Monday, September 8, 2014

Parental Meetup at Bonefish Grill

Bonefish Grill
3040 El Camino Real
Tustin, CA 92782

Since we stopped bowling in our league, we have not seen my parents and family nearly enough. So we made plans to see each other every other Friday. We try to meet somewhere in the middle of all of us, so that usually puts us near Irvine, Tustin, or Santa Ana. Not only do we get to spend some quality family time together, but it also gives us a chance to explore some restaurants that are in the area, and some that have been on my list of places to hit up.

One such restaurant is Bonefish Grill, which is on the Tustin side of the Tustin Marketplace Center. I don't even remember what I saw that made me put this on our list. Bonefish Grill is new to California, with just this location, and a recently opened Northridge spot. They are a relatively new restaurant chain, which started in St. Petersburg, Florida in 2000. Fast forward fourteen years and they now operate close to 200 restaurants in 36 states. Talk about a rapid expansion plan. They are now owned by Bloomin Brands, the parent company of Outback Steakhouse.

People here in OC must have heard good things about Bonefish Grill, because we arrived here on a Friday night at 6pm to a packed house. This restaurant is in the same spot where the old Black Angus used to occupy, but they tore that down and started anew. Luckily my parents had made reservations, so we could bypass the thirty minute wait.

Not a big restaurant, it's basically a large dining room, with tables placed very close to each other, and a small bar area on the other side of the divided space. We were seated at the very back of the restaurant, near the busy kitchen. The menu here is predictably seafood focused, but there are some steaks, chicken, and burger options scattered throughout the menu to appease non-seafood eaters. I was pretty hungry after my short drive up the 5 Freeway, so let's see what Bonefish Grill had in store for us.

Bonefish Grill starts off your meal with this Bread and Olive Oil Dip. This bread really reminded me of the one at Macaroni Grill. It came out hot, and the loaf was in the same shape as the one at Macaroni Grill. Yes, there is balsamic vinegar on the table, which you have the option of adding to the olive oil.

The most talked about thing on the Bonefish menu online is the Bang Bang Shrimp ($11.50). This appetizer is definitely a close relative to honey walnut shrimp, but with a little lighter sauce. The shrimp comes out crunchy, but the sauce provided more sweetness than spice to me. A very tasty appetizer, and I can see why it is so popular. If you are going to order this, there is no need to order a salad. After you are done with the shrimp, there's more than enough lettuce and sauce under there for you to make an impromptu salad. One other tip, we got this for free, just by making our reservation on their website. Well worth the two minutes to make the reservation.

Since we did not have to pay for the Bang Bang Shrimp, we decided to splurge on another appetizer, the Singapore Calamari ($10.70). This is served with flash fried peppers and an Asian sauce. I thought this was just okay. The squid was in pretty small pieces, and the sauce is what made this appetizer. A little sweet, and then you got a touch of the spice. Good sized portion for the price.

Katie is not very fond of shrimp or calamari, so she decided to try the Bonefish House Salad ($3.50 with entree purchase). Their version of a house salad comes with hearts of palm, Kalamata olives, a citrus herb vinaigrette, and grape tomatoes. Kind of a Greek feel to this salad. As far as dinner salads go, Katie felt this one was pretty solid. She liked the uniqueness of it, the produce was fresh, and she thought the dressing was one of the better ones she has had.

Let's start the entree part of this review with my Dad's selection, the Shrimp and Sea Scallop Skewers ($22.80). This came with three shrimp, and four small scallops to an order. I would have thought that for twenty dollars, you might have gotten a bigger portion size, but my dad did not seem to mind. The shrimp were better than the scallop which were kind of rubbery. With the purchase of an entree, you get seasoned vegetables, and a choice of a side item. My dad selected the Garlic Whipped Potatoes. These had a good texture to them, but needed more garlic to live up to their name. The veggies were cooked well, and seasoned nicely.

If you are a frequent reader of this blog, you know that when we eat out with my mom, she's not the worlds biggest eater, and that held true at Bonefish Grill. She order these Maryland Crab Cakes ($14.50) off of the appetizer section of the menu. These two crab cakes came with a red remoulade sauce, and were the perfect serving size for my mom. She really liked these, but I thought they were a little too small, and the breading overpowered what should have been the star of the show, the crab. I did enjoy the sauce though.

Now this was more like it, when it came to filling up the plate. Katie has been on a real fish taco kick lately, and she held true to form on this night as well. These Baja Fish Tacos ($14.50) were filled with what I believed to be tilapia, and topped with mango salsa and lime crema. Katie called these tacos delicious, and stated that the fish was very fresh. The tacos were very full of liquid, maybe from the salsa. These came with their house made chips as a side item. For the most part, the chips were good, but some of chips became soggy due to the dripping tacos.

I had two things I wanted to try, and when I asked the waitress which she liked best, she steered me towards this Pecan Parmesan Crusted Rainbow Trout ($20.70). I can't recall having trout before, and this version was pretty good. Of course it was hard to get a real good taste of the fish, with the heavy crust surrounding the fish. The fish was then topped with artichoke hearts and a lemon butter sauce, which this plate needed more of. I also opted to get the garlic whipped potatoes, and like my dad, decided that these were a little on the bland side. Not a bad plate, it was pretty average, but it really filled me up. Next time I'm trying the tilapia stuffed with crab and shrimp.

Just like being at a beach bonfire, we started with the S'Mores Flatbread ($5.90) for our first dessert. This had almost all of the elements of traditional s'mores. The flatbread was topped with creamy, almost Nutella like chocolate spread, a slightly charred marshmallow, slices of almond were added, but there was not really a graham cracker taste to either the flatbread, or any graham cracker crumbs on this, like the menu promised. Still a good dessert, but I expected just a little more from this.

It's hard to pass up Creme Brulee ($7.30), and we could not resist this one at Bonefish. It was garnished with some very nice blackberries and whipped cream. The crystallized crust was good, and underneath was the smooth and creamy custard treasure you would expect in a creme brulee. All four of us started being polite when digging our spoon into this, but by the end we were angling to get the last bite.

Bonefish Grill was good, but not great. I liked that it did not have a chain restaurant kind of feel to it, like some of the other brands under their same ownership group. The food was all slightly above average, with nothing but the shrimp appetizer and the creme brulee making a huge impact on me. I am however always excited when a restaurant strives to sell fresh seafood at affordable prices. I like that Bonefish Grill gives the middle class an option to eat seafood, without having to take out a second mortgage. We will keep Bonefish Grill in mind when we are meeting up with my parents every other Friday.

Out of five submarines, (because two submarines of the US Navy were named Bonefish), five being best to zero being worst, Bonefish Grill gets 3 submarines.

For more information about Bonefish Grill, go to their website here:

Bonefish Grill on Urbanspoon

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