This winter I have had a terrible time with my allergies. My knuckles are often cracked and bleeding and my face can just erupt into hives without any real warning. What has made it all even more upsetting and frustrating is that I cannot seem to identify my triggers. I know very well I cannot touch gluten, but to complicate things I also seem to flare up if I have too much dairy or soy. The problem with those allergens is I can actually have a small amount, says a small piece of cheese or a couple of splashes of soy sauce and I’ll be fine. But if I have loads of cheese, or if I eat a gluten free muffin with soy flour…..scratch, scratch, scratch ALL night for days on end.
Eczema sufferers will empathise with this. When your skin is bad, you become overwhelmingly self-conscious of your appearance such that all you want to do is hide away in a dark cellar where no one can see you. You are so sleep deprived, distracted and on edge because you just cannot stop that burning desire to scratch even though your damaged skin is weeping and sore. With my up and coming wedding, my anxiety levels heightened even more; I don’t want to be a blotchy scabby bride! My mind was in a dark and not so attractive place all week, and so it was a complete relief to learn the Bonsai Restaurant in Northbridge not only have gluten free soy available, but have much of their menu easily adaptable to accommodate for difficult people like myself. Praying for dim lighting I made a partially successful attempt at covering up my skin with some makeup and headed out with the Boy.
To try and get myself in a better mood I started off with ordering some sparkling Yuki sake. The waitress described this drink as Bonsai’s take on an alcoholic bubble tea. In the brief time we sat waiting for our drinks, I envisioned a glass of amber coloured liquid with clear balls of jelly floating around curiously. What arrived was not what I expected and looked like nothing more than some lemon soda in a wine glass. I can’t deny I was initially disappointed by its appearance as it was, well, kind of boring. But upon sipping my drink I was taken by surprise as I felt various sized gloops of invisible jelly slurp into my mouth. I was hooked.
We started off with the roast duck slices dressed with garlic soy caramel and shichimi. Shichimi is a Japanese 7-spice blend typically containing ground red chili pepper (the main ingredient), roasted orange peel, yellow and black sesame seeds, Japanese pepper (sansho), ground ginger and nori. It gave an obvious heat to the tender duck breast yet the flavours were freshened by additional citrus notes and more oceanic layers from the nori.
I used to hate all things pork but recently I confess I have had some mouth-watering experience and I think my tastes are a turning. But I have now learnt that cold pork belly however is not my thing. Pale, fatty slices of blanched pork belly were topped with a shichimi flavoured salsa dressing of red onion, red capsicum, cucumber and olive oil. I should have thought more carefully before ordering this one.
The tuna tataki was seared and served on a bed of avocado wedges and thick teriyaki sauce. The tuna had a wondrous rich dark pink colour and practically dissolved on the tongue.
Of course once again the Boy had to order the soft shelled crab. It is rare that I get to share this dish as it is deep fried and usually coated in a wheat flour batter. This dish was no exception and although there were loads of gluten free options, all the fried dishes were off the menu for me. A big helping of crispy, meaty crab served with some wasabi mayonnaise quickly vanished off from his plate accompanied by much lip smacking and finger licking. I was very jealous!
What is a meal without mushrooms? I am starting to wonder if I can actually survive for more than a few days without my mushroom fix. Being involved in Mushroom Mania month earlier this year has only proved to make my addiction worse as I feel like I need to continue to “do my bit” to promote their awesomeness! The pan fried mushrooms came topped with a mustard miso dressing and a sprinkle of shichimi.
The seared scallops were cooked perfectly with a small amount of bouncy firmness to the outside but soft tenderness on the inside.
The eggplant and capsicum namura was unexpectantly one of my favourite dishes of the night. The eggplant had an amazing texture that was close to that of set custard, held together only by its soft but firmer skin. The goma miso sauce was slightly sweet and salty with a nutty aftertaste. Goma miso is a thick sauce that is made with miso and sesame seeds.
I have to admit I didn’t really read the description of the seaweed salad before ordering and I expected a standard small bowl of brilliant green seaweed. Out came an enormous salad bowl filled with a variety of seaweeds in addition to cabbage julienne, Swiss chard leaf, mizuna, coral lettuce, tat-soy and red radish all coated well with a sweet mustard miso dressing. It was really easy to eat and we both crunched and munched happily away like rabbits .
Although we had ordered a lot of food, neither of us were overly full and agreed there was a tinsy bit of room left to share dessert. There was only one gluten free option; the crème brûlée. The surface of our dessert was hot to touch proving that it was indeed torched traditionally to get the burnt crust that makes crème brûlée such a treat. With a gentle tap of the spoon the wafer thin caramelised shell cracked and broke into bite sized geographical shaped pieces. Underneath the custard was tasty but its texture wasn’t smooth enough and actually looked a little on the lumpy side. It was still delicious however, and certainly didn’t go to waste.www.the-bonsai.net/ Price: $$$ (Share dishes $7-20, Mains $17-29, accepts Entertainment Card) Food: 4.5/5 (must try the eggplant and the duck) Service: 5/5 (impeccable, attentive without being obtrusive) Ambience: 4.5/5 (funky, busy but can get quite noisy) Drinks: 4.5/5 (LOVED the sparkling Yuki saki!) Total: 17.5/20