A favorite vendor at Canal Street Market and Smorgasburg, Bonsai Kakigōri is striking out on their own, opening their first permanent, stand-alone experience on the Lower East Side. It opens to the public on Saturday, April 27th. The first 50 people in line on opening day will get a free frozen treat.
Many cultures have globally embraced shaved ice, and New York has no shortage of offerings: from Chinese bao bing to Indonesian es campur. But last year New Yorkers were introduced to kakigōri, a Japanese frozen treat brought to Manhattan by Gaston Becherano and Theo Friedman at their Bonsai Kakigōri. While others in Manhattan like The Little One and The Lobster Club serve kakigōri, what sets Bonsai apart is their application of the technique, with an infusion of a global pantry of flavors.
After traveling to Japan, Becherano was inspired to bring the dish—once enjoyed by aristocracy dating back to the 11th century—to everyday New Yorkers. For those who have never tried kakigōri, you'll be surprised by how creamy, the hand-spun machine can make ice taste, especially when drizzled with syrups and toppings; how we imagine the mouthfeel of clouds.
Chef Theo Friedman gained notoriety for his tweezer-level precision and experimentation at wd~50 and his own pop-up series, TheoryKITCHEN, where the menu included dishes like salt baked rutabaga with capers, apple and kohlrabi. At Bonsai, you can expect the same kind creativity.
Permanent flavors will include Strawberry and Cream, Banana Foster, Matcha Mountain, Espresso Peanut, Vegan Coconut Lime Crunch and Japanese Cold Brew. But we're more excited about their seasonal offerings which begin with Key Lime Pie, Banana Miso Maple, Black Cherry & Cocoa Nib, and LES Black & White Cookie with corresponding toppings.
In addition, the Bonsai team hopes their first seated environment will evoke the same joy of Japanese kakigōri kissaten (teahouses), with matcha and Japanese toasts similar to the ones we love at Davelle; Japanese avo toast (made with miso butter, avocado, pickle and togarashi), honey, peanut butter and banana toast (made with buckwheat honey and tahini) as well as a Japanese-style latte (which uses Okinawa black sugar).
Located in the former site of El Rey, an all-day cafe that shuttered last year, the interior design is inspired by traditional Onsen Ryokans (Japanese hot spring hotels), with a tranquil-yet-playful mural by Alex Proba (Studio Proba) that "depicts the flowing energy of New York City." The shop will also have an outdoor area, which will come in handy this summer.
Bonsai Kakigōri is located at 100 Stanton Street, 10002.
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