I remember the first time I ever had sushi. I was probably about ten years old and my kooky uncle from Hawaii was in town for a visit. He and my aunt were throwing around ideas of where to have lunch before we caught a movie and the suggestion of sushi came up. When he found out I had never tried sushi before we loaded up in his car and made the drive over to a local strip mall on the beach. He disappeared into that restaurant and reemerged with a small plastic box which contained the first ever sushi roll I ever tasted. I was hooked.
Fast forward almost 25 years and I can still remember the flavor of that very first combination of rice, ginger and soy sauce and I haven’t tired of it since. In fact, I’m always on the hunt for good sushi. Not just good sushi, but exceptional sushi, which is what my daughter and I discovered at Bonsai Sushi on board the Carnival Sunshine this past week.
The Bonsai Sushi restaurant on the Carnival Sunshine is fairly intimate and only seats around 25 people. My daughter and I headed down to the restaurant around 6:15 p.m. on the evening we dined there. We were meeting another couple and by the time we arrived at the restaurant there were only two seats left up at the sushi bar and one two-top table. We decided to grab the two seats a the bar so we could watch the sushi chef in action.
There are several restaurants on the Carnival Sunshine that are free to experience as part of your cruise fee. There are also a hand full of restaurants that are add-on experiences for a nominal fee. Bonsai Sushi is one of those add-on experiences. And when I say nominal, I really mean nominal. Appetizers, soups and salads are $2-$3 each and rolls are $4-$6. And these are large rolls that you might pay $15-$25 each for in a high end sushi restaurant.
We were offered a complementary box of edamame upon arrival. We then made our selections and patiently awaited their arrival.
My daughter started with the Miso Soup ($2) white miso soup, silken tofu, scallions, garnished with daikon and nori. This presentation was poured tableside.
Little did I know that this would be my daughter’s first experience with tofu. I don’t think she cared too much for the tofu itself but thought that the soup had good flavor. We joked about it being “fake steak”.
Her second course was the Tempura Roll ($6) fried shrimp, cucumber, tenka,yuzu mayo, Bonsai Sushi sauce. Because I’ve been avoiding shrimp I couldn’t even take a bite of this roll. She loved it and had no trouble devouring all eight pieces.
By this point in the meal, my starter had arrived.
Tuna and Mango Tartare
This dish was nothing short of sensational! Tuna and Mango Tartare ($3) tama miso sauce, tobiko and cilantro. Those little white dots on the plate are pear puree and the dish was also garnished with radish micro greens and course sea salt. The flavor combinations in this dish exploded across my palate. Trying to navigate it with chopsticks was rather difficult due to the exceptional knife skills of the sushi chef and the fine cuts. I should have asked for a fork but the chopsticks allowed the consumption of this dish to go at a much slower pace allowing me to savor it longer.
Bonsai Triple E Roll
My second course was almost too beautiful to eat. Bonsai Triple E Roll ($6) fresh water eel, bbq eggplant, tamago (Japanese egg omelet), panko. Another large eight-piece roll with exceptional flavor. My daughter ordered this roll as well. The presentation reminded me of Christmas and just like the holiday it brought my taste buds comfort and joy.
In addition to the sushi offerings, Bonsai also has beef short ribs, noodle salad, and side salads on the menu as well as Japanese beer, sake and dessert. Suffice it to say, my next cruise on the Sunshine will entail many dinners at Bonsai Sushi. We enjoyed all of the above offerings as well as two beverages and our bill was only around $30 and that included gratuity. Bonsai Sushi is available on the Carnival Sunshine, Legend and Breeze. As a foodie, I would book my vacation on one of these ships for this restaurant alone.
What about you? What’s the best thing you ever ate on vacation?
Special thanks goes out to Carnival for hosting me and my daughter on this cruise. I paid for our dinner at Bonsai Sushi out of my own pocket. All opinions are my own and I was not required to write this review.