Malaysians. Gourmet sandwich cafes just as good as this existed on every other block back home in Toronto. They never had a queue and they were cheap to boot. Thus, VCR Stacks left me really nonplussed with their expensive sandwiches that don’t come with any sides and take an hour before you can finally sink your teeth into them. However, I understand that tasty sandwich shops are hard to find in Kuala Lumpur. In Malaysia, VCR Stacks is a novelty and the only place in the area to get these sort of ingredients, so the crowds are justifiable. The dishes we ate here were fresh and yummy, but personally, I don’t have the patience for the constant waiting that is involved with eating here again.
Price for 2 Pax: RM59.00
Zen Stacks: RM22.00
Saigon Stacks: RM24.00
6% SST: RM3.35
Unit 15-0-5 (next to Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf), Shoplex Plaza, Jalan Kiara, Mont Kiara, 50480 Kuala Lumpur
Opening Hours: Daily, 8:30am – 5pm
Alcohol Served: Yes