Thai-Japanese hybrids have become the norm from Toronto to Tampa. And though it is easy to dismiss them as less than authentic, Bonsai makes it worth forgetting whatever you might have learned in world history class. The stunning new sibling of the Tamiami Trail original is a surprisingly sexy spot with delicious food and a young, eager staff.
The vast menu includes plenty of goofy only-in-Miami rolls like a mango and tuna topped soy paper roll stuffed with cream cheese and shrimp tempura, but also lots of delicious renditions of favorites, from a lemon grass-laden tom yum soup with tender strips of white chicken, lots of lime, plump straw mushrooms, and sweet Thai basil. I am not a fan of crazy rolls stuffed with more items than you find on a brunch buffet, but for those who are, there are nearly 50 to choose from along with classics from salmon skin to tekka rolls.
Ambience: A pair of the namesake gnarly-trunked, dwarf trees surrounded by smooth, black, river stones flank the open kitchen, tucked into dramatically lighted, recessed wall boxes. In Japanese culture, bonsai represents harmony and balance between man and nature, an apt symbol for this peaceful oasis in a fluorescent-flooded Kendal strip mall. Guests are welcomed by a team of hostesses with wide smiles and easy manners standing in front of a beautifully lighted glass waterfall. The setting could qualify as one of the coolest I have seen in Kendall. In fact, it would be easy to think you were in a South Beach club with the gray, subtly iridescent concrete floor, stark white plates, cool paper lanterns and black lacquered tables, cozy booths and even hipster house music piped through the airy space.
- Cleanly prepared, tightly rolled, gorgeously displayed and fresh as a teenager talking back to mom specialty rolls
- Impressive snappy octopus salad dotted with toasted sesame seeds and a sweet and spicy sauce over sliced cucumbers Rockin’ Shrimp – a generous platter of smoking hot, deep-fried rock shrimp doused in a honey ginger dressing over shredded lettuce
- Creamy and nicely spiced fiery red curry
- Fantastic ginger stir-fry with loads of fresh ginger threads, hints of garlic, perky shrimp, crunchy slips of celery cut on the bias, carrots sliced as thin as paper, snappy red and green peppers, fresh threads of sweet yellow onion and pops of mushrooms
- Teriyaki duck – a mahogany-colored array splayed out beneath an umami-laden, soy-based sauce. The skin shattered with a crispy bite while the meat beneath was as tender and pleasantly unctuous as foie gras
- A young, small and budget-priced wine list
- Hot, crispy and puffy Thai donuts smothered in condensed milk
- Sweetly predictable deep fried banana and ice cream