Bono Tei: Succulent sushi in the South (GMA News Online)

Ebi fry

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last February 20, 2014)

There are times when I hanker for sushi or ramen but cannot instantly satisfy my cravings because living in the suburbs is not conducive to food tripping.

So, I was thrilled to discover a new Japanese restaurant in Parañaque called Bono Tei. Its exterior caught our eye with its distinctly minimalist design, highlighted by rows of bamboo plants—the whole thing was simple and clean, without unnecessary adornments.

Flavors inspired by the Land of the Rising Sun

It took us a minute or two to browse through the extensive menu with offerings  ranging from donburi to yakitori, and even bento sets. To whet our appetites, we ordered some prettily plated tuna sashimi with a slice of lemon, a dollop of wasabi, and some veggies. The fish was plump and fresh—way better than the gaunt, anemic sashimi from more commercial establishments.

We also got a serving of gyoza—pan-fried Japanese pot stickers that come with a light dipping soy sauce. I think our order was a bit overdone—some of the dumpling wrappers were a bit charred on the outside but the filling was still meaty and delicious. We ate it anyway, even if it looked like it had seen better days.

One must-try appetizer is the California maki. Bono Tei’s version of this classic sushi roll doesn’t scrimp on the ingredients. I noticed the rice was well-coated with orange fish roe and the cucumber in the filling was fresh and crunchy. It was quite a challenge to eat a piece in one bite due to its serving size.

The restaurant doesn’t specialize in just one dish, not like the current food trends where an establishment may be known for a specific dish like ramen or katsu. My husband wanted to try the tonkotsu ramen, while I chose the gyudon (steamed rice topped with stewed beef and raw egg). I had to quickly break the yolk and mix it while the dish was still hot. It was a bit ordinary for my taste, I so requested for some chili pepper, which made a lot of difference. Meanwhile, my husband downed the ramen in a few minutes. It wasn’t the best in the metro, but it’s not bad  considering the price.

On another instance, I had the opportunity to eat lunch there and avail of the restaurant’s tempura and gyoza promo, where you get a free order for any order. I sampled the shrimp tempura but wasn’t impressed with the size of the shrimp or its presentation. The ebi fry was more appetizing because of the golden brown color of the panko breadcrumbs. Both are best eaten with chahan (Japanese fried rice) for a more substantial meal.

For those who can’t get enough of fried food, I recommend the beef korokke—a mashed potato and ground beef mixture molded like hockey pucks and breaded with panko. It was crispy on the outside and soft on the inside—I loved it. It was served with some special sauce that was on the sweet side. I practically finished the two big pieces and regretted it afterward when I felt my stomach bloating. Good thing the restaurant offers complimentary hot tea to aid with the digestion.