In celebration of Todd’s new job we went out to eat a couple of weeks ago and ended up at our local Bonefish Grill (a national chain with locations in 28 states). I say ended up because we were initially going to go to a restaurant that, in the interim, had either closed or relocated since I last thought of them. Bonefish was handy, I’d heard good things, so we went.
Of course, being 7pm on a Saturday night, there was a considerable wait. An hour, expected, but here’s where they earned a few points in my book: In addition to plentiful and comfortable seating and being able to place bar orders while we waited, every 20 minutes a waiter would circulate with a tray of appetizers, toothpicks and napkins. During our hour-and-a-bit wait three different apps came by: their Bang-Bang Shrimp, the Saucy Shrimp and some Bang-Bang Chicken (not on the menu but, according to the manager who was serving it, you could ask for it). We loved the Bang-Bang Shrimp and even ordered one to share when we got to our table. (Imagine my glee when the copycat sauce recipe was listed in the most recent issue of Food Network Magazine!)
The interior of the restaurant was amazing. We couldn’t see the bar for the crush of people still waiting inside but I’ve been told it’s a pretty impressive feature in and of itself. Instead, from our seats in the dining room I saw a fantastic back-lit cut-out mural. It complemented the dimly-lit room and sure-footed wait staff. That’s where one of my larger complaints lie: the waitstaff wear chef’s jackets. I fully admit that I’m sensitive on the use of the title Chef for every other home cook and it’s for the same reason that, having spent two years in Culinary School, I do NOT like waitstaff dressing the part of chef. I’m sure someone just thought it “looked cool” but it irritates me.
Anyway, back to dinner. We’d ordered drinks on the patio–a Mangotini that had a bit too much citrus in it for either of our tastes (but at least was made with fresh mango and not Snapple) and a rum drink whose name escapes me at the moment that was just too much booze, not enough mix. In fact, the entire cocktail menu seemed a little heavy on high-octane drinks. But that’s just one girl’s opinion based on the menu descriptions and the 2 we tried.
The menu itself focuses on a variety of fresh fish grilled and topped with your choice of sauces. For a seafood place, Bonefish Grill offers a variety of other entree options that all sound very good. It was tough to make a choice, honestly, and then we both settled on the Imperial Longfin (tilapia stuffed with seafood and topped with a buttery lemon caper sauce).
First to come out was warm bread served with olive oil and pesto; our waiter listed the ingredients for us and the surprise feature was the use of pepitas (pumpkin seeds) instead of pine nuts. I’m going to have to try that at home, next time, not to mention using pesto for the dipping sauce instead of just herbed olive oil. Next, we both opted for a cup of the corn chowder with lump crab meat. Velvety smooth. A slight crab flavor permeates it but I would guess it’s from stock or a stock base, as the crab meat itself was in the bottom of the cup as a garnish.
Entrees come with your choice of one side and the vegetable of the day. That day the vegetable was a succotash redolent with wood-smoked bacon. It was fresh, tasty and very different from the mushy amalgamation I’ve had under that name in the past. I chose the herbed Jasmine rice as my side, Todd the potatoes au gratin. Both came on the plate obviously from a portion scoop like this was some sort of cafeteria lunch. My rice was a little over minted but otherwise fine, Todd’s first bite of potatoes was raw though that did appear to be an aberration. It was also apparent that the au gratin was portioned then topped with the breadcrumbs and cheese before a moment under a broiler or some such. An… interesting way to do things.
The fish itself was very tasty–unless you tasted a bit that was without sauce or filling. The unadorned tilapia was just that: unseasoned and uninspiring. But the sauce was absolutely lovely, not too heavy on the capers, and paired nicely with the seafood stuffing. Another major point in Bonefish’s favor were the realistic portion sizes. Usually a stuffed fish dish is gargantuan, way too much food, not to mention grouper is the stuffed fish of choice for most restaurants I’ve been in. So I guess that’s two points.
Overall we enjoyed our experience. The bill came to $61 including tip (but not including the bar tab). I’ve got my eye on the Fontina Chop for a future visit and, of course, more of those Bang-Bang Shrimp.