Bonsai Japanese Bar bistro opened its second establishment in Broughton Street a year ago. Its Southside sister restaurant offers fresh Japanese food in a relaxed and casual atmosphere. I had visited this restaurant a year back and would have gave it a great review; I travelled to Broughton Street with high hopes.
The restaurant is a lot larger than the Richmonds establishment. Tables closely packed together to maximise the amount of customers. The dining area is split into two, the front where you can watch the world go by from the full size windows and the back; where you can see into the kitchen from a small hole in the wall. Throughout, the red black and white colours from the interior and specials boards dominate the rooms.
As we took our seat, we noticed the waiter having a bit of an argument with a couple in the corner. I noted that the way he was speaking to the couple was far from professional. After they left he turned his attention to us and instantly appeared uninterested. When we asked what he would recommend he looked at us if we were an inconvenience. We also wanted advice on the best way to order as we wanted to take our time and have the dishes spaced out. We thought it would be best to order 3 dishes, then order some more later once we had a rest (previous experience at Japanese restaurants has left me wishing they would bring out the dishes slower so I don’t feel too rushed). He was very rude in responding, almost laughing in our face at the suggestion, and assured us that they never bring everything at once. He assured us that we would have plenty of time between dishes.
Our first two dishes arrived shortly after ordering. Chicken Katsu and Aburi Salmon and Avocado Maki; both looked very appetising. The Chicken Katsu were strips of breaded chicken with a tonkatsu sauce. The breadcrumbs from the chicken gave the dish a crunchy texture. The sauce was full of flavour and the shredded cabbage gave the dish a fresh element.
The Aburi Salmon and Avocado Maki were on the specials board and it really was special. Slightly cooked salmon rolled with rice and ripe avocado, drizzled with a white wine vinaigrette; delightful.
Before we even finished these dishes a waitress appeared with our next two! We explained we had asked for a break between dishes so she took them away without any hassle. However, the fact we had made an issue of this when ordering was really frustrating. The waiter who took our order clearly had not bothered to tell the kitchen.
When we were ready the dishes themselves did not disappoint. Steamed pork gyoza and soft shell Crab gaijin-zushi. Both were delicious.
The steamed pork and vegtable gyoza were served with a soy and chilli sauce. These are small steamed parcels which are cooked on a Japenese traditional griddle.
Gaijin-Zushi are large inside out sushi rolls. The juicy soft shell crab was full of sweet flavour. Avocado & black tobiko added more textures and flavours. Served with wasabi paste and pickled ginger this was a truly mouthwatering dish.
The last two dishes we had were Chicken Teriyaki and Salmon Skin Maki. The Chicken Teriyaki was cooked with classical Japanese sweet soy sauce. I don’t claim to be an expert in Japanese cuisine but this was a rather bland dish that did nothing for me.
The Crispy salmon skin and Avocado Maki were again on the specials board. The Crispy salmon skin gave these traditional sushi rolls a modern twist and was really enjoyable although not the best dish of the night by a long way.
Overall the highlight of Bonsai Japanese Bar Bistro is definitely the food. This experience really does reinforce how big an impact waiting staff have in establishments. For the food alone I would have given Bonsai an 8 out of 10. Perhaps if I had been served by another waiter/waitress our experience of this Japanese restaurant would have been different but unfortunately it did leave a disappointing feeling and because of this I would only return to its sister restaurant.
Bill for two: £44 (BYOB £4 corkage)
Service: Very Poor
Atmosphere: Laid back
Overall: 5 / 10