At Bonnie’s, MSG Is Wielded with Nuanced Artistry

The declare that monosodium glutamate, or MSG, is inherently unhealthy has been completely debunked—and dismissed, by anybody paying shut consideration, as thinly veiled racism. MSG, a salt that’s extracted from fermented crops equivalent to sugarcane and corn, is used as a taste enhancer in lots of Asian cuisines, nevertheless it additionally happens naturally in meals together with tomatoes and Parmesan cheese, accounting for the feeling often known as umami. It’s as dangerous as desk salt, perhaps even much less so—it comprises a few third of the sodium. Still, a stigma persists: I not too long ago noticed a Chinese takeout menu promising that the meals was made with out it.

That’s one strategy a restaurant can take. Another is to flip the script. At Bonnie’s, in Williamsburg, the cocktails embody an MSG Martini, made with a wholesome shake of the seasoning, plus olive brine, Shaoxing wine, and vodka or gin. The L.L.C. behind Bonnie’s is known as MSG 88, which was printed on egg-custard-yellow hoodies that the chef-owner Calvin Eng offered to commemorate his most formidable providing, Yeung Yu Sang Choi Bao, a deboned and stuffed entire rainbow trout; like virtually every part else on the menu, it’s enhanced with MSG.

The chef-owner Calvin Eng, who grew up in Bay Ridge, named Bonnie’s after his mom.

And how! The meals at Bonnie’s explodes with taste. This is to not say that the kitchen leans too closely on MSG (besides, I’d argue, within the case of the Martini, which jogged my memory of A.1. steak sauce). In the grand custom of Cantonese cooking—which Eng first discovered from his mom, Bonnie, who was born in Guangdong and raised him in Bay Ridge—the Bonnie’s staff wields it with nuanced artistry, taking no shortcuts. The steep worth of the entire trout (fifty-three {dollars}) displays the scrupulous effort it requires, which Bonnie herself undertakes solely twice a 12 months: bones and flesh are eliminated, the latter floor with shrimp, garlic chives, and water chestnuts and whipped right into a paste that acquires the bouncy texture of a fish ball after it’s encased within the trout’s painstakingly preserved pores and skin and cooked on a flattop grill.

The completed product will get sliced into (the fortunate quantity) eight neat segments, to be wrapped in lettuce with herbs and a ginger-scallion purée. A poached half rooster, Bak Cheet Gai, can be sliced, fanned chilly atop heat rice, glistening with golden rooster fats, and served with teacups of Gai Tong, or rooster broth, redolent of ginger and white pepper. “Sip it as you eat or dunk it to take away the chill,” my server instructed. “I love this liquid!” my eating companion introduced as she sipped.

The Cha Siu McRib is on the market within the restaurant and in addition on the takeout-and-delivery menu, which is known as McBonnie’s.

I liked this liquid, too; on one other night I ordered an entire teapot of it. I used it as a palate cleanser between bites of lengthy beans—delightfully candy and shrivelled, positively clanging with garlic, and topped with croutons constituted of a type of savory cruller usually served with congee—and bites of scorching-hot Cheung Fun, seared rolled rice noodles that have been sticky on the surface and custardy inside, the concentrated fishiness of XO sauce (from dried scallops and shrimp) punctuated by notes of fennel seed.

Another specious declare about MSG and Chinese American meals, particularly, is which you could’t eat it with out getting hungry an hour later. I needed to repeat my Bonnie’s meals in brief order not as a result of I used to be mysteriously famished however as a result of I longed to reëxperience the pleasure. Good luck to me: reserving a desk within the boisterous eating room (my fruit plate got here with a spherical of photographs, one night time) requires Sisyphean effort on Resy. That stated, the bar and an out of doors seating space are reserved for walk-ins, and if all else fails there’s McBonnie’s, a Golden Arches-inspired menu for takeout and supply. The common menu’s phenomenal Cha Siu McRib, that includes a half rack of boneless steamed ribs, pickles, sharp Chinese mustard, and onions on a sesame milk bun, suffered barely in transit. Not so the McBonnie’s-only Filet-o-Fish, a superbly bevelled sq. patty constituted of the identical combination that’s stuffed in the entire trout (at a 3rd of the associated fee), topped with preserved mustard greens and a slice of neon-orange American cheese. (Entrées $17-$53.) ♦


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