The well lit, iconic Bonsai mural nestled amongst the fringes of Perth's Chinatown, belongs to one of the city's colonising restaurants amongst the contemporary Japanese eating scene. On reputation, the Bonsai is known for fancifying traditional Japanese ingredients and no doubt, offer a delicious array of hot and cold tapas style entrees. However, what remains to the be the foundation for debate revolves around their main courses. I've heard it all; "too small", "too salty", "too expensive" and whilst I don't agree with all these opinions, unfortunately, I will have to put it down to being "very Perth". Everybody has their price range, and I believe that it is possible to still enjoy a meal at the Bonsai on a budget. I recently went with a large group for a birthday celebration, and I think that's the ideal way to enjoy the extensive menu, whilst sharing the bill can help to lighten the load at the end of the night.
Advanced apologies for the low quality of the photos; the Bonsai is very romantically lit...which is great for couples, but doesn't exactly do wonders for photo taking! The sushi is intricately made, and the rice boasts a quality that is usually undermined by a majority of Australian restaurants. On my previous visits, I've also enjoyed their other sushi rolls and can recommend the Californian, as well as the Unangi ($8.90) and I especially love, and highly recommend the delicious top side flamed Aburi Salmon Nigiri ($15.90) which is more ideally sized for sharing in big groups.
If there's one thing I can't go past at Bonsai, and it's the sauces. It's a repeated case of 'finish the main components of the dish, and please leave the bowl behind' so that we may polish their entirety off. The butter-soy clams are just that; tenderly steamed and steeping in a rich, buttery sauce. So much so, that we used anything from spoons to empty clam shells to drink the flavourful broth.
The soiree of delicious sauces continues into the next dish, along with some of my favourite ingredients including eggplant, mochi and agedashi anything. Texturally, this could have been better executed though; smooth eggplant and chewy mochi which was made softer by the agedashi sauce, meant that the dish lost it's much needed crunch factor. For some, these dishes may be on the saltier cusp of things. Drizzle the sauces over a side or rice ($2.50), or I implore you, if you don't mind the richness, drink up.
Aside from a more modern fusion flare, the Bonsai also serves other traditional favourites - for one, I think they definitely make one of the best Chicken Katsu dishes in Perth. Having said that, it is a smaller serving than I would have liked, but the chicken was incredibly crispy, and juicy without being overbearingly greasy. For those who are also fans of all things deep fried and flavourful, I also recommend getting the Chilli Crab Claws (3 pieces for $7.80) and Tempura Soft Shell Crab with Wasabi Mayo (4 pieces for $15.90)
This is by far my favourite dish at Bonsai; over the years, I never fail to order at least one plate of this. The combination of Yukke Sauce and Chilli Mayo is a great accompaniment to both the fresh cut pieces of salmon and the tender asparagus slices. Unfortunately, the price to serving size ratio problems strikes again here - this is a viable portion for two to be shared amongst a series of tapas, or one greedy me.
When you say Main Course, I'll most likely say Duck or Pork Belly (but mostly Duck). When it comes to Japanese fusion duck, I've tried the good, the bad and now we have the borderline. The duck is tender, and the pumpkin puree is well seasoned but the dish in itself misses the oomph and the drinkable suace that the Bonsai does so well throughout their repertoire of entrees. I felt that way when I was trying other mains too including the Teri-Chicken with Rice ($19.90) and Teriyaki Patagonian Toothfish with Rice ($29.90) , which were perfectly well cooked and garnished but missing an integral punch of flavour.
However, despite the downside of the Wagyu's almost $40 price tag and entree like serving size, not all is lost. If there was a main dish to try, the general consensus is that the Teriyaki Wagyu would be it. Cooked perfectly medium rare to order, and swimming in delicious broth - I think this is the most worthwhile main course dish to try.
I highly recommend a visit because I believe that The Bonsai has something for everyone. It's a fancy restaurant, with a great location and great ambience - headed up by attentive and hospitality driven manager, Issac Lin who has offered extremely consistent service throughout all of my visits to the Bonsai. On a Sunday night out, eight of us managed to split the costs for BYO corkage ($3.50 each), 10 entrees and 5 main courses to around $35 per person. Considering that it's the price for one main course, I think that this a very fair sum to pay to try a large array of dishes and we were definitely well oiled and well fed by the end of the night.
5:30pm - 9:30pm, from Tuesday - Sunday for Dinner and 11:30am - 2:00pm for Lunch on Fridays. BYO Corkage allowed, except on Friday and Saturday.