One of New York City's great summertime treats just got a lot more available with the opening of Bonsai Kakigori right in the heart of the LES party zone. Owned and operated by buddies Gaston Becherano and Theo Friedman, this is the first Bonsai brick-and-mortar outfit (the pair are keeping the booth at Canal Street Market for now, as well their Smorgasburg set-up on weekends), and the larger space allows them not only to increase their kakigori lineup, but also serve a menu of "Japanese-Inspired" savory bites and beverages like matcha drinks and various teas. Coming later this summer: beer and sake!
Wait, what's kakigori again, you say? Kakigori is a traditional Japanese dessert made from ice shaved so finely it eats like fluffy snow, then topped with syrups, sauces, and chewy and/or crunchy bits. When made well, as they invariably do at Bonsai, it's refreshing, sweet, texturally balanced, completely satisfying. Becherano and Friedman either make their toppings from scratch, or use premium ingredients, and the shavers are high-end machines imported from Japan, so they're serving up high quality stuff.
The Bonsai parlor will offer kakigori in ten different flavors. A set menu of "classics" like Matcha Mountain, Espresso Peanut, and Strawberry and Cream (with black sesame brittle hidden inside) will be complemented by a rotating series of seasonal varieties, such as Black Cherry and Cocoa Nib, Banana Miso Maple, and LES Black and White Cookie. You can get your kakigori in three sizes, though even the small get two layers of ice, syrups, and crumbles. The "large," with three trips to the shaver, is kind of crazy to be honest, though it does look dramatic at your table.
Less ethereally, there are a number of excellent savory dishes available here as well, including a Chicken Katsu or Japanese Egg Salad Sandwich, both served on milk bread; and "toasts" like Buckwheat Honey with banana, or Avocado with miso and pickles, laid out onto a slab of sourdough.
The space itself is bright and minimalist (it's where El Rey used to be), with a seating counter at the front window looking out onto Stanton Street and a few small tables at a wooden banquette giving space for about ten more people. The plan is to stay open until 10 p.m. most nights and until at least midnight on the weekends, so this summer you'll be able to emerge from the many area bars and come face to face with a mountain of sweet, fluffy snow.
(Scott Lynch / Gothamist)
Bonsai Kakigori is located at 100 Stanton Street, between Orchard and Ludlow, and is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and from 10 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday (bonsaikakigori.com)