Yesterday evening, a friend and I visited Dylan McGrath’s newest dining venture, Bonsai Bento at Bonsai Bar, and we were well impressed.
From the complex, perfectly-balanced cocktails to the intriguing black sesame ice cream sandwich, every bite, gulp and blissful chew was carefully crafted and intensely enjoyable.
We started with cocktails (the Momotaro, pear-infused with a lingering and addictive wasabi aftertaste, and the Uranshima, like a Bloody Mary but with a serious umami punch and a crispy nori cracker) along with a couple of nibbles: crispy vegetable crisps with roasted garlic dips; fresh, chilled tuna sashimi; and tempura broccoli sprinkled with aged Parmesan and served with a rich kimchi mayonnaise.
Our bentos arrived with great ceremony on individual wooden trays. The fish option consisted of roasted salmon with perfectly crispy skin served with broccoli, and a light miso soup with shimeji mushrooms and sea bream. The meat bento matched this with sticky pieces of chicken wing with sushi rice and charred spring onion, and a deep, dark miso. Both trays were completed with pickled vegetables and a slow cooked egg salad.
Now, I’m going to need to talk about that egg salad for a minute. It might not sound like the most exciting part of the menu, but it is honestly the best thing I’ve eaten in quite a while. The extremely helpful staff advised us to eat that first, of which the only downside was the fact that I had to mourn its absence once I had finished. Stirring the so-soft egg and its accompanying mayonnaise into the surrounding edamame, udon noodles, puffed rice and crunchy veg coats everything in its silkiness, and from there on the dish is a happy riot of contrasting flavours and textures.
Happily stuffed but too intrigued by the dessert options to let them go by unsampled, we shared the black sesame ice cream sandwich between us. The ice cream itself was gorgeously nutty and almost savoury, while the puff pastry shell was sticky and sweet. We accompanied dessert with a teapot of bonbuku: a chilled, creamy elixir of raspberry vodka, white chocolate liqueur and coconut purée. It was divine.
With every element of every dish so carefully planned and executed with flawless attention to detail, our bento meal at Bonsai Bar was unique and truly memorable. It’ll be quite a while before I stop thinking about that egg salad.
Bonsai Bento is available in Bonsai Bar on Wednesday to Saturday, 4pm until 8pm, starting Thursday 31st May.
The Meat, Fish and Veg Bento cost €18 each, the Maki is €10 and the other individual items are priced at €7.
Bonsai Bar is located at First Floor, 17 South Great George’s Street, Dublin 2 (below Taste and above STONE at Rustic). For reservations and more information, head to www.thebonsaibar.com.