IN the land of the rising sun an izakaya is an informal pub where work-weary Japanese stop for a drink on their way home.
Contemporary izakaya style is what you’ll find at The Bonsai Restaurant and Cafe Lounge in Northbridge, but the venue is too stylish and funky to be really labelled informal.
The decor is a mix of Japanese minimalism and urban grunge, with polished concrete floors, timber and steel, and raw brick walls.
It’s a restaurant where the food is as much about presentation as taste.
Oriental tapas dominates the menu and there’s plenty of share plates that look like culinary artworks.
The soft crab tempura ($17,90) were moreish and cooked to perfection, while the vegetable version ($14.50) showed off the talents of the chef – the veggies were perfectly cooked and the batter so light and crisp it was in danger of floating away.
D’Angerous Dave was unimpressed with the deep fried tofu ($9.50); disheartened by the gelatinous, almost-runny silken tofu.
But I really enjoyed the crispness of the potato starch coating, and the agedashi sauce was salty and piquant.
It wasn’t shaping up as Dave’s night: he thought the fish in his teriyaki barramundi ($29.90) was “soft” and he couldn’t be coaxed into trying my eggplant namuru ($21.90), which looked like a Christmas pudding smothered in chocolate sauce.
The glistening flash-fried aubergine was spicy and salty with a pleasant sesame kick.
The mushrooms were firm and savoury and the mochi (sticky rice cakes) wonderfully chewy.
The eatery wouldn’t be izakaya if it didn’t sell booze and the wine list is small, but well considered, and includes a selection of sake.
The service was efficient and friendly and our waiter ensured we were on our way to the theatre with time to spare.
by JENNY D’ANGER
The Bonsai Restaurant and Cafe Lounge
30 Roe Street, Northbridge
open Thur–Sun 12noon to 2.30pm,