#277: Bonsai Japanese Cuisine

12PM, 5/14/2022

Today I headed to Cirby & Sunrise to check out Bonsai for lunch. I’ve been driving by Bonsai nearly daily since it opened in mid 2019 and always wondered what it was like inside. Previously this was Moe’s, a Chipotle-like fast food spot. Bonsai has converted the make-line, where you once worked your way down as your burrito got built, to a sushi counter. Although no-one was sitting there, the chairs and soy sauce were there and ready to go. The rest of the space definitely had a paint job to mute down some of the bright yellow-painted walls. Much of the rest, including the booth seating remained mostly the same.

I was greeted right away upon stepping inside and beckoned to a booth near the center of the restaurant. I was handed a nice looking bound menu and started to go through it to see what I would be ordering. The inside was more worse for wear with the thin plastic sleeves coming apart in places, but it did the job. My server came by to introduce himself, drop off a glass of water, and take my drink order. Having just made it to the back page where the beer was I hastily picked a large Sapporo before flipping back to confirm my other choices before he returned.

Bonsai’s offerings are pretty on par with the general sushi-focused restaurants we have in the area. Sushi, bento boxes, rolls, ramen, etc. Check out the menu below, as it appeared during this visit.

Once I had ordered I had the pleasant surprise of a complimentary edamame delivered. It’s been a while. I thought most places stopped doing this. At the very least, the spots I frequent have long stopped this practice. They were a nice, cool and refreshing snack to work on for a few minutes until my food started coming out.

I had started with their Wakame Seaweed Salad (Marinated seaweed salad/lettuce)[$6]. This is something I’ve been ordering a lot lately wherever I see it. If miso soup is my winter appetizer, this is certainly my summer appetizer. This was very nice and came with a little Lemmon wedge that I squeezed over top which brightened up the flavor a bit.

I was only a few bites into the salad when my 2nd app arrived, the Sun Shine (4pc salmon wrapped with crab meat and fish eggs)[$9]. First off I will say that I really enjoyed this. The description gave me a very different impression of what I would receive though. Instead of 4 separate pieces of salmon wrapped inside crab, two bite-sized clumps of rice were wrapped by two pieces of salmon each and topped with a slightly smaller ball of crab meat and thinly sliced avocado with the roe perched up top. I’ve always wondered if there was any money to be made in a menu-consulting gig.

Right around when I was polishing off the last of the Sun Shine my roll was delivered. I had picked out the Spicy Rainbow Roll🌶 (spicy tuna and tempura shrimp with avocado and assorted fish)[$13]. I love how this is presented on a long and thin dish with every piece carefully arranged in a row and topped with a thin slice of fresh, crisp jalapeño. This roll had a little bit of everything I was craving. Plenty of fish, tempura shrimp at the center of every bite, the aforementioned crisp jalapeño, and a tiny little dollop of a spicy sauce to top off every single piece. There was plenty of sauce on the platter around it if you wanted it, with a bit over top each bite to start you off. When I had finished this I was delighted by the lingering heat that was left on my tongue. This had an appreciable amount of heat to it without distracting from the rest.

I went in to this with virtually non-existent expectations and came out very satisfied. It may lack a nicer atmosphere but the food and service were both on point and the prices felt fair. Solid 4/5 here.

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#276: Jersey Mike’s Subs

1:30PM, 4/15/2022 & 12PM, 5/7/2022

https://www.jerseymikes.com/

Jersey Mike’s is a quite large national chain. Its presence in our area is in a bit of a resurgence at the moment. I remember they first showed up many years ago with 2 or 3 locations and just a few year later had totally left the market. I was pretty bummed about it and even made a point to visit locations while traveling to get my fix. Now they are back again and in bigger numbers. We have 2 here in Roseville with one by Top Golf and the other just having opened very recently on Douglas in the Sprouts shopping center. I had not planned on doing a visit here due to the chains size but I’ve had more than a few messages inquiring about it so here we are. I stopped on a lark about a month ago and had this half written up for a rainy day. Last couple weekends have been insanely busy, so now’s the time. On Saturday while running errands I dropped in one more time so I’ve got a couple sandwiches here to show. Photos at the store were taken with my phone.

Anyway, what is Jersey Mikes and what makes them so special? It’s a sub sandwich place and what makes it special, to me anyway, is how they slice the meats and cheeses to order from big blocks right in front of you, with expert speed and efficiency. It’s a level of involvement no chain deals with (even a lot of smaller delis don’t do this, to be honest). I’m personally a fan of their cold subs, and the #8 Club Sub in particular, but I’ve also enjoyed their cheesesteaks and tuna sandwiches as well. This location is really no different than any other I’ve been to. The space is clean, modern and the staff is as friendly as all the others. It sort of reminds me of the Chick-fil-a or In’n’Out level of friendliness, but a bit more casual if that makes sense. What I mean by that is I get a strong sense that those two fast food chains put some amount of pressure on their staff to achieve that reputation. Jersey Mike’s may apply some of this pressure as well but it’s somehow comes across as a bit more natural and genuine here.

I’ve visited locations in Sacramento, Rancho Cordova and Folsom a number of times with a co-worker who doesn’t eat pork and they not only made it a point to either clean the slicer right then and there or use a different slicer in the back for his order but also remembered him on subsequent visits and started cleaning the slicer in advance. The customer service has rarely been anything less than great.

On my first visit I walked right up to the counter with no one in line ahead of me, and the whole process took less than five minutes. When there is a line it can take much longer, as with any assemble-as-you-order type place. I went with my typical Club Sub (Provolone, applewood smoked bacon, ham, Turkey & mayo)[Regular size, $9.85]. Bread options (baked fresh in the store) include White, Wheat, Rosemary Parmesan & a gluten free option. I’ve had all but the GF and they’re all good. Wheat has been my go-to for years but I’ve been going with the Rosemary Parm lately, which adds a little something extra flavor-wise. With this sandwich they alway ask if Mayo and Bacon are OK and if you want it Mike’s Way. Mikes Way includes Onions, Lettuce, Tomatoes, Red Wine Vinegar, Olive Oil, Oregano & Salt. I usually ask for “a little extra mayo” but was distracted and just said extra mayo. Hatchi Matchi, they didn’t disappoint with that as you can tell from the photos, lol. It was the first time I said to myself, this is probably too much mayo.

Mike’s Way, with its vinegar & oil, can get lead to a bit of a soggy sub if you travel with it. I think it’s best to have in the store but it’s OK within 10-15 min. I’ve played with proportions over the many, many visits. Different amounts of produce, getting extra and even double meats, etc. Honestly, just getting it as it is I feel is the best. They’ve got a very solid sandwich right out of the gate.

On my 2nd visit I dropped in to grab a sub in between laundry loads. Today it was totally empty inside but the staff was still busy, working on online orders no doubt. The same bearded gentleman as last time greeted me as I stared up at the menu. I confessed that I’d probably get my usuall but it’s sort of become a ritual to look over the menu in case something new pops out at me. He took the opportunity to make a few recommendations and noted they have a bit of a secret menu, which I asked more about. One thing everyone I bring here always seems to comment on is how the numbers on the menu are sort of random. As I learned this day, the missing numbers do exist but are rotated through a specials corner of the menu, but you can order them all the time. He described the #4 (known on the website simply as “The Number Four”) (provolone, prosciuttini, and cappacuolo) and gave me a quick slice of the prosciuttini and cappacuolo to taste. I liked the peppery notes on these and decided to go for it. Mike’s Way and all that jazz. This one doesn’t have mayo. Turns out I had earned enough points from previous visits for a free regular so I was off without ever taking out my wallet.

This sandwich was delightful, lighter and less salty than the Club Sub. The vinegar, onions and oil is a big part of their cold sandwiches and was able to stand out even more with the lack of the mayo and bacon here. A hint of the pepper from the prosciuttini was present throughout. I’ll probably be coming back to this one in the future.

Anyway, obviously I’m a big fan of this gigantic chain. For those that haven’t checked it out, it’s worth a visit. Their hot sandos are good. The cold subs are where they shine, in my opinion.

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#275: The Trax Taproom & Kitchen

12:15PM, 4/23/2022

Today for lunch I visited the new Trax Taproom & Kitchen, located on Vernon Street at S. Grant, kitty corner from the town square and across the street from the old post office and also across from a very convenient free parking garage. I’ve been to this location at least a couple times now for the blog. It’s been a coffee shop and a grilled cheese shop most recently and was vacant for quote some time. Now it offers a huge beer selection and a good selection of mid to upper tier bar foods. I parked in the parking garage, launched my drone and snapped some photos from the upper deck and headed in just after noon.

Found this nice mural at the entrance to the parking garage

My first impression upon entering was that it felt much more spacious and open than previously with Cheese Louise and especially with Extreme Java Jungle Cafe. They retained the iconic fireplace and the bizarre ceiling fans, that resemble a miniature carnival ride, which I enjoyed. Off to the right side there is a large roll-up style window that was open today to take advantage of the beautiful weather. Just past that is a couple of coolers with a large assortment of craft beers in cans ready to go. They can be enjoyed in the store but they do charge a small fee as they encourage them to be taken home.

As I was looking around and checking out tables for the best light I was beckoned up to the bar by a gentleman (might have been one of the owners, who I believe are a pair of brothers) and decided to take a seat up there. I scanned the QR code to check out the beer selection and was handed a physical menu for food. They do have an LCD TV that rotates through their beers but with so many to look at the phone version is slightly more convenient. I do always love when these types of places use Untappd because not only can you check out their menu at any time online in the app, you can check in with the app and it appears right on the menu in store. By the time I left I had swept the 5 available slots. My friend rightfully commented that using a flight to do so is “cheating for sure”, but I’ll take the win anyway ;).

Anyway on to what they offer! They’ve got an impressive 30 beers on tap and 18 food items, just about all which are well suited for sharing. The tap list was heavy with Moksa beers, the remainder of a recent tap takeover. I started out out with a glass of Mounds of Green IIIPA from Faction Brewing (IPA – Triple, 10.5% – 70 IBU)[$10]. This was probably about an 8-10oz pour, nice and cold. While I sipped on this potent IPA I skimmed the menu and picked out a couple items. Before I ordered I spotted an order of their Steam Engine Fries [$6] which looked amazing, crispy and golden fried, up in the kitchen window ready to be served. I fought off my desire to order those and went with the Bacon Wrapped Jalapeño Poppers (stuffed with cream cheese mix, wrapped with bacon, drizzled with paprika crema)[$10] that I had already settled on.

I wasn’t paying too much attention to the time but these took maybe 10 minutes or less to come out. Wow. I’ve had a lot of jalapeño peppers but these were in a class of their own. Maybe the best I’ve ever had. They were presented on a bed of arugula and the bacon was nice and crisp. I was amazed at how well they held together when taking a bite. The bacon held right on and didn’t come unraveled through several bites. The jalapeño had a nice heat without being too spicy, and the cream cheese cooled off what heat might have threatened to overwhelm it. I loved this.

I was about done with my IPA as I finished off the poppers and had noticed some flight boards stacked up behind the counter so I decided to get a flight with my next item, the Trax Tacos (Chicken, cheese, pico, pickled red onion, paprika crema)[$12]. For my flight I went with:

  1. Nuclear Powder (Outer Range Brewing Co. – Double New England IPA – 7.6%)
  2. N3LSON JUIC3 (Alvarado Street Brewery – Triple New England IPA – 10%)
  3. Key Lime Pirate (Barebottle Brewing Company – Sour, Fruited – 5%)
  4. In Harmony (Moksa Brewing Co. – Imperial Stout, Double Pastry – 12.7%)

Both the flight and tacos came out at about the same time. The tacos were street-taco-sized and the tortillas had a layer of cheese grilled to the outside with crispy bits flaring out here and there, which reminded me a lot of Squeeze-Inn’s cheese skirt, albeit much lighter. These tacos were outstanding, with tender pulled/shredded chicken that is making me hungry again just thinking about as I type this a couple hours later.

The beers were all great, especially In Harmony, which I’ve had a bunch of at Moksa, and probably still have a bottle or two in the beer fridge. The N3LSON JUIC3 and the Key Lime Pirate are also major standouts from this flight.

In Harmony, with my wrist band from today’s bottle release at the brewery

I’m extremely pleased by this visit and very happy to see this location finally being utilized in a way that I think should last a long time. It’s a great addition to Vernon Street, a spot you can hop over to after grabbing a bite at one of the other restaurants or after an event at the town square.

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