Tucked away in Hockley, Bonzai could be easily missed. Unassuming from the outside, you enter to a beautifully vibrant and decorated interior. Offering authentic Japanese cuisine, the restaurant prides itself on the quality of its produce and the skill of its chefs.
It’s small, so much so that the kitchen takes up a good part of the space. This proves only to be a good thing – not only do you get a constant waft of aromas but you can see just how freshly prepared everything is.
Staff are gracious and attentive, and we were seated with menus and drinks on the way within minutes. It’s worth noting that this is quite possibly the longest time I’ve ever spent looking at a menu. There’s just so much choice! As well as an extensive list of sushi, rice and noodle dishes, they also offer a number of set menu options, from a ‘mix & match’ of sorts to a 4 course teppanyaki deal. Throw in a full page dedicated to bento boxes (allowing you to sample four different delicacies in one handy container) and you’ve got a near impossible decision on your hands.
After many, increasingly frantic minutes (to the extent that I still wasn’t entirely sure of my order until I heard it from my own mouth), I finally decided on the spicy Korean beef with a plate of salmon sashimi on the side.
For anyone that doesn’t know, sashimi differs from sushi in that it’s simply fresh, raw fish sliced into thin pieces. Because it’s not hiding behind anything else, the fish needs to be of high quality to really get that delicate flavour across. I wasn’t disappointed. The salmon was beautifully fresh and juicy, and the accompanying wasabi and soy sauce only enhanced it further.
I’m not the best with chopsticks, so it was a welcome sight when my beef arrived with a spoon. I was left to fend for myself with the sashimi, but understandably so – it’s something worthy of respect (and I actually didn’t fare too badly with the chopsticks throughout, so we’ll mark that as a small victory)
The beef itself was chewy without making your jaw ache, coated in a hot tomato sauce that danced on the tastebuds. It came with enough rice for two people, which felt like a bit of a waste, but certainly ensured you got your money’s worth.
Speaking of money, it’s a meal that won’t necessarily break the bank. Of course, with so much choice it’s easy to opt for a range of food bits, but if you’re set on a single dish you can do it for under a tenner without issue.
The best compliment I can give Bonzai is that dining there is just a delight. The vibe, the service, the food, everything excels. And with such an exciting menu, you can be sure that one visit will never be enough.
robyn’s review: 9/10
You can find Bonzai at 11-13 Carlton St, Nottingham NG1 1NL