Have you ever felt sorry for a restaurant where the food is really good but there’s practically no one around on most days, to appreciate it? Well, I recently did. Bonsai, the Oriental grill and bar in Central Delhi has everything going for it . It is located in the heart of Connaught Place where there could be a lack of anything —parking space, honest vendors, walkable roads — but most definitely not people. Then there’s good ambience; not much competition in the same segment, attentive staff and, as I’ve said earlier, a chef who knows what he’s meant to do.
But there seems something jinxed about this all-white eatery with half of the seating area indoors and half in a faux garden setting. In my last three visits to the place (I had to go repeatedly to ensure the lack of guests was not a one-of-those-days phenomenon), I saw exactly eight diners in the 98-cover restaurant — collectively, not in each visit.
Not surprisingly then, I also noticed a sizable reduction in the quantity and quality of the staff — that smiling hostess who greeted me on the first visit had disappeared by the time of the third, and the few left in the wait staff could be seen openly gup-shupping in the dining area. Anyhow, my point still remains that the place deserves better than this. For food, if not anything else.
We started our culinary sojourn with Tom Yum soup (Rs195), which was excellent and did not have the usual overdose of lemongrass.
My companion tried the Lemon Coriander soup with chicken asparagus lollypops (Rs 225), and didn’t regret the claimed ‘chef’s speciality’ one bit. Giving the salads a skip, we went for the small plate appetizers. With some snacks priced as low as Rs 99, the Tapas section is a treat for those who love variety. I particularly relished the Roast Chicken with Char Sui sauce (Rs 155). This traditional Chinese barbecue sauce suits the Indian palate quite well, though I won’t recommend it to those who have trouble with spicy food.
We followed it up with the sushi platter (Rs 1200), and that turned out to be the best bet of the evening. We had options of Hoso Maki (thin rolled), Foto Maki (thick rolled) and Nigiri (hand shaped) sushi, and each type competed with the other in being tasty and fresh.
Despite the stomach giving strong ‘no space here’ signals, we still opted for the main course and ordered for Sliced Duck in black bean sauce (Rs 325) which was average. Honey Darsaan with ice cream (Rs175) for dessert turned out to be a good choice, though I personally feel good Chinese food doesn’t really need a dessert to leave a memorable taste in the mouth.
In all, I wish Bonsai well. Their foundation is strong and hopefully CP’s on-going renovation will bring about a renewed hope for the restaurant to get where it deserves to be.
Address: B-49, middle circle, Connaught Place
Meal for two: Rs 2000 (plus taxes)