bonsai – northbridge
Clean lines, exposed brick and lofty ceiling. Bonsai is slick and casual, housed in what looks like a former warehouse on Roe Street. It looks out of place compared with the seedy karaoke bars and old, dirty Chinatown but I think works in its favour.
We are seated by the wall underneath an LCD screen which constantly hawks the menu. Tap water is served without even being requested (always a good thing). It’s nicer when its quieter – when the sun slips below the city skyline, the uplights add to the glow of the restaurant, making feel more intimate.
Our orders are taken very quickly and before we know it we are confronted by a waitress and a tray of tiny entrees . It’s a novel concept to present diners with food right there and then. Maybe this is impulse dining? We pick the tofu with a fish roe topping. I’m not a fan of eating cold tofu but this was really good. The creamy mayo masks some of the salty fishiness of the plump salmon roe, picking up the soft delicate texture of the tofu (which I suspect is made in house because it was that good). To give some flavour, the starter is sitting on a bed of pickled seaweed which is quite sweet and strong. I love it. Turns out, there’s a lot to love about this restaurant.
For our meal, we decided to stick with sampling lots of starters, izakaya style (however, Bonsai is not licensed). The scallops arrive first and we are really surprised. They are fat, plump and juicy – and guess what – there were six of them! For $11.9, that is a Perth bona-fide bargain. Each sweet fat scallop was lightly seared, barely cooking it with a soft, silky centre. Topped with yuzu puree and chives, the citrus sweetness and the bitter mesclun salad provided complex flavours. It was totally and unexpectedly excellent. And I’m not even partial for scallops! The quality of the scallops really made this dish and if it keeps up, this is one of the must-eat dishes here.
Taking out last mouthfuls of silky scallop, the tuna tataki ngiri arrives. Garnished with the cutest wasabi, shaped into a miniature leaf, it looks pretty good. The chefs are intent on wowing with presentation and they are punching above their weight. However, for me, the tataki was overcooked. I prefer the tuna to be jewel red in the middle, with the edges barely seared. The tataki served was almost opaque pink in the middle, with the tell tale grain solidified from heat. Otherwise, there was no fault with the ngiri, but I probably would not order it again.
The prawn and avocado tempura is served once our plates are cleared – the staff here are very observant, as the temperamental tempura must have been cooked in anticipation of us finishing our present dishes. Anyway, the prawn tempura left us non plussed. Bland. They didn’t have the juiciness of fresh prawns, so they may have been the plain jane frozen sort. Deep fried avocado is a strange thing – it’s fat overload. The creamy fruit with the crisp batter is a cloyingly creamy. Definitely a luxurious texture to be served in tiny quantities.
The pork belly with shichimi salsa was, I have to admit, a leap of faith for us. Pieces of pork belly topped with a capsicum and tomato salsa, flavoured with japanese pepper – served cold. This was the only dish that did not impress much. I don’t think pork belly should be served cold with a spicy acidic salsa. The pork belly’s tenderness gets lost in the overpowering salsa.
The next dish: Beef Asparagus. It sounds mediocre, but the tasty, tasty beef slices really worked with the grilled asparagus. The caramelisation was perfect. The asparagus was cooked through (but not limp) and the beef was still juicy and chargrilled to perfection. The asparagus was a good carriage for the greasiness of the beef, an unexpected pairing.
By this stage of dinner I was wondering if our meal could get any better. And it did! One taste of the Fried Chicken Tosazu and I was hooked. Head over heels in love with the fried chicken and that sauce. Wow that sauce, I don’t know what it was about the tosazu sauce, maybe it was leek, maybe it was the soya sauce but it was fantastic with the chicken. I relished every bite of chicken by drenching it with that sauce. I wanted to bath in that sauce.
By this time, the effect of the desserts showing on the LCD screens had needled their way into my subconscious. I ordered the green tea mousse which is their best seller. There’s quite a range of desserts and they all looked so beautifully delicate that I wished I could take them all home with me. The green tea mousse was luscious, soft and redolent with green tea. Almost perfect. My only whinge – the really crap macaron garnish. Bonsai is attached to a lounge, and I imagine patrons can take the desserts and coffee in the ambient space, which would be a nice way to wind down after dinner.
Bonsai, in short, is a different take on japanese fusion. I have a feeling the food will get even better with time, and will no doubt be here to stay. Bonsai is just the breath of fresh air Northbridge needs.
Up’s: Well executed fusion-ish food. Most dished we tried were surpisingly delicious and zingy. Other dishes (a minority) were a bit of a miss in the flavour stakes. Top quality produce is used by the kitchen. Go for the chicken tosazu and grilled scallops!
Down’s: Service was excellent but we were not asked if we wanted coffee or desserts… Also don’t serve bad macarons with desserts – it’s iffy.
Bonsai Restaurant Cafe and Lounge, 30 Roe Street, Northbridge WA 6003
T: (08) 9227 5756
6 days Lunch and Dinner
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