photo credit: David A. Lee
Bonnie’s is the new kid transferring into your school that everyone’s already heard of. They’ve had a fake ID since they were 15, and that t-shirt they’re wearing could have cost three bucks at a Goodwill or a hundred somewhere in the East Village. Most importantly, this new kid throws the best parties.
This Cantonese American spot from a former chef at Win Son—one of the neighborhood’s other cool kid restaurants—is a scene for sure. There’s buzzy energy, cocktails with fun names like “Henny Kravitz,” and Biggie blasting through the speakers. But the peak of the party happens when the chef's unexpected takes on umami-rich comfort food hit the table. That's all anyone’s going to be talking about the next day.
Almost everything on the menu adds some unexpected ingredient to a classic Cantonese dish—and the food comes plated like it has its own stylist. There are a few clear showpieces, like a sticky-sweet cha siu McRib that looks like a pop-art piece, but you should save some stomach real estate for the more interesting combinations on the menu. The cacio e pepe manages to enhance its usual pecorino with funkiness from fermented bean curd, and the whole stuffed trout is essentially slices of fish cake textured throughout with water chestnuts. Get it if you're trying to impress a date—and don’t be afraid to slather it in green mustard.
Less flashy dishes shouldn’t be overlooked either. Order the fermented long beans with yauh ja gwai, and you’ll do everything short of licking the plate to get the last of that bean curd garlic butter before they take it away. But our surprise favorite is the gerng jook topped with peanuts, green onion, and pork floss that melts into the porridge like cotton candy. The wallflower always ends up being more interesting than you think, right?
Bonnie’s knows how to give you a good time. The bartender can occasionally be seen treating guests to house shots with frozen lychee, and the people at the table next to you will probably know where the after-party is. If you don’t have a reservation, they hold some spots for walk-ins—just expect to have a couple cocktails before you get a table. You can also expect to eat some food that you’ll still crave hours later, when you’re finally home and collapsed on the couch. That’s what’s going to keep this place relevant even after the hype dies down.
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Yeung Yu Sang Choi Bao
Order the trout. Eat it, photograph it, tell your friends about it, vote for the trout for prom queen. She deserves all the attention she gets.
Tinned Dace Dip
Start your meal with this pungent, sour dip served with “premium” saltines. The dip gets most of its flavor from fermented black beans, and when you eat it, it feels like your taste buds are being called to attention. Two refills later, we still don’t know what premium saltines are, but we suppose you’ve got to create your own hype.
Jiew Yeem Yao Yu
The crispy squid isn't as inventive as some of the other dishes on the menu, but it’s that dangerous mix of salty, fried, and dipped-in-housemade-Chinese-ranch that’ll make you ignore group dinner decorum and grab that last piece.
Dao Si Heen Jing Sui Dan
Order this, and you’ll get one of the prettiest dishes on the menu: a pile of clams sitting on top of an egg custard with herbs and dollops of black bean garlic sauce. The flavors and textures are subtle, so this doesn’t hold our attention as long as some of the other dishes—but it’s nice to have something more delicate to return to in between salt bombs.
You’re going to see fermented bean curd a lot on this menu, including in the sauce that coats this mix of long beans and yauh ja gwai. But this time, it’s transformed into a fermented bean curd garlic butter. Regular garlic bread has nothing on yauh ja gwai infused with Bonnie's garlic butter 2.0
If the energy at Bonnie’s was a little less frenetic, we’d stop by for a corner bar seat just for an early-evening bowl of this congee and the butterfly-pea purple riptide cocktail.
Black Tea Penicillin
Our favorite cocktail on the all-around great cocktail menu is the black tea penicillin. It sounds like an ill-advised party dare someone just invented in the kitchen—but what you’ll get is a very adult drink with two smokey scotches that tastes like someone stole something a little too nice from the liquor cabinet and mixed it with a lemonade chaser.