By Lisa Paredes
Located on the western edge of Burbank, Burning Bonzai serves up fresh Japanese, Chinese and other Asian dishes six days a week. We often visit Burning Bonzai for fresh sushi, dim sum and other cooked Asian food and find something to satisfy the cravings of everyone in the family. The restaurant has been open for several years, and over this time we have watched more and more people discover and return to this charming spot. This past Sunday was very busy, both with sit down clientele and a constant stream of to-go orders.
We started off with the sweetly tangy cucumber salad sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds, a fresh bite to cleanse the palate.
Next up came a round of the homemade miso soup, a brothy warmth punctuated with chunks of fresh tofu and seaweed. This miso soup packs more flavor and tastes better than the usual re-hydrated soup found at most area sushi bars.
We sat at the bar, as we often do, and chatted with the chef and watched the creations he was whipping up. The children really enjoy the personal interaction with the chef and checking out his creative food styling and the varieties of fresh fish available.
When we first sat down, the bar surface was a bit sticky in spots, which our server promptly and thoroughly wiped down. The bar at Burning Bonzai is small, with room for only about six people to sit comfortably.
A small appetizer of pork Shu Mai arrived, served on a cabbage leaf in a steel steamer. The small dumplings were steaming hot, and no one wanted to wait for them to cool down. We managed to wait a few minutes and when we bit into them, the moist meat and broth inside were still piping hot and absolutely delicious.
After ordering some rolls, we snacked on a special concoction the chef made, tempura shrimp sushi with spicy mayo or sweet ponzu sauce, depending on each person’s taste. The adults opened a bottle of chilled Nigori Sayuri sake, a favorite for its sweet drinkability and milky, coarse-filtered smoothness.
Then it was on to the main part of the meal, the rolls and sushi. We started off with a spicy scallop hand roll, this time, wrapped in seaweed. Sometimes, we enjoy this roll in soft soy paper. The papery roughness of the seaweed worked perfectly with the tender small scallops, rounded out by a nice slow burn of hot chili. We also each enjoyed a bite of fresh albacore sushi, soft and buttery on a small pad of rice.
The sushi rolls we chose that day were the deep-fried, soft- shell crab Spider Roll and the Favorite Albacore Roll. The Spider Roll was a bit overdone, perhaps, and just not as tasty as Burning Bonzai chefs usually make. That was a bit of a let down.
However, the Fantastic Albacore Roll, soft tuna sushi wrapped around a California roll and topped with deep-fried fresh onion strips and ponzu sauce, more than made up for any Spider Roll disappointment. After seeing how we all demolished the fried onion pieces, the chef handed us an additional plate of the addictive bites. The albacore roll is best picked up with a small piece of fried onion and dipped fish side in a little wasabi soy sauce and then consumed in a satisfying combination of crunch, softness and horseradish sizzle.
Unfortunately, the kitchen was out of the green tea tempura fried ice cream. Exquisitely made at Burning Bonzai by the sushi chef, it’s a dessert not to be missed, if available. Instead, we finished off the meal with chilled, sweet orange pieces.
Overall, the atmosphere, attention to service and food at Burning Bonzai were stellar. The cleanliness factor could have been a little better, including the bathroom. The ladies’ door is hard to close and the interior should have been maintained a little better. Our server and chef were attentive and friendly, even while dealing with a very busy room.
Burning Bonzai is definitely On The Marquee, a dependably delicious sushi spot with quality fresh fish, any day of the week they are open. Being able to order Pad Thai, other Chinese entrees, salads and dim sum is a huge plus and puts Burning Bonzai ahead of the game, when it comes to picking a restaurant that everyone in the group will enjoy.
Restaurant Info: Burning Bonzai is located at 4408 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank, CA 91505. 818-848-3769. Open Tuesday – Thursday 11:30 a.m. – 10:00 p.m., Friday 11:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m., Saturday 12:00 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. and Sunday 12:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. Closed Mondays.
Burning Bonzai receives: On The Marquee
Tops In Town (Outstanding)
On The Marquee (Really Good)
Could Use A Rewrite (Average or Slightly Below)
Don’t Quit Your Day Job (Roadkill)