Catching up with my best friend Vee and our close friend Junior for dinner one night we were all in agreement that Japanese was on the cards. Junior hadn’t been to Bonsai before, but when he heard that both Vee and I were big fans he was happy to try it.
When it comes to eating at Bonsai you have a couple of choices in how you want to tackle it. You can opt for self-ordering, share or go for somewhere between the two. If you’re in a group of four people or more, you can choose their incredibly great value for money banquets. On this occasion, we decided to share a selection of entrees rather than eat the mains.
We start off with the wagyu beef tataki ($15.90). It’s six thin pieces of seared wagyu rump covered in julienned witlof and leek, a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and a layer of dressing made from garlic caramel soy and whole grain mustard vinaigrette.
It’s deliciously delicate. The beef melts in your mouth, accentuated by the sweet dressing and the salt kick of the cheese. I just want to mop up that sauce with my spoon – which is something I often feel compelled to do when dining at Bonsai. Their sauces are just plain incredible.
Whenever I come to Bonsai, there is one dish that I must order – the chicken salad ($14.80). The combination of cabbage, swiss chard, mizuna, coral lettuce, tat soy, crispy chicken, wonton skin and balsamic soy and aioli dressing might sound like nothing particularly mind-blowing but it’s so, so, soooo good.
The wonton skins are optional but the salad is not the same without the great texture that they bring to the dish. The sauce again here has that great balance of sweet and savoury, with a wonderful depth of flavour that suits the ingredients present. It’s fresh, colourful and the chicken inside is juicy and tender. For me, this dish is a knockout.
The cajun baby squid ($15.90 from memory) is something new for me to try on this occasion, and though it’s a small serving I really like it. Lightly char-grilled and jam-packed with a sweet and spicy flavour, these squid are, without exaggeration, the most tender pieces of squid I’ve ever eaten. They are just so soft, so moorish and tasty, I could easily see myself polishing off a big bowl of these with some drinks on a Sunday. Talk about love at first bite!
Choosing a salmon dish took us a bit of negotiation. Junior was set on the salmon sashimi with asparagus, but Vee is allergic to asparagus. So we tossed up between the bites and ceviche, ultimately settling on the latter ($13.90).
It comes to the table as sashimi grade salmon piled high, marinated in a light lemon and olive oil dressing with witlof and salmon roe. Like a fresh piece of sashimi should be, the salmon is buttery and soft. It’s definitely one of the better salmon sashimi offerings I’ve had in Perth. I particular love the pop of juice from the roe as you bite down. Salty goodness!
Knowing Junior probably needs some heavier items we order him some rice to eat with our share food, plus he chooses the chicken sushi ($8.90) as one of our share dishes for the night. Sitting on top of a drizzle of mayonnaise and caramel soy, these teriyaki chicken sushi slices are accompanied by a Japanese style guacamole, and a nice mound of wasabi.
As far as the dishes go, this is my least favourite for the night. It doesn’t taste bad by any means, but it’s not quite as exciting as those we’ve eaten so far and that follow after.
Another favourite for me at Bonsai is definitely the creamy prawn springrolls ($11.90). Encased in crisp, shattering spring roll pastry are sautéed prawns covered in a creamy béchamel sauce. They might not look like much, but these put all other springrolls to shame.
The prawns inside and plump and perfectly cooked. The béchamel is rich, decadent and the perfect accompaniment to the juicy seafood and crunchy pastry. I love that they serve it with a smear of hot english mustard to give you nasal clearing satisfaction.
The tempura soft shell crab ($15.90) is a last minute order for us in trying to ensure we have enough food. Four pieces come to the table steaming hot and so crunchy I’m actually apologetic how loud I’m chewing! They’re coated in just the right amount of salt and pepper seasoning to bring out the natural sweetness of the crab, and have a wasabi mayonnaise on the side begging to have the crab dipped in.
I love soft shell crab, and this one doesn’t just look pretty, it tastes yummy too. Nothing out of the ordinary like their more adventurous fusion dishes, but still finger licking good.
When it comes to our final dish, Vee chooses the fried chicken tosazu ($9.80) which is deep fried chicken thighs served with a leek tosazu sauce. I have to admit when it comes out to the table I’m not overly convinced it’s going to live up to the standard of the other dishes.
But biting into the steaming hot flesh I quickly learn that the meat is oh so tender. The meat is beading with juice; the outside lovely and crisp. The sauce on the side is nice, but lacks the depth of flavour the other dishes at the start boasted. I personally would have loved a creamy mayonnaise and worcestershire sauce combination to dunk this in.
Returning to Bonsai as always was a delectable affair. There’s something about going back to your favourite spot. In knowing the reliability of produce and the excitement of flavours that are tried and true.
There’s a reason why this place remains on my list of favourite places to eat. It’s not just that the food tastes good, and the cuisine style is exciting, but it’s also the fact that the service is always bang on perfect and the prices are quite reasonable. It brings me back time and time again.