New & Noted: Bonobo

What: Upmarket, fusion, South East Asian street food tapas
Where: 38 Donghu Lu, near Xinle Lu. Tel: 6255 6000
Why: For delicious Asian bites in stylish surroundings
Taking over what was once Dakota, and in front of the infamous Monkey Champagne, Bonobo opened just after Chinese New Year as a go-to spot for Asian-inspired tapas. The term ‘Bonobo’ comes from the name of the dwarf chimpanzee species so it makes perfect sense for the new restaurant to be under the same roof (and family) as the notorious nightclub, hidden at the back of the restaurant.
One of our favourite things about Bonobo was their arcade and video game themed décor. We contemplated a huge mural of T-Rex, made out of Marvel comic strips on one side of the restaurant, and listened to the eighties and nineties funk soundtrack, including blasts from the past, courtesy of Shaggy and Blue, whilst we sipped on our surprisingly strong and relatively cheap Champagne Negroni (RMB 68). The running theme was described to us as ‘a place to monkey around with friends’. This was reinforced as we set our cocktail down on the King Kong ‘Top Trump’ coaster.
The menu consists of both smaller and bitter bites, with skewers, noodles and salads making up the bulk of the dishes. We started with the Asian slaw salad (RMB 38); a mixture of red and white cabbage, crispy ramen and a spicy kimchi dressing. We also tasted the crispy shitake mushrooms (RMB 38), which were cooked to perfection. We then indulged in some flavoursome and succulent roasted short beef ribs (RMB 228), which stole our hearts upon arrival.
Next, Korean Chef Kisun Lee sent to our table the traditionally French foie gras (RMB 58). However, Chef
Lee had added his own Asian twist. The foie was presented on a rice cake instead of bread, with kimchi jam, rather than the typical chutney. This fusion dish sounds a bit wild, but trust us, it most definitely worked. Another dish that caught us off-guard, in what is billed as a South East Asian restaurant, were the Fine de Claire Oysters with pickled chorizo (RMB 88). Although we felt it didn't quite belong in the menu, it was a refreshing way to round out our main course.
Unusually, Bonobo has cocktails on tap. Although some may say this isn’t necessarily the best way to serve a cocktail, they reassured us that their concoctions were made fresh everyday. We think that the best time to try them out would be at Bonobo’s Happy Hour every Tuesday through until Saturday from 3pm to 7pm, or on their Ladies’ Night every Wednesday from 7pm to 9pm.
Bonobo has it all; the food delivers a unique experience with its Asian nightmarket inspired cuisine, bargain cocktails and an enjoyable environment. Thanks to the balmy weather, we took advantage of their outdoor seating at the front of the restaurant - a great spot for peoplewatching.