Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Cafe Bonxai

Update on 12/13/10 - Cafe Bonxai is now closed

Visited on Wednesday, April 29th with Scott and Christie

Outside Cafe BonXai

Erin's Review
It was Scott's birthday last Wednesday, and he was paralyzed with the choice of restaurants. Somehow he and Ben came to the decision of Cafe Bonxai, which is just about a mile from our house. For some reason, despite being told by Becky and Rett at least a year ago that they liked it, I was never very excited about trying it out. Probably because that stretch of University isn't exactly beautiful, and I've never really seen anyone going into the place.

Well, the day finally arrived for me to give Cafe Bonxai a chance, and I'm glad I did. As I expected, the ambiance left much to be desired, but we were there pretty late for Minnesota weekday standards - probably about 8pm or so. It was empty, and the music was so low that you could barely make it out at all, so it just seemed silent. Good thing this wasn't a first date, or it would have gotten REAL awkward!

Inside Cafe BonXai

The menu told me that their Coconut Basil soup was voted best soup a few years ago by someone, so I wanted to try that. Plus I was feeling a bit under the weather so soup sounded perfect. I also went with the Mango Chicken for my main course.

Coconut Basil Soup

Both the soup and chicken were fantastic. The soup could have been a little hotter, but it was so flavorful and I ate it so quicky that it didn't matter. As expected, it was very sweet, but not overpoweringly so. The chicken was basically sweet and sour chicken with a few slices of mango on top :) But it was GOOD sweet and sour chicken - crispy and tender. I tried everyone else's meals and all of those were great too - especially Christie's green tofu curry.

Mango Chicken

I really enjoyed the food at Cafe Bonxai and would be interested in returning on a weekend night to see if it's more hopping than it was the night we were there. Definitely check it out if you are in the area!

Ben's Review
I had suggested Cafe Bonxai to Erin several times in the past, being that it's so close to home and had good reviews. I finally convinced Scott to go there, so Erin had no choice in the matter. We went last Wednesday night with Scott and Christie after a martini at Axel's on Grand Ave.

Pre-dinner martini at Axel's
(Scott's birthday martini)

Cafe Bonxai has been open for over two years so at this point I am not concerned with its livelihood, but on this night the place was dead. I think there were two other tables of people, besides the four of us. Granted it was a rainy Wednesday night, but it felt very stark that night, especially because there was no music playing.

Cafe Bonxai's web site also leaves much to be desired. The menu section has no pictures or even descriptions of the dishes, and it's out of date as the meal I ordered is not on the web site. The blog has no entries and you have no idea if they serve alcohol at all (I had to call to check). However, don't let the lackluster web site fool you, the food here is AMAZING. :)


I ordered the Hmong sausage pasta after deliberating between the pasta, a mahi mahi dish, and the General Tang's chicken which Scott ordered. This pasta dish was fantastic, the sauce was a rich, cheesy red sauce with penne and tons of sliced sausage. I could barely finish all the food but it just tasted SO DAMN GOOD that I couldn't help myself. Seriously, this was probably the best pasta I've ever had.

Hmong Sausage Pasta

Every dish we had was really good. I tried some of Erin's coconut soup, Christie's green curry, and Scott's General Tang's chicken and they were all delicious. Scott even had enough to bring home, and he's not the type to leave food on plate.

General Tang's Chicken Tofu Green Curry

The only downside to the whole occasion was that they had run out of Summit. I nearly offered to go down the street to refill their stock for them, but I settled for having a Bass Ale instead. There ought to be a law about running out of Summit for a St. Paul restaurant.

Here are my ratings:
  • Service: The server was a nice guy, no problems.
  • Food: Awesome food, just awesome.
  • Drinks: Beer and wine only, I wonder if they are trying to get a liquor license?.
  • Ambiance: Not much ambiance on the Wednesday that we were there. Hardly any customers and no music.
  • Price: The prices were reasonable, but it seemed like you had to spend either $9-$10 or $15-$17, there was no middle ground.
  • Convenience: They are located just west of Snelling on University Ave. and they have their own parking lot out back with meters on the street.
Cafe Bonxai
1613 University Ave
St. Paul