Sunday, July 27, 2014

Bondi Grill House, Coming Up From Down Under

Bondi Grill House
7821 Edinger Ave. Suite 110
Huntington Beach, CA 92647

When you think of Australia, probably a few things come to mind. If you are like me, these things are koala bears, the music group Men at Work, the movie Crocodile Dundee, and of course one of my crushes growing up, Olivia Newton John. Okay, I might be dating myself with this list, but the point I wanted to make was that food is never really one of the things most Americans think about when it comes to Australia. Probably when you are asked to think about Australian foods, you either think of Vegemite, or maybe even meat pies. A new restaurant in the Bella Terra shopping complex wants to alert you to the fact that there's more to Australian food than just that brown spread that millions of Aussies wake up to each morning.

Bondi Grill House comes to us from famed surf spot, Bondi Beach, which is a suburb of Sydney, the largest city in Australia. See, you can learn some real facts reading food blogs, just give me half the money you win on Jeopardy if this comes in handy. Anyways, there are several sister restaurants to Bondi Grill House that operate under the name Hurricane's Grill in Australia. Of course back in Huntington Beach there's already a well known restaurant/bar with this name, so that's probably the reason for the name change. Even though Bondi Grill House has only been open for a couple of months, they are already working on another location that's under construction at the Tustin Marketplace. This new location, which will be bigger, is scheduled to open by the end of the year.

The people of Huntington Beach seem to have really taken to Bondi Grill House. The restaurant was full from the time we arrived, until we left. For those of you familiar with Bella Terra, Bondi Grill House is situated across from the Cheesecake Factory. Not an overly large restaurant, 3,500 square feet, but they offer a wonderful patio that is great for people watching. Even with the smaller size here, the table spacing allowed for a comfortable gap between customers. After driving up here during rush hour traffic, both Katie and I were excited to see what Bondi Grill House had in store for us.

To calm our nerves from dealing with the 405 Freeway, we had to partake in an adult beverage, or two. At Bondi they only serve beer and wine, so the powers at be came up with some great cocktails using wine, including this Blue Hurricane ($8.95). This drink starts with a base of Lillet Blanc, a hurricane liqueur, orange, and Luxardo cherries. I really liked the look of this, the way it separated into layers in the glass. The cherry sunk to the bottom, with the wine floating near the top. Not overly sweet, with a nice and refreshing taste, this drink started our night off with a bang.

Also getting us excited for what Bondi had in store for this evening, was this Garlic Bread Roll ($2.95). At some restaurants you order garlic bread, and you are sometimes not sure they remembered to add the garlic, but that was not the case here. This loaf of bread was very garlicky, as you can see from the picture above. The bread had a nice crunch to the crust, and was soft and flavorful inside. Exactly what I want when I order garlic bread.

I know I said that Bondi Grill House was an Australian import, so I'm not sure how these Boerewors ($11.95) found there way onto their menu, but after eating them, we are not complaining. For those that do not know, like me until this night,  Boerewors are a traditional South African sausages made of beef and spices. This is a very lean sausage, with little, to no fat inside of it. These sausages were served with the interesting sounding Monkey Gland sauce. We were assured that there was no actual monkey used in the making of this sauce. This sauce is actually more of a tangy barbecue sauce, which is sweetened with dried apricots, which went well with the beefiness of the sausage.

Artichokes seem to be on every menu we have come across recently, so maybe they are the new, hip food item of this year. At Bondi they keep the trend going with these Roasted Artichokes ($10.95). These fire grilled artichokes are served with a tzatziki sauce, which worked wonderfully with these very meaty artichokes. Perfect for sharing with friends.

Probably one of the biggest winners we tried on this night were these Peri Peri Prawns ($12.95). This got the nod of approval from the assembled food media on this night. These prawns were sauteed with butter, garlic, and peri peri sauce. Really reminded me of a lighter shrimp scampi, without sacrificing flavor. Maybe for lighter eaters this could be an entree, since it was served with rice.

Before we start the salad portion of the meal, it was time for another cocktail. This time I selected the Strawberry Basil Smash ($8.95). Again, this is a wine based drink that uses Sauvignon Blanc, strawberry syrup, fresh strawberries, basil, and soda water. When this came to the table I thought it might be too sweet, but the wine and soda water helped to balance things out.

The first of the two salads we got to try was my favorite of the night, the Spinach and Strawberry Salad ($12.95 for the large size). I'm usually against having fruit included in my salads, but this one was pretty good, and I liked that each bite had a different element to it. Baby spinach, sliced strawberries, goat cheese, spiced candied almonds, and a poppy seed dressing were all included here. I could not help but think that this would be my mom's favorite dish at Bondi Grill House, it has her written all over it.

It kind of resembles the other salad, but this Arugula, Orange, and Beet Salad ($12.95) was the only blight for me on this night. Just like the other salad, this also had the candied almonds and goat cheese, but it also added orange slices, arugula, beets, and organic quinoa. I think this lost me with the quinoa. I am no fan of quinoa, and have yet to have it in anything I have liked. Katie really did enjoy this salad more than the other though.

Now we were starting to get into my wheelhouse, when the entrees started to arrive at the table. Starting things off was this very good Lamb Burger ($13.95). I don't really get a chance to have lamb nearly enough, and this burger really hit the spot. A half pound of grass fed lamb, with red onion, tomato, lettuce, feta cheese, sun dried tomato, pickle, and tzatziki sauce gave this burger a very Greek feel to it. The bun was soft, but still held everything together. Lamb can sometimes be gamey, but this version was anything but. Eating this really got me excited to try their other burgers, like the one that caught my eye, the Millionaire's Bacon and Cheese Burger. That will be my next conquest on my next visit to Bondi Grill House.

Pulled pork is delicious, but so many things can go wrong with it. This one at Bondi was pretty stellar. They pile on a half a pound of tender pulled pork, then add coleslaw, and then place it all on a large roll. The pork had just the right amount of BBQ sauce in it, so it was not too soupy, and did not overpower the natural taste of the pork. I would have liked bigger hunks of  pork in this, but still a good sandwich. The onion rings are also worth mentioning here. They were lightly breaded, and used smaller onions than other versions. I imagine these would be great with a side of ranch dressing for dipping.

Bondi Grill House is famous for their ribs, and after trying these, it's easy to see why this is so. They have three kinds of ribs; baby back pork, beef back ribs, and these Bondisaurus Pork Ribs ($34.25 for a full rack). These ribs are huge, with tons of meat on them. I'm not even sure I could have finished this entire rack, even though I would like to try it sometime. This is 3 pounds of free range, all natural, Australian ribs. Bondi is the first restaurant in North America to sell these ribs, so they are a must order. They are basted in their house made barbecue sauce, then seared at 825 degrees. There are two sauces available, a mild sauce and another one with a little more of a kick to it. Of course I enjoyed the spicier version, but both were good.

As much as I liked the pork ribs, I might have liked these Beef Back Ribs ($29.95) a little bit more. I've always been pretty partial to beef ribs, and the ones here at Bondi had lots of meat on them. These were also one of the juiciest ribs I have had recently. A really tasty end to the entree portion of our night.

I had no idea that Sticky Date Pudding ($8.95) was a traditional Australian dessert, but Bondi Grill House educated me on that fact. This was not what I was expecting when it came to the table. It was a cake made with California dates, with vanilla ice cream perched on top of it, and a salted caramel placed around the base of the cake. I guess I was expecting more of a pudding, but this was pretty solid. I'm not even a big fan of dates, and I liked this dessert. The moist cake and the salted caramel sauce made this for me. A wonderful end to a great night.

Besides the new location in Tustin, Bondi Grill House has other things going on, like the premier of a new lunch menu coming soon. Their happy hour is also not to be missed. It's a daily happy hour between the hours of 3PM and 6PM, then it starts up again from 9PM to closing. Great food specials, along with fifty percent off all beer, wine, cocktails, and bottles of wine. A great place to eat before you hit up a movie at Bella Terra, or maybe a spot to get a drink after one. We really enjoyed our time at Bondi Grill House, and look forward to coming back soon.

Special thanks to General Manager, Elizabeth Flaherty for keeping tabs on us all night, and making sure we had everything that we needed throughout our stay. Also we would like to thank Bondi Grill House co-owner, Peter Hough. He answered all of our silly questions, and was a very cordial host. Of course we would be remiss without acknowledging our waiter and bussers on this night. Thanks for all that you did for us during our stay here guys. Lastly, thanks to Jane Gillespie for putting this all together and thinking of inviting us. Much appreciated.

For more information about Bondi Grill House, check out their website here:

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