Vegan food is often a gamble, so it’s fitting that at Bonsai Plant Kitchen orders are placed on a betting slip.

The menu is straight out of a bookies or a polling station (those twin pillars of British democracy), a long list of candidates – unami autumn salad, tempura pumpkin, barbecue napa cabbage – and a column of cascading boxes waiting to be filled in.

The Argus: The menu is full of incredible small platesThe menu is full of incredible small plates (Image: Newsquest)

It’s a crowded field with dishes representing both sides of the vegan divide: the competing trends for meat substitution versus vegetable maximalism.

Everything is “100 per cent plant” though this definition of the botanical is sufficiently broad as to include all manner of fleshy approximations: pork, chicken and sea bream all appear caveated in inverted commas for the interest of accuracy.

And, it must be said, these dishes are so decadently enthralling that it’s hard to believe no sentient creature had to sacrifice its existence in the name of gastronomic pleasure.

The Argus: The vegan Hanoi pork spring rolls were a taste sensationThe vegan Hanoi pork spring rolls were a taste sensation

Take, for example, the Hanoi pork spring roll. A burn-your-tongue configuration of cubed fruit and eggless cream, fixed with a layer of rice paper, deep fried into a facsimile of crisp skin.

Or the yakitori chicken. A tender suggestion of succulent poultry, dusted in togarashi and sesame and sealed over Japanese coals.

The Argus: You may be fooled into thinking the vegan sea bream is an actual fishYou may be fooled into thinking the vegan sea bream is an actual fish (Image: Newsquest)

The tempura sea bream consists of something called yellow pea protein which breaks into flakes beneath the fork, a rich, aerated batter obscuring a layer of seaweed, suggesting white sand beaches with longtail boats floating on the horizon.

It’s easy to forget you’re dining in Brighton’s Baker Street with its pawnbrokers and nail bars and £200-a-week student apartments.

The Argus: You fill out the menu by pencil - the temptation is to choose one of everythingYou fill out the menu by pencil - the temptation is to choose one of everything

Inside, Bonsai is a cosmopolitan interzone of sleek, minimal decor (reflective tiles and neon lighting) and pulsating techno.

It could read as clinical, if it wasn’t for the warmth and charm of front-of-house manager Amy Bennett who, along with a frighteningly well-appointed bar, keeps the mood low key and relaxed.

Head chef Dom Sherriff infuses his dishes with just as much personality, handling vegetables with an attentiveness and grace more commonly associated with expensive cuts of beef.

The Argus: Many of the dishes were cooked over Japanese coalsMany of the dishes were cooked over Japanese coals (Image: Newsquest)

We’re talking oyster mushrooms pressed like flowers, flesh coming away in delicate petals of chargrilled teriyaki, and scorched aubergine with sinewy innards fused together beneath a blanket of miso, maple and wasabi.

Best of all, the humble vegetable gyozas which occupy the narrow gap between seared and soft in perhaps the most effective use of a blow torch since the final moments of Pulp Fiction (1994).

The Argus: Dom Sherriff is a young chef who knows what he is doingDom Sherriff is a young chef who knows what he is doing (Image: Andrew Gardner / The Argus)

The temptation here is to talk authenticity in regard to the culinary cultures of South East Asia, a collection of countries most of us, backpackers and honeymooners notwithstanding, have little real knowledge of.

This is roughly the same impulse which encourages the vegans and vegetarians among us to loudly insist, absent any frame of reference, that “you would never know this is not meat” – as if the quality of the meal is somehow connected to the depth of deception.

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With vegan food, the true risk, the gamble, is that it’s defined by what it’s not and, within this absence, the focus shifts to politics, nutrition, the environment.

In short, a meal becomes an exercise in ideology rather than taste, alchemy and spectacle.

The Argus: Dom Sherriff and Amy Bennett have hit on a great dining conceptDom Sherriff and Amy Bennett have hit on a great dining concept (Image: Andrew Gardner / The Argus)

Bonsai Plant Kitchen transcends this dilemma as, for all the sleight of hand and specialist ingredients, these are essentially simple dishes cooked with such confidence and finesse as to render them mysterious.

This is underlined with the dessert of chai creme caramel. A decadent rice pudding variation which is nothing less than a memory of childhood, a time when the statement “eat your vegetables” was a far less risky proposition.