Pic: Dom Henry
The former Skinny Sumo sets out to recreate the atmosphere of an authentic oriental café/restaurant, and they've succeeded. From the moment you clock the decor - a smart red and black fusion of recognisable, Westernised oriental elements in an L-shaped room, with an open food preparation area in the corner - you feel you're not in Nottingham anymore.
Immediately upon arrival, my friend and I - a long-time sushi fiend and someone who has lived in Japan, respectively - were welcomed and seated by a smiling waitress and handed an extensive menu. The original Japanese was decoded, although vegetarian options weren't clearly labelled. I chose my favourite starter from Japan; agedashi tofu, tasty deep-fried tofu served in a rich broth (£4.00), whereas my friend chose gyoza – dumplings resembling small, white Cornish pasties stuffed with chicken and vegetables and served with a sesame dipping sauce (£5.00). Both were fresh, flavourful and delightfully authentic, although they arrived at different times.
Hot on the heels of our starters came the sushi - again, arriving at different times. I steered clear of more daring food options such as squid and opted for salmon and cream cheese futomaki (£5.00 for three pieces) - rice and cream cheese wrapped in delicious slivers of very fresh salmon. My friend’s Bonzai sushi platter (£12.00) was a work of piscine art; four beautiful ‘maki’ (fish nestled in sushi-rice nests, wrapped in seaweed), four ‘nigiri’ – (delicate rice-parcels with a surprising filling in the middle) and sashimi (raw fish sculpted into a ‘fin’ design and served on bite-sized nuggets of sushi rice) all beautifully presented on a traditional Japanese platter. We tried to appear dignified and to eat at a polite pace, but it was so good that we struggled not to demolish the lot like gannets. Luckily, I had also ordered vegetable futomaki (£4.00) - four little sushis of rice and vegetables – which arrived a way into the meal. Even the salad and dressing were authentic, turning the meal from a experience into an event; I'd not tasted a salad like this since leaving Japan.
The traditional Japanese dessert option of green tea ice cream was on the menu, but we were both full and instead rounded off the evening with the liquid version, served in traditional small cups. With its delicious, authentic, fresh food presented as work of art, Bonzai offers an authentic and cultural gastronomic experience. They also do a telephone ordering service, making it the city centre's healthiest take-away option by several hundred calories.
11-13 Carlton Street, Nottingham, NG1 1NL. Tel: 0115 952 0188